Day 1 of College and Google Maps has Failed Me

These are the steps you absolutely must take in order to ensure success on your first day at college. I can neither confirm nor deny that this is my own experience. 

1. Turn left from Old Campus onto College Street, continue straight for 0.5 miles.

          Hmm. You look around, attempting to sense which direction the technological contraption in your hand has demanded you to take. You squint at your phone, rotating it in your hand, discerning which way “left” exactly is from the all-knowing perspective of the device. Ah yes, there you see it. College Street is the busy road next to the large red brick entryway from which you wandered into the courtyard this morning.

          You fix your eyes eastward and strut towards the gate. You must come across as cool and confident in order to impress the other dazed and confused first years. You’re jealous of the other kids who don’t need to journey half a mile off campus to get to their beds every night. You shake off the feeling though, because you’ve heard that the rooms in Benjamin Franklin College have air conditioning. (Spoiler alert— they don’t.)         

2. Question the Directions, and Go the Opposite Way.

          You look towards the left, down the car-infested College Street, and notice the road appears to approach a dead end a few blocks down. Aha! Google Maps must have been wrong. (It wasn’t.) Besides, you swear the map initially claimed your dormitory to be on Prospect Street, not College Street. You’ll later find out that College Street, in fact, eventually becomes Prospect Street.

          But because you’re a college student who obviously knows everything, you decide that your judgment is better than that of an inanimate object. In an act of defiance, you whip around to head back towards the center of the courtyard. A humid gust of wind blows a piece of hair into your mouth and your phone bounces into the grass as you peel out the strand. You quickly recover, passing by a group of cool-looking upperclassmen who have journeyed to Old Campus to watch the struggling first years flail about on their first day. Thank God you’re not struggling or flailing, though. (You totally are.) 

3. Pretend to Know Where You’re Going, and Embarrass Yourself in the Process.

A couple of kids from your pre-orientation group ask if you know how to get to the new residential colleges. You don’t know, as you were hoping they would. Wanting to keep your cool, you tell them, “sure,” that sure, you totally know where it is. You point a finger towards the dead end and they give you a funny look as if to ask are you sure?

          Yes, you say. Onward. You all turn, heading towards what looks like the general area of Definitely Not Your Residential College. You look at the road in front of you and find yourself struck with the feeling that everybody else knows what is going on but yourself. Dads struggle to carry couches, moms walk behind them wielding lamps, younger siblings bring up the rear with dragging feet. Their frowns mirror your inner discontent, yet your lips remain drawn into an overly Chapsticked smile (because everything is fine! You’re not lost at all!).

4. Get Lost in the Grove Street Cemetery!

          Soon, you see it. There in the distance. Your residential college glows red and orange in the morning sun and it’s so very close. Thank God— the end is nigh. The only object obstructing the view is a black gate. Symbolic. You approach it with caution, your acquaintances still trailing behind you. A message has been inscribed upon the gate in bold lettering, and you pray it reads This is a Shortcut to Benjamin Franklin College! As you approach, you see that it instead reads The Dead Shall be Raised.

          It’s the gate to a cemetery. Yikes.

          You deduce that you could potentially turn right, heading back towards College Street (which you now understand has been the same thing as Prospect Street all along). Alternatively, you could try your luck at finding a shortcut. 

          In an act of desperation, you choose the path of least time. You can guess how that turned out. It’s fine, it’s fine, your peers insist, with narrowed eyes and downturned lips.

          On the bright side, you’ve now acquainted yourself with the Grove Street Cemetery! It’s rather nice, actually.

5. Turn Left Towards 90 Prospect Street. You Have Reached Your Final Destination.

          You trudge your way out of the cemetery and hike those extra seven minutes around to your residential college. You’re going to hate it. It’s going to be ugly and strange and much too far from anything of even the mildest importance, and you hate the new grass in front of it and those uniform little trees and the…

          The building. Your residential college. It’s beautiful. A sprawling cathedral of newly constructed old-fashioned red brick glitters before you, welcoming you to the place where you’ll spend the next four years— years that seem so twisty and baffling and difficult. You’re tempted to turn back and lose yourself somewhere else, anywhere else.

          But somehow, hope remains in the sunlight reflecting onto your weary face from the stained glass windows. In the light, it looks like heaven. Your disenchanted teenage heart tells you to resent the newness, the artistry, the symmetry. But your old and exhausted soul tells you to look a little harder. 

Remember that it gets better! The words of reassurance that you keep getting from your parents and classmates are true. Soon you won’t need google maps and you’ll get used to the air conditioning-less rooms. Take a deep breath and enjoy the first few weeks of confusion. Better yet, write them down. They will make for funny stories down the line.