An Open Letter to a Freshman Girl

Dear Freshman Girl,

Let me just start off by saying major props for making it through your first month in the big bad world of college! Ok, maybe Bucknell isn’t so big and it isn’t so bad, but I’m sure this past month hasn’t been all fun and games.  You’ve probably already realized that the first few weeks of freshman year are overwhelming—new people to meet, classes to attend, the caf to figure out—it’s a lot to take in all at once.  Your life, now more than ever, has become a balancing act of classes, homework, and friends, which quite honestly I, as a humble sophomore, haven’t even figured out yet.  This year you are going to experience so many awesome things, and some difficult things as well.   Having just gone through it all last year and making it out alive, I thought I would share some of my hard earned wisdom (I use that term lightly) with you.  So let’s talk about something that I wish someone would have been honest with me about when I was a freshman: the very unique and sometimes intimidating Bucknell social scene.  

Fitting In.  In high school I would have considered myself someone who didn’t go along with the crowd.  However, coming to Bucknell where everyone seemingly looks and acts a certain way, I was afraid to be myself.  The small Bucknell community made me feel like I couldn’t hide, and therefore had to create a reputation of sorts.  The social guidelines appeared so strict that it felt like an obligation to conform to what everyone else was doing.    Wearing certain labels, going to parties, eating healthy, drinking coffee out of a Lily Pulitzer mug—all elements of what is referred to as the “basic Bucknell girl”—were pieces of an image that I wasn’t sure I wanted to adopt.  At Bucknell there is also a huge emphasis on fitness, which tops off the notorious “Bucknell beauty standard.”  It seemed to me that all of the female students on campus embodied this beauty standard—beautiful, trendy, fit, etc—and I felt that I needed to live up to it.  There were so many expectations that I created for myself that I ended up loosing sight of who I was.  I wanted to fit in and mesh into campus life, but at the same time I resented the idea of conforming. What I wished I realized then was that I didn’t have to compromise any of myself in order to be accepted at Bucknell.  The truth is, there is no such thing as the “basic Bucknell girl,” because each and every person creates her own version of the Bucknell student.  Following the supposed social guidelines and conforming yourself to campus life isn’t the way to go.  Instead, I learned that being myself and finding the way that I fit into this campus as I am has made me so much happier than trying to maintain an ideal that just wasn’t me.

Hookup Culture.  Another thing that came as a shock to me as a freshman was the presence of hookup culture on campus.  Hookup culture is not unique to Bucknell, but the small campus community definitely intensifies it.  If you haven’t already experienced it, you will without a doubt run into one of your “nighttime friends” somewhere on campus.  Going out at night, I quickly came to believe that hooking up was just what people did; they went to parties, hooked up, maybe went home with someone, and that was that.  Everyone seemed to be so casual about it, so I pretended to be as well.  While hooking up is fun and there is nothing wrong with getting with whomever you want, or no one at all, the issue arises when you start to feel pressure to participate in these nighttime shenanigans.  Not saying that I was a you-know-what (ahem, slut) by any means, but it got to the point that I came to determine a “good night” by whether or not I hooked up with someone.  Then the issue was that if I didn’t get with anyone, I felt bad about myself.  It almost became a validation for my “Bucknell status,” meaning that if I hooked up with someone, I was maintaining the Bucknell beauty standard.  It’s a pretty precarious way to look at yourself, and I’m not proud of it.  Determining your self-esteem by your nightly love interests is something that is easy to get sucked into, especially when you are still trying to figure out your college identity.  The way I look at it is this: get with whomever you want, whenever you want, if you want to at all, but do not let your hookups come to define your nights, or your self-esteem.  Also, hooking up only has to be casual if you want it to be casual. Remember, you are on this campus for a reason, and it’s not because you’re a good kisser. 

Greek Life. Whoa, helloo Greek letters.  I remember being shocked walking around campus and seeing how many people were wearing Greek letters.  I didn’t come to college with the intention of joining a sorority, so it was a little intimidating realizing that Greek organizations really ran the social scene.  Greek life felt especially scary to me as a freshman, because not being able to be involved in it yet made me feel like an outcast.  To make matters worse, there was so much mystery and mixed messages surrounding fraternities and sororities that I had no idea how I was supposed to deal with them.  The things I knew about the Greek community were that I couldn’t go out until midnight, the notorious rumor of the “blacklist,” and that I would have to play my cards right if I wanted to get into a “good” sorority my sophomore year. When asking anyone about Greek life, they would tell me, just relax, be yourself and you will get into the sorority you are supposed to be in.  Then, on the other hand, from my peers I would hear about which sororities were the best, who’s in them, and who you should know in order to get into the one that you want.  It felt like a competition, and I quickly became insecure because I kept wondering if I was good enough to get into the “best” sorority.  It was all so confusing and exhausting, and I felt like it was a game that I didn’t know how to play.   

Being on the other side as a new member of the Greek community, I realize how pointless it was to feel bad about myself.  Right now it may feel like you are out of place, and that being put into a sorority is going to get rid of all of that uncertainty and define who you are on this campus—but it won’t.  If you choose to rush next year, the letters that you wear are not going to determine who you are, or validate or invalidate your status on this campus.  Greek life may seem like the end-all-be-all at Bucknell, but it does not have to be.  Whether or not you join a sorority, it will not define you or change who you are unless you let it.             

Long story short, freshman year is going to be hard and amazing and confusing and a whole lot of fun all at the same time.  Let it be all of those things.  You are going to feel out of place and you are going to make mistakes.  But have no fear, because I can guarantee that I made at least 95% of those mistakes and I am still a functioning human being.  My final advice to you is to accept the uncertainty and see where it will take you.  This campus has a whole lot going on and you will without a doubt find a way to make it your own.  Go forth and do you girlfriend.    

Peace and blessings from your super cool sophomore friend,

Amanda Relick