Life as a First-Year: The unofficial list of first-year concerns

by Ellen Granoff

First-year troubles?

As a newly-arrived member of the Barnard class of 2016, I can personally attest that there is nothing quite like being a first-year at Columbia University. Everything is new and sparkly and exciting. Even mundane experiences, like doing laundry or walking to Starbucks, can feel adventurous for us freshmen when we consider the fact that we are living, under minimal supervision, in the city that never sleeps. The feeling that there is something going on campus at anytime is liberating, and gives us the impression that the world truly is our oyster. However, whether or not we are willing to admit it, these feelings of elation are inevitably accompanied by an assortment of anxieties that we all experience on a daily basis. Whether you are a seasoned senior or a brand-new freshman like me, it is easy to identify with this litany of worries, which I deem the unofficial list of first-year concerns.

1. Locking the Door
Ever since that NSOP video that introduced us with the dangers of leaving our doors unlocked, most first-years have been very on edge with our keys. Afraid to leave our laptops and iPhones alone in our rooms without a safeguard of some sort, many of us feel the need to lock the door when we leave the room to take a shower, move our laundry to the dryer, or pop into a neighbor’s room for a homework question. Furthermore, when we aren’t locking our doors, we are busy worrying about whether or not our roommate locked it and fretting over the possibility that we will come back to a room that has been stripped of all valuables by the mysterious thief featured in our NSOP video.

2. Finding a seat in Hewitt
When it was just us first-years on campus, we all felt totally comfortable plopping down for mealtimes at whichever table we pleased, regardless of who was sitting there. Getting comfortable was only ever a matter of introducing ourselves. However, now that the older students have returned to campus, we are forced to learn the rules of a completely different ball game. What if we sit down with someone and they end up being a senior? Or worse, a TA? What if we end up sitting by ourselves? Is it a faux pas to bring along a book to pass the time during a solo eating session? All of these factors must be considered.

“There are few things more embarrassing than attempting to swipe into a building or onto the subway… when you ram both of your legs into the still-locked turnstiles of whatever machine has declined to recognize your ID card.”

3. Swiping in
There are few things more embarrassing than attempting to swipe into a building or onto the subway, only to discover that your card didn’t register. This discovery is most commonly made when you ram both of your legs into the still-locked turnstiles of whatever machine has declined to recognize your ID card. This is particularly common in Lerner, where Barnard cards often take more than one scan to register with the system. Barnard first-years, in an effort to not appear klutzy or “new,” tend to keep this in mind so as not to hurt their legs or their dignity when entering the gym, a building with security or the 116th subway stop.

Between eBear and turnstiles, first-years
have a lot to worry about

4. eBear

Oh, where to start with eBear. eBear is a major source of anxiety for us first-years, since we do not fully understand the system yet. Most of us could putter around eBear all day without finding the courage to drop a class, for fear of not getting into another one. This predicament is magnified by the fact that the gamble of getting into an L-course can feel somewhat akin to getting into college (an unsettling process we thought we were done with!), and the idea that we have to show up for courses that we aren’t even in for the chance to secure a spot can seem kind of backwards. eBear is, in many ways, a completely uncharted entity, and the idea of putting our classes at stake in these unknown waters can be daunting.

5. The subway
Taking the subway can be scary. And I don’t mean hopping on the subway with a couple of friends to go downtown at around noon. I mean getting on the subway by yourself while figuring out how to get from one place to another without ending up in Harlem. At first I thought it was just me, seeing as how I have ended up in Harlem by accident more times than I care to admit, but I have seen the looks on the faces of fellow first-years on the subway and have been comforted that most of us have the same worry.

6. Being pegged as “Frosh”
I can’t even start to articulate how many times I have overheard older students on both the Columbia and Barnard Campuses discussing their unfavorable perceptions of new students. Most of them comment that they don’t like how, as first-years, we tend to travel in huge groups, arrive super early for class and are generally not in the know about on-campus happenings and traditions. While we fear many things on campus, perhaps our paramount fear is having everyone know that we are new students, and see our worrying under our veneers of excitement.

Ellen Granoff is a first-year at Barnard. For advice for first-year students and transfers, look at this article here and check out our articles from NSOP.

Image courtesy of Body + Soul and Happy Dietitian.


2 thoughts on “Life as a First-Year: The unofficial list of first-year concerns

  1. Very well written. Have no fear – yes you are a first-year, yes you may not know everything, but we were all once in your shoes too. Even upperclassmen have trouble swiping into Lerner and get nervous on the Subway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s