Article by Rachel Minkovitz ’19 — It’s now the end of September and the beginning of October, I’ve been back at Bates for about a month and the weather’s starting to turn. I don’t remember seeing the leaves on the ground fall from the trees, and I’m wondering what else I missed in the excitement of returning and getting used to school again. From what I’ve experienced so far of sophomore year, it’s full of changes and adjustments of all kinds. I’m sure many are yet to come, some bound to be unexpected. All of the first-years are settling in, and each day I see them growing a bit more confident on campus, a bit more sure of their identities as Bates students. It’s a bizarre thing, watching them grow into Bobcats and knowing that was me and my classmates just a year ago, with those same insecurities and moments of: “oh crap, where’s Hathorn, I have no idea but I’m about to be late” sort of panic. Of course, we’re still going through that, to some extent (I do in fact know where Hathorn is—finally); this is a relatively new environment with lots of new people we’ve never seen before, and new buildings to explore (and forget how to find). We’re living with new people and going to different classes with students we don’t know yet, but see around campus and to whom we smile and wave awkwardly or give a brief head nod.
As a sophomore, I still feel a bit unsettled, because as much as things remain the same, some things are very different. There are two entirely new buildings on campus and certain offices and college features have moved locations as a result, like the bookstore, which is now on the ground floor of the 65 Campus Avenue dorm. Smith, the dorm notorious for being one of the worst, if not the worst, locations for first-year housing, no longer houses first-years, and has been internally renovated. My friends in Smith say it’s much nicer this year, although it takes away some of the fun in telling your friends you live in Smith—it doesn’t garner the same mixture of pity and amusement. The Health Center teamed up with Central Maine Medical Center, and that change and the others it brings with it are definitely different, for better or for worse. The inside of the Health Center underwent major adjustments, both in its physical features and in its staff.
Along with the physical changes also came social changes. When you don’t see your friends for three months after running into them every day for nearly nine months, your dynamic tends to change. Some people fall right back into the same pattern that they left behind at the end of last year, but quite a few find themselves a little lost. Friend groups change over break, and it can be hard to return to campus and find out that you’re not part of the same circle of friends as you were when you left. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of people, both old and new, that I’m comfortable around, though if I’m being completely honest, it still hurts to see my old friend group around campus. Growing apart is painful, but there’s almost always a reason for it; people change and develop as they discover their interests, and that’s okay. Knowing that rationally doesn’t always help with the pain, but there’s a part of me that hopes one day I’ll listen to myself. For now, I’ll work on finding my footing, and I’ll get there eventually.
There are new stresses added with the start of a new school year. Sophomores have to declare their majors, and many of us are still trying to get a feel for what we want to do while worrying about whether we want to and can study abroad or not. It’s also a time when some of us are realizing, “I have so many requirements I need to fulfill,” or have thoughts such as, “oh my God, I’m a sophomore am I already supposed to know what I’m doing?” Minor existential crises may occasionally (or often) occur, and that’s fairly normal. If it ever looks like someone has their life entirely planned out, nine times out of ten, they’re probably just really good at concealing whatever worries they have and projecting confidence. For those of you incredible people who actually have your lives sorted out, I applaud and salute you; you’re far more organized than I.
I’m excited for this year, despite the confusion and mild chaos of all the newness of things. Slowly but surely, we’ll all figure out our paths, and as we learn to divvy our time between classes, schoolwork, work, and extracurricular activities, we meet people with whom we share interests and experiences. In the end, it’s all just a journey, and I, for one, plan to make mine a good story to tell. A few words of advice, whether you’re a first-year or not: “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” –Lin-Manuel Miranda, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Lyrics credit to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton: An American Musical”