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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The introverts dilemma

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I have only been a Carleton freshman for two weeks (or, if you count the madness that was New Student Week, three weeks), so I’m not here to try to give any of my peers advice on how to survive. We are all surviving, albeit slowly. We have figured out what dining hall to frequent, where we can productively do our homework, and how make it to the Weitz. (You can thank the jokes at the Variety Show about clueless freshmen wandering around campus for our aptitude in discovering that particular landmark quickly).

Rather than add another page to the survival guide, I am here to provide a testimony to the always interesting, sometimes traumatic, but overall amazing experience that is being a Carleton freshman.

When the Class of 2019 arrived on campus to begin New Student Week, we were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to begin the next chapter of our lives. I had thought that we would all be pretty much equal in our lack of friends, cluelessness, and nervousness. I found that I was correct in my assumption, but there were some outliers to the rule of awkwardness; some people are just destined for social greatness, and managed to make it through NSW remaining cool and collected, accumulating friendships wherever they went.

Several times over the course of NSW (ok, only three or four times) I was mistaken for an upperclassman. Each time I corrected a fellow freshman and reassured them that I was, in fact, not one of the mystical, cool beings that are upperclassmen, I couldn’t help but smile. The reason I knew what building to go to for the newspaper interest meeting was because I had studied the map on the back of the NSW pamphlet before leaving my dorm. I constantly engaged others in conversation because I was sincerely interested and can’t let awkward silence persist when another human is right next to me. I know how to do my laundry because I helped my mom handle the mess of laundry that accumulates in a household of three teenage boys.

While I was flattered that my classmates considered me mature, I was also dumbfounded. Didn’t they know I really envied the upperclassmen already on campus? NSW leaders, RAs, and other peer leaders alike. I was jealous because they didn’t have to try. Upperclassmen had already survived the crucible of freshman year that formed friendships, and tales of how our NSW group leaders were going to play Super Smash Bros sounded like arrival in the promised land to us lonely freshmen. While they effortlessly recognized and greeted every familiar face they met on campus, my face physically hurt at the end of every day from smiling so much at everyone I met, hoping to make friends. At the end of each long day, nothing felt better than lying down face-first on my pillow and not having to smile at anyone.

As an introvert, I had reservations about NSW. I can pretend to be extroverted for short periods of time, but my need to recharge before and after lots of social interaction was something pretty much ignored by NSW’s rigorous schedule of ice-breakers, discussions, and bonding meals. When I talked to other students about being introverted, they all (for the most part) exclaimed “Me too! I’m so tired!” But the constant pressure to be seen with people, doing something, proving to your Snapchat story followers and the real world that you were making friends made it difficult to carve out that alone time. Looking out of my dorm window onto the mini Bald Spot and watching people play Frisbee or move in packs to grab coffee at Sayles made me feel guilty for hiding up in my room reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

As I soon discovered, it is indeed acceptable (in fact, recommended) to carve out your alone time. Sitting alone at one meal a day is common on campus, and retreating to your dorm room to watch Netflix is just fine. But there still exists an all-consuming desire for freshmen to make close friends, and fast.

In attempting this, one will find groups of people who do awesome things together, whether it’s baking cookies at Dacie Moses, playing cards, or wandering through the Arb. But something I have to remind myself, and I’m sure many other freshmen do as well: just because you have an awesome experience with one person or group doesn’t mean that you have to become their immediate BFFL. On the other hand, when you do have a fun night with some new friends (or acquaintances, I guess), don’t completely ignore them. When you see them around campus, say hi.

And that, I suppose, is the greatest gift anyone at Carleton can give a new freshman who has barely survived their first two weeks of college life. Say hello, give everyone a smile, and be kind. It just makes everyone’s day better. A friendly face is a reassurance that friendships are soon to be formed and a reminder that one day (approximately 365 days from now) we will be the ones the Class of 2020 envies, friendships intact and all.

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