On Campus

The anthropology of Freshmen

Inexplicable behavior and strange lifestyles develop in the land of Freshmen

The culture that’s been developing over the past couple of weeks would be an anthropologist’s dream. From first years voluntarily chugging blended-up Big-Macs to midnight runs around campus reminding other Colleges why we’re better than them, paranormal behavior is normal here.

It’s somewhat more comprehensible when you remember the context of the situation Freshmen find themselves in. When hundreds of 18 year olds move away from home, to a strange city, with strange people, equally strange social dynamics are bound to develop. The inundation of experiences conspire to form a bubble that surrounds campus: a little world consisting entirely, more or less, of going to class, studying, and socializing.

Even for a relative introvert like myself, it’s extremely easy to find yourself partying every night. I have to remind myself now and then to take some time to myself, to recharge my social batteries and to regain perspective on the bizarre microcosm. Unfortunately, gaining perspective rarely simplifies things. In fact, the opposite seems to be true in my case. When I remember that the main reason I’m going to university is to study and earn a degree, questions inevitably arise as to what I want to study and what I want to do with my degree (no, I haven’t by any means decided yet, and neither have half the people here).

Of course, first year is exploratory, but the courses you choose in first year will limit what you can take in later years. Two days before the last date to change courses, I find myself frantically trying to decide whether or not to keep economics (I hate math but enjoy learning the concepts) and whether I want to take a course that will allow me to major in political science (it looks interesting but is misleadingly unscientific and often degradingly referred to as “soft history”). It’s probably needless stress, because I can always take whatever course I need in later years, but right now it seems unquestionably important. And to an extent, it is important to figure these things out because it allows to form a general idea of the path you want your degree to take.

Next: Tips on choosing courses that are right for you

It’s a very good idea to do as much research as possible when choosing first year courses, looking not only at what majors interest you and what prerequisites you need, but also finding past exams from the course, course outlines (usually available on the university’s website), Rate My Professor, and talking to students who’ve taken the course before, so you get an idea of what the course will actually be like. The two sentence descriptions in the university course calendar can often be misleading.

Of course, it helps if you know what kind of career you want, but even if you don’t, you can start thinking about what kind of work you find fulfilling what kind of lifestyle you want, as this will likely help you choose what to focus your studies on. It’s also important to keep in mind that your undergraduate degree won’t likely lead directly to a career – I like to think my undergrad will educate me as a person and that grad school will educate me as a professional.

That’s enough perspective for now – my life in the microcosm beckons.

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