WELCOME TO HOMEWOOD, CLASS OF 2020! It warms my elderly, senior heart to see campus so alive and hopping (lol) after the ghost-town days of summer.
The start of the school year and sudden arrival of a thousand fresh faces never fails to make me nostalgic. This is quadrupled by the air of finality that shades all that’s familiar about the beginning of a semester. Your first first day is my last first day. Oof. An ever-growing part of me wishes I could be where you are now, lanyards and sweaty dorms and all.
But I’m not. I’m a seasoned Hopkins vet. And thus it is my duty—and my privilege—to pass on the bits of knowledge I’ve managed to eek out over the years. Anyone who has kept up with my blog since the beginning of my SAAB career (Hi, Mom and Dad) will know that these insights come not from stellar instincts, but from screwing up and learning my lesson. I’m not known for getting things right the first time. But maybe, with a little trial-and-error care of yours truly, you will be.
So here are some things I wish I’d known when I was in your freshman shoes, freshly unpacked on the eve of your first day of classes.
Do your homework.
Not like, homework homework. There will be plenty of time for that later. (Though do check Blackboard right now to make sure you’re not one of the lucky few who does have reading assigned for the first day. Like I am. Le sigh.) I’m talking about those little things you can do for yourself to make your first day run as smoothly as possible. Print out syllabi, plan your outfit, make breakfast plans with floormates. For me, anxiety management meant running around campus with my roommate and finding each and every one of my classrooms the day before. Overkill? Probably. But I felt so much more comfortable rushing from class to class knowing exactly where I was going. No late arrivals, no panic attacks, and no embarrassing backpack sprinting.
Ask for help.
That being said, life happens. Travel time between classes is short, the campus is big, and building floor plans are hardly intuitive. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. As a freshman, I remember being so intimidated by the overwhelming knowledge and experience of upperclassmen. And yeah, we do know where Levering Café is, but we’ve all been where you are, and we’re all a lot less put together than we might seem. So please approach. Wandering aimlessly is the worst, and it’s way too hot for that madness anyway.
Switch up your schedule.
Perhaps above all, I wish someone had told me that my schedule wasn’t set in stone. That two-week add/drop period is golden, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. The first week of class is kind of like speed-dating. I usually pop into two more classes than I end up taking, just to make sure I’ve found the right fit. It’s better to attend class and end up having to drop than to miss a week and scramble to catch up, so my philosophy is that more is always more.
Cut yourself some slack.
This applies all year long. Hopkins will never not be hard work, but I find that any challenge can be rewarding once you learn to treat yourself with kindness. At this level, with this much freedom, school should be as fun as it is stressful. And it will be. Take it from a senior who knows.