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While most people shudder at the thought of their freshman year of high school, I think current college upperclassmen can agree that freshman year of college is one of the best times to be alive. There’s free food for us everywhere, you don’t really need to know what you’re majoring in, job interviews aren’t a thing—it’s all of the glory of college with none of the daunting uncertainty of the real world. 

But, just because we don’t yet have to worry about how we’re going to pay rent after we graduate, doesn’t mean that we don’t have some serious challenges to face on our own. 

I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to look smooth while walking to exit a building, only to realize that I’ve walked in the exact opposite direction of where the exit is. I’ve yet to use the bathroom between classes because I have no idea where any bathrooms are around here, and I’m not going to ask the senior dressed in pajamas, walking around half asleep for directions. Instead, I hold it until I get back to my dorm at the end of the day, at which point my bladder is about to burst. 

Going out on the weekends is a new series of challenges every time—figuring out where to go, what time to leave, who to go with, whether or not you’ll even get in. Sometimes it seems that unless you already have contacts when you step on campus, you’re on your own in the wild, desperately trying to find friends and people with whom to have a good time. Some nights, it works out great; other nights are spent with the awkward group of kids in your dorm, ordering pizza at one in the morning because the only plan that works out is calling up Domino’s.

And then, there’s the adjusting to the workload. Whether to work for four hours or eight, or to give up and go to sleep, or to pull an all-nighter even though it’s the third week of school and there probably isn’t a need for that…yet. No matter what I do on Sunday, reality always hits hard on Monday, either because of the lack of sleep or the lack of studying. Turns out, it’s true that you need to pick between a social life, enough sleep, and good grades, and you can only pick two.

There are glimpses throughout my week when I feel like I’m getting the hang of it: I have my own spot in the library, just like all the other non-freshmen, I’m just as lost in an Econ class as the senior sitting next to me, who is majoring in Economics, and finally, when visitors ask me for directions to a building, I know exactly which direction to point them in. Nothing feels better than feeling at home. 

And yet, no matter how much pee I hold or how hard I try to blend in, there’s always some kind of sign that gives me away as a freshman. I’m the only one furiously taking notes during class, or I push a pull door, or I get caught taking pictures of the buildings because I’m still making discoveries around here. 

At my first frat party, a senior I was talking to actually recognized me as a freshman because I simply had “the look.” Is something written on my forehead that only I can’t see? 

As frustrating as it can be sometimes feeling lost in a new setting, surrounded by people with years of experience, being a freshman all over again in a much more stimulating environment is kind of a funny phenomenon. Talk to anyone on East campus: we’re all lost, frustrated, ambitious, nervous kids, seemingly normal, but truthfully caught somewhere between an adult and a toddler. Some of us may be skilled at linear algebra or Mandarin, but odds are we didn’t know how to clean a toilet before we got here. It’s a perfectly awkward stage in which our self-confidence and prior knowledge can only take us so far, and we need to reach out to each other in order to figure the rusty details out.

Like where the bathrooms are. 

Daniela Flamini is a first-year student at Duke University. She's majoring in English and International Relations, and hopes to one day be a journalist of some sort. Born in Venezuela and raised in Miami, Daniela loves warm beaches, long books, and sappy love stories, but above all, she loves to laugh. Currently, she writes for HerCampus as well as ULoop, but you can read lots of what she's written on www.callmeflamini.wordpress.com.
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