On a bright Sunday morning in late August, I stepped foot on the vibrant campus of Duke University. Like everyone else, I was confused, nervous, and a little bit downright scared. The next seven days would be the most exciting and intense week of my life.
They called it “Orientation Week.” And having now gone through the ordeal myself, here are some things that I wish I knew before my O-Week experience.
1. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m an extremely socially awkward person. My friends will tell you how absolutely terrible my social anxiety is. I hate ordering food at a restaurant. I hate responding to those bubbly clothing store workers. As such, I tend not to initiate conversation, or attempt to hold out a discussion for an extended period of time. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s that I simply don’t know how to.
But don’t be like me. Don’t let your excuses get in your way of forming meaningful, lifetime friendships. Go up to someone in your dorm. Go up to someone on the bus. Go up to a stranger on the street. And ask them a series of questions. Their name. Their hometown. Their intended major.
And then, get interesting. Ask them about their favorite band. Their favorite movie. Their unique life stories. Eventually, you will end up at a point where the two of you relate on a spiritual level. And if not, at least you had a nice conversation with a stranger. It’s a win-win. College is a fresh start. It’s the opportunity for you to be the person that you always wanted to be.
2. Don’t Overexert Yourself.
I know that this advice is the complete opposite of what I just said, but hear me out.
During O-Week, I made the decision to participate in band camp at the same time. As enjoyable and exciting as that was (there is a very minute hint of sarcasm there—like those moments where you subtly taste a touch of basil in spaghetti), I was unfortunately forced to miss out on a lot of orientation events, and I ended up knowing close to no one by the end of orientation. Whereas I had the opportunity to make friends through band, I lost the opportunity to make friends through orientation. So make sure you know what you’re getting into before readily signing up for certain events and extracurriculars.
Another thing is O-Week parties. At Duke, we have only one sleazy bar near campus, where people pack into every day of the week. Freshmen still felt the need to wait on line for hours just to get into this bar. I knew that I had the next four years to attend this sleazy bar, and that I would rather spend my time doing something useful and fun with my friends.
And that philosophy should extend to your life at college. Don’t overload on extracurriculars, just because you want to immediately get involved with everything. Don’t overload on classes, just because you think you know exactly what you’re doing with your life. Because you will have the next four years to discover and decide. Don’t overdo it. Give your overachieving high school self a break, and enjoy college life for at least one semester.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Be You.
Unless you’re a Neo-Nazi or a fan of UNC (sorry, I have to make an obligatory anti-UNC comment as a Dukie), don’t be afraid to be who you are. This is college. You will meet the most physically and mentally diverse people of your life. You will meet people of all races, genders, and political viewpoints. So far, I have met a transgender Native American, a Marxist Texan, and an Asian girl who received over four million views on YouTube for stacking cups super quickly. That’s a thing, apparently. And they were all immensely awesome people.
I’ll end with this famous quote by Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”