For the first couple of months of freshman year, you feel like a deer caught in the headlights of every car on a six-lane freeway. The constant interest meetings, registration, pop quizzes, 8 a.m. classes and part two of Alcohol Edu leave you, and by the time midterms roll around, you feel like you’ve experienced more newness in the past three months than ever before. By Halloween, you’ve gotten into the groove of school — you can finally stomach the meat at Commons Dining Hall, you’re no longer terrified to camp out in the back room of Swemromas, you’re armed with sticky notes of backup CRN numbers and this time you will get that government elective for next semester — but there can still be moments of the day when you’re lonely, scared and homesick.
Having a close freshman hall is like having a pseudo-family. You eat with them, you lounge with them, you study with them, and they’re not allowed to exclude you because no one puts scared freshmen in a corner. It’s wonderful to be able to walk into the kitchen, wonder aloud if anyone wants to grab lunch, and not experience the awkward silence associated with the “yes … but not with you” sentiment you’d be familiar with if you ever attended a cliquey school. I’m glad I can turn to anyone amongst the 32 co-inhabitants of my dorm for love and support — but is having a close freshman hall essential to your first year experience?
The answer is no. Your freshman year is characterized by uncertainty, fear and maybe a little disconcertion, and that’s okay — that’s the point. College is a growing experience, and growth doesn’t happen unless you get a little uncomfortable. College is about making friends based on common passions, shared interests and similar dispositions. When you stick only with the people in your immediate vicinity, you don’t know whether you’re missing out on meeting a lifelong friend or a potential significant other. When you ditch an interest meeting, you’re barring yourself from opportunities for developing interests you may not have even realized you had. So meet up with old friends from high school, sit with new people in class, hang out in other friends’ dorms, awkwardly walk in late to that club meeting you’ve been meaning to attend. You don’t want to end your freshman year regretting what you missed out on — conquer your FOMO!
So don’t fret if your hall doesn’t follow the rule of “ohana.” It’s convenient, it’s comforting — but I’m thankful that my first year at the College of William and Mary isn’t spent exclusively with my hall. And if you do have a close freshman hall: Cherish them and be thankful, but don’t be afraid to embrace the insecurity of seeking out your own path.
Email Caroline Nutter at firstname.lastname@example.org.