Graphics by Elizabeth Lai and Jenna Zaza
When I first heard about college in high school, I thought of interesting courses, textbook reading and studying at the library, but I was wrong. Academics are not the only part of college.
Everything that first week happened so fast.
Day One: My family rushed to move my things into my dorm. As I unpacked the last box full of books and stacked them neatly on the orange tinted wooden desk, sweat trickled down my forehead. Excitement built up inside my body. The moment I had been waiting for finally arrived.
Day Two: Uneventful to say the least — just a first-year student looking for the buildings my classes were in. I stopped by Starbucks, which had no line at the time. I would not be prepared for the 20-minute lines at noon that I would willingly stand in to get decent coffee after classes started up.
Day Three: On the third night, I went to Party on the Plaza, a block party in front of the SAC filled with fun activities, music, food and a Stuff-a-Plush station. As soon as I stepped foot on the SAC plaza, realization set in: I am, in fact, not the only student here. There are thousands of others who have already mingled with one another. Another shock set in: college students love Build-a-Bear-type activities, and I couldn’t get an adorable cow before they ran out of supplies. R.I.P. Bells, my non-existent stuffed cow.
I anticipated meeting new people in college, but I didn’t give it too much thought. I assumed it’d be similar to how I met people throughout middle and high school. I would sit in my assigned seat, and the person next to me would instantly ignite a conversation. Before we knew it, we’d been friends for four years. I was comforted by the thought that college friends would come just as easy. I walked back to my dorm during sunset as the booming music faded out and mentally prepared myself for the next day.
Day Four: After getting lost trying to find the dreadful Life Sciences Building (why is it so far away from literally everything?), I made my way to the Union for another required event. Drenched in my own sweat, I sat down in a crowded room only to learn that I arrived too early and there was a different event going on. Oh, how fun! Fast forward 30 minutes — I am now sitting in the same room, in the same seat I sat a few minutes earlier. As the other students filled the room, one person sat next to me. Thoughts overwhelmed my mind on how to say the same information in various ways and I tried to build up enough courage to introduce myself.
Hey, I’m Jenna, you?
Hi! My name is Jenna. What’s your name?
Hello, what’s your name? I’m Jenna.
I gulped, fiddling anxiously with the rings on my fingers. The girl next to me switched on her phone. I grabbed my water bottle and took a sip.
“Hi! I’m Jenna,” I spat out. To my surprise, she turned with a smile and answered me. Was it always that simple to talk to someone? Why didn’t I do this earlier?
Towards the end of the event, I began to mentally dance with my words again. We salsaed and tangoed, even slowing things down a bit with a Frank Sinatra song. I took a breath and threw words together, hoping for a coherent sentence. Turns out I invited the girl for lunch. Then she invited me to go to the playfair with her, an event where new students engage in small competitions and games with fellow UGC students.
The rest of the days that followed are all blurred together — a series of colorful images in my mind. I started to feel grounded in my new classes. My friends and I would laugh late into the night with empty white cups in our hands, remnants of the ice cream runs we often ventured on.
High school me would never have guessed that I would be able to make more than one new friend within the first three days of college. Though maybe, I’m not the same person I was in high school.
When I hear the word “college” now, I think of new memories. I see my friends and I grabbing dinner together. I see us complaining about our workload and our textbook readings. I see us laughing as we walk around campus. I see myself studying at the library and sitting in class, only to be interrupted by a ping on my phone and a message from one of my friends that makes me smile. To me, college isn’t only about academics like it once was. Now it’s also about connections. If this is only my first semester of college, I can’t wait until a year has passed to see how much I’ve grown.