Everyone says how exciting, scary, intimidating, new, amazing, and glorious college can be.
Now, being the young, wide-eyed freshman that I am, I assumed these feelings would be the extent of the emotional turmoil I’d have to sort through and understand. However, there’s one thing nobody told me would happen when I finally made my way to the University of Wisconsin-Madison: college, or, at least, the first week of college, is excruciatingly awkward.
Welcome Week is chock full of new experiences, most of which I had no idea how to go about experiencing.
One of the more cumbersome adventures I had during Welcome Week was my first meal alone, a dinner at Gordon’s Dining Hall. My schedule was packed and I had somewhere to be, so I thought it would be totally acceptable to grab a quick meal before going on with my night. After walking around in circles trying to commit to one of several choices at Gordon’s, I paid and looked onto the dining area.
It was packed.
There was one table available for me to sit at. Just my luck, it was a table meant for six to eight people. I double-checked if anyone was leaving their smaller tables any time soon and, with contempt, sat at this outsized table completely alone.
At first, I tried to focus on my meal, but, of course, I was uncomfortable. Like any young person in an awkward situation, I snatched my phone up and perused Twitter, ignoring the fact that I was indeed getting stared at. A couple of times I heard, “Maybe we should ask her to sit with us….” and there were even whispers of “She’s probably meeting someone.”
In fact, I was not meeting anyone.
Towards the end of my meal, a rather large group of girls approached me. One with a concerned (too concerned if you ask me) look on her face questioned, “Are you eating alone?”
What an awkward question. It was obvious I was by myself, so her forcing me to admit it made me grind my teeth.
Then there was, “Well, sweetie, you’re welcome to join us…”
Ah, pity. With a red face and a bruised ego, I declined; pointing out I was finished with my sandwich and on my way out. The charitable girls blunderingly walked away and I felt pity surround me as I clumsily got up from my table and left.
All I can say is, I am never eating dinner at Gordon’s alone again.
Another seemingly agonizing moment in the beginning of my college career was the first walk. No, no, I don’t mean the clichéd, early morning walk-of-shame. In fact, I’m talking about the first walk to go take a shower.
It’s true that I probably over-analyzed the situation, but at the time, I was incredibly stressed out.
I have never had to walk by 20-some strangers with nothing on but a towel. Actually, I had a legitimate argument with myself on whether a robe or towel would be more appropriate.
Like I said, I was definitely overthinking it.
But, really, I live in Sellery, with the girl-boy-girl-boy co-ed floors. Not to mention, I was the first person the entire floor to take this walk, so I was a little stressed out on how to handle the situation.
Eventually, after much internal conflict about whether I should wear a robe or towel, how to keep my key, whether I should bring my toothbrush and how I was going to using the bathroom before getting in the shower, I grabbed my shower caddy and opened the door.
Of course, everyone in the hall had their doors wide open, and many of the males managed to congeal into one or two small spaces.
After fumbling with my flip-flops I made my way down the hallway as quickly as possible. After tripping inconspicuously, I made eye contact with an entire room of my new neighbors. I half-smiled, adjusted my almost-naked body, and practically sprinted to the showers, terrifyingly uncomfortable with my almost too-short robe. (Oh, yes, I opted for the robe.)
In retrospect, I may have made that situation more awkward than necessary, but really, there is no way to be comfortable during your first naked walk down a hallway full of strangers. Maybe that’s why Welcome Week is awkward. It’s full of new experiences that the average person (mores specifically, the average freshman) may not know how to deal with. I know I ran into a handful of troublesome queries.
When is it right to ask for someone’s phone number? How in the world does the laundry room work? Can I eat my roommate’s fruit snacks? Which neighbor won’t care if I walk in to their rooms? What the heck am I supposed to do if my roommate brings a dude back to our place?
I think it’s hard to deal with all these experiences because they’re things I’ve never dealt with. Really, situations are only ever awkward because a person isn’t quite sure how to react. And honestly, I didn’t know how to react to half the stuff that happened to me during Welcome Week.
The fact of the matter, though, is that I survived it. We’re now at the third week of classes and I no longer feel uncomfortable running to the shower or asking someone to join me for dinner.
The particularities of Welcome Week that had made me so uncomfortable have actually already taught me a lot of how I’m going to act and react during my college career. So really, I can’t complain about how weird my first week of college was, because I had managed to learn a lot about dealing with situations I’d never interacted with before.
Yes, Welcome Week, you were troublesome to me, but I made it out alive, with only a few bruises, both physical and metaphorical. My face isn’t so red anymore from uncomfortable encounters and I’m hoping that this is a sign that I’m only going to keep growing on this exciting, scary, intimidating, new, amazing, glorious, and slightly awkward journey that is college.