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A Typically Atypical Freshman Year

I have decided that there is no such thing as a typical freshman year experience. Something different always happens and changes the whole course of the next four years. Actually, that makes it sound a lot scarier than it is. Of course, I was ridiculously afraid of starting college—I mean, this is college—but as the summer before my freshman year dwindled to a hot and humid close, the reasons evolved from the original fear of change into more specific changes of fear.

When I received my housing assignment the summer before my freshman year, I was surprised to see that I would be living in Cromwell instead of the Towers, and even more surprised when it listed only one name (and as STAFF), as a suitemate, instead of a roommate or even the five suitemates you were supposed to have when you lived in Cromwell. It also scared me that MyHousing listed my housing contract as ‘Incomplete,’ so I called TCNJ Housing to look into this. The voice on the other side told my mother and me that I had, in fact, been assigned to a single in Cromwell Hall, a valuable and sought-after room for one. My suitemate was the CA, and our bathroom would be shared by just the two of us.

I was so conflicted—this wasn’t the experience I had wanted. I had applied to the Honors Program but had opted out of it because I wanted to take a non-Honors FSP, and I wanted to have that college experience of living in the ten-floor Towers, right above Tdubs, and having a roommate and the whole shebang. And now I was denied all of that, instead given a single on a silver platter in Honors (technically partially Honors) housing. My floormates looked friendly on Facebook, but they were all finding their suitemates in the floor group or message chain while I was on my own, no one asking for me. I was the only Communications major on my floor as well (three years later, three of my freshman floormates have come over to the dark side), and the only one on my floor in The Tudor Obsession FSP (if you’re in that FSP, congratulations! It’s great!). I was scared, though. I was afraid of being alone in a setting where they practically make sure that no one can be alone.

But I’m here to let you know that everything turned out all right, because everyone else is going through the same thing you’re going through. I’m sure you’ve been told that so often that the phrase has lost its meaning, but it’s something to keep in mind, even if you’re in a single in Honors housing with no one from your FSP on your floor. Your floormates—heck, probably your entire class of incoming students—want someone to pop into their room and invite them to play Apples to Apples just as much as you do. And I’ll let you know another thing: I was invited to play TWO games of Apples to Apples on that first day alone, even though I had worn my TCNJ 2014 shirt from orientation. I’m still friends with most of the kids from that first game, actually.

Everyone at Welcome Week is desperate to make friends, potentially with you! There was a charity walk on one of those first days, and I am ashamed that I don’t remember the cause, but I do remember that I spent most of it with two kids from my freshman floor that I’m actually going to see this very weekend that I’m writing this, almost three years later. I also remember that they gave us bananas at the end of the walk, but that’s irrelevant.

Actually, speaking of Welcome Week memories, a dozen of us were so excited to be getting along that we wrote our cell phone numbers on our paper balloons on the birthday bulletin board in the floor lounge. DON’T DO THAT. The delivery folks will be able to see your number, as well as everyone who pops into that lounge.

We had multiple movie nights in the floor lounge on someone’s laptop, but even more in each other’s dorm rooms. I constantly went to other people’s dorms to do my homework, even though I was the one with the single. We’d go to anything, from Lions’ Late Night events in the student center to that first exciting trip on the Loop Bus to the Quakerbridge Mall. We bonded over so many random things: Harry Potter, music I’d never heard of, movies they thought I’d like, and offensive jokes at 4a.m. By October, we felt as if we had known each other for two years, not two months. We had Nerf wars (which I legitimately cried during - getting hit in the eye really hurts), bedtime story sing-alongs (I actually really miss these), and three of us went to a Passion Pit concert over winter break; four of us went to the Adventure Aquarium that spring.

Fifteen of us from Cromwell 2 lived on New Res 2 together sophomore year, and ten of us got a townhouse together, all to ourselves, in Townhouses East last year and in South this coming year. It’s kind of really exciting, to be able to say that I’ve lived with the same people all four years. It does happen.

No matter what you do or who you become friends with, your freshman year is going to be just the beginning of the four most memorable years of your life. No one has the same exact experience, and yet, everyone is going through the same thing. You’ll be fine.

Rachel Chlebowski is an alumna of The College of New Jersey, where she sang with I-Tunes A Cappella, created props for TCNJ Musical Theater, spread literary cheer through Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, and wrote for Her Campus TCNJ. She enjoys reading novels and watching Netflix when she isn't editing manuscripts and media.
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