Ahh, September at Bowdoin?the grass is still green, the leaves are starting to change color, people can still survive outside...and the freshmen are everywhere. Freshmen (or first years, as the politically-correct like to say) are still new to college, and with a welcoming spirit I have decided to put my infinite wisdom to use and offer some advice.
Now, there are all kinds of advice books and columns written about going to college, from the comforting (Chicken Soup for the College Soul) to the strange (How To Earn a College Degree Without Going to College). However, my advice is specifically tailored to Bowdoin, and it is written by me, so it is better than others. First up are five things every first year should do:
1. Go to as many social events as possible, and meet as many different people as possible. Show up at parties thrown by people you may think you won't like?you just may enjoy it. So what if people say Crack House is "dirty" or "sketchy?" Give it a shot and see what you think for yourself. Go to a football game on the weekends?there's not much suspense, but it's a good time anyway. Show up at a coffee house or a poetry slam (preferably not wasted and belligerent...), even if you've never been before. The best thing about college is new experiences.
2. Wander around Brunswick, get yourself lost, and see everything the town has to offer. So many people go through four years here without ever really taking advantage of the town. Everyone knows about Joshua's and Seadog, but how many people know about the off-track betting place in Cook's Corner? Everyone knows that Uncle Tom's delivers kegs to campus, but do people know they also boast one of the best porn selections in the Midcoast region? (Trust me on this one, I'm a connoisseur). There are so many little stores and fun places to hang out in Brunswick. Take the time to discover them.
3. Hang out outside while you can. This may seem obvious, but believe me, you will be wishing you spent more time on the quad while you enjoy the four hours of sunlight a day in February.
4. Sign up for every club you have ever even considered. For a small school, Bowdoin has a ridiculous number of clubs catering to all sorts of interests (Bird-watching with the Huntington Club, anyone?) The worst that can happen by signing up for a lot of clubs is getting a lot of annoying emails each day, but there is a distinct possibility you will end up liking at least a few of them.
5. Get to know your proctor and the other proctors in your dorm. They are a great way for you to meet more upper-class students, and most are outgoing, fun people. A word of caution though?don't get too attached and follow your proctor about like a beaten puppy. It's fun to hang out and party with your proctor; it's not fun for him or her to have 10 first-years trailing behind saying "Are you gonna drink? Huh? Huh? Huh?"
Now, in the interest of fairness, here is a list of five things for first years to avoid doing:
1. Don't hang out only with your proctor group, sports team, friends from high school, etc. Seriously, there are enough cool people at Bowdoin to make it worthwhile to meet new people and get to know them. And, next year when your proctor group or whoever is living all over campus, you're going to want to know people who live in the same building as you. It can never hurt to know too many people.
2. Don't talk constantly and obnoxiously about what you did in high school or where you went to high school. Honestly, we're all here now, it doesn't really matter. I particularly love the people who constantly mention whatever 'elite prep school' they went to. Let's be honest, if you went to an elite prep school, you should end up at a school like Bowdoin, so it's really nothing special. What's special is the kids who went to public school and ended up at Bowdoin, when you probably expected them to end up pumping gas into Daddy's SUV.
3. Don't spend all your time talking on the phone to your girl/boyfriend back home, and don't go every weekend to visit him/her. Odds are you won't be with the same person all four years and beyond, and if you waste your time now on someone you eventually split with, you will regret it. Plus, if you're at Bowdoin and they're not, then that means you're better than them and should find someone else to date anyway.
4. Don't commit floor-cest. For those who don't know that term, it means hooking up with someone who lives on your floor. If it happens, it's not the end of the world, but there's nothing worse than constantly seeing someone you have no interest in. Bowdoin is small, but there are enough other people out there. You'll thank me for this one in the mornings.
5. Finally, don't take college or yourself too seriously. Sure, it's a lot of work here, and you may at times feel overwhelmed, but don't get so caught up in academics that you ignore the rest of the college experience. The beautiful thing about somewhere like Bowdoin is that you can get black-out drunk one night with your friends, then spend the next night, with the same group of people, discussing Nietzsche or the reproductive habits of toads. Try to strike that balance early on, and keep it going for your time here.
Thus ends my advice for the incoming students. Think about what I've said, ruminate on it for a while, spend a few minutes marveling at my genius, then go out and have a good time. Welcome to Bowdoin.