Calling all incoming Smithies: let’s get real
Published: Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 13:09
Most of you giddy first-years who are reading this probably spent the better half of your summer – or, if you were like me, the entirety of your senior year – to itching for the heavenly days of college.
I remember my first few days at Smith as if they happened yesterday. Embarking on the drive from Naperville, Ill. to the seemingly unreal town of Northampton, Mass. with my father was, in itself, an experience to remember. We spent the majority of the car ride listening to mutually loved music and ignoring toll road signs. I was lucky enough to ignore my father's advice regarding college, which went a little like this: "You should have a lot of fun your first year, Celia. Drink a lot. Sleep around. Just try not to get herpes or anything because it really blows."
We arrived intact on the first day of Smith College orientation, where the gym was filled to the brim with timid-looking first-years standing with their parents.
And I thought to myself: Is this real life?
Invariably, there will be times when you will doubt your presence at Smith College. You may want to change houses, or drop all your classes and switch to different ones, or even transfer. I may go as far as saying that most of you will do at least one of the above during your first semester at Smith. Why? Because most of you will experience a subtle, yet unmistakable, form of shock. College is, after all, an environment that most of you have not been exposed to, regardless of your background. It is OK to be scared, homesick and even experience several changes of friends.
My first semester at Smith College was not a particularly enjoyable experience. I remember crying a lot, specifically because, looking back, I have realized that I was very, very homesick. I was also involved in a long distance relationship, which is not particularly fun, no matter where you are. To top it all off, by September my body decided it would be a glorious idea to contract a horrifying bout of mono, which subsequently led me to take a few weeks off of classes. For the first few weeks of school, I was holed up in my bed, on questionably strong painkillers that were prescribed to me, wondering when real college was going to begin.
Needless to say, it got a lot better. By the time second semester rolled around, I was much more comfortable in my surroundings. I inevitably became more and more acquainted with people in my house and felt as though I had created a consummate group of friends in whom I could seriously trust and confide. One of my regrets regarding first semester was how stressed out I was about not having a tight-knit group of girls that I would eat, sleep and breathe with, like in high school.
Until recently, I always thought that I needed four or five friends with whom I would spend essentially all of my time. In the end, I realized that it is better to have several different friends from various houses, classes and even schools. The more your circle of friends expands, the more you will learn who you are. Remember, Smith is not high school, despite the fact that many of the petty, trivial components are still bound to occur. Try your best to make an effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Take a class you never thought you could previously stomach. Befriend someone you would have probably judged in high school. This advice sounds pretty generic, but you don't realize how much you have grown from making what you thought were mistakes your first semester until after the fact.
Remember that most of the experiences that you undergo during your first few months at Smith will not only teach you an incredible amount about college life as a whole, but about the person you are about to become. Think of that relationship that didn't quite work out during the early days at Smith as a learning experience, not a blatant mistake or regret, or consider that class you didn't do very well in as a sign that helped you understand more about your academic interests. In the end, as my best friend Cornelia Beckett, whom I met on the first day of orientation, said: "We made mistakes that weren't really mistakes." And she was right.