Big Campus. Small World.
“So who wants to take the first lea-?” Before my junior year tour guide could even finish, I was hightailing my way from the middle of the group, up the stairs to the fountain, kicking off my shoes, taking off my socks, and laying my phone and wallet beside them. I stepped up on the edge and thought about counting down before taking the leap. For a second, I almost let the thought of the chilling water and the deceiving depths of the fountain stop me from jumping in. But just for a second. I climbed up over the edge of the fountain and dove straight in. The water was a bit colder than I had anticipated. The chill of the water lasted but a moment before I felt the jar of uneven rocks that sent plenty of pain signals to my brain. Before I had the chance to step out of the fountain and celebrate my completion of an Indiana University tradition, I was splashed in the face with more water. Someone else had the same idea as me, it seemed. Naturally, I retaliated. During our fountain water fight, the pain in my heels momentarily subsided. I might’ve made a new friend, and it was a joyous moment.
As we both exited the fountain, he stopped me and asked, “Hey dude, what’s your name?”
“Steven, but you can call me Steve. Yours?”
“Trevor. I feel like we are going to be good friends.”
“Of course. After all, we did get each other wet.”
We shook hands and limped to our next destination, a food court at Forest Quadrangle, led by our tour guide.
Before I continue my recollection, let me give you a small pointer, wear nice walking shoes your first week at college. You will be doing a lot of walking from all the tours and adventuring with your new friends. I know one guy who logged 18 miles in one day on his FitBit. Moving along, my walk was so tedious because I had to walk on the balls of my feet to prevent the sharp pain of rolling on my heels. This isn’t a complaint, it’s something I want you to keep in the back of your mind, because there’s a lesson in the end with that. Our tour guide gave us his list of favorite restaurants in the food court and let us disband and buy dinner. It was only 4 P.M. at the time, and I wasn’t hungry, so I just started chatting with some people in my tour group. As people were finishing up their meals and we prepared to end the tour back to our dorms, I spotted one of my close friends, Jim, from high school and made plans to hang out with him and three other friends later that evening.
I walked back to the dorm with my roommate and went to change my soaked clothes and proceeded to meet up with my friends. Before I walked out of my door, another friend, Jess, who is going to American University, told me she was on campus and wanted to hang out. It wasn’t a problem for me because all my friends got along really well. They met me in the lobby of my dorm. I gave them a brief tour of my dorm, McNutt and led them to my room. There we sat down and just caught up with all the events that happened over summer. I kept my door open in case anyone walking by was interested in our wild stories and felt like joining in. After an hour or so, we decided to head out to dinner and visit all the other dorms my friends were living in while comparing, contrasting, and complaining about the inconveniences some of the dorms offered. Even though the interactions with my old friends didn’t seem like much, it was really great to see most of them again, because we haven’t hung out all summer. I spent the next few hours with my bros playing Gang Beasts (some retro wrestling game) and reliving it like the old days. As I headed back to my dorm, my floor mates Ruby, Justin, Wyatt, Kristen, and I sat down and got to know each other. By impulse we decided to make a Walmart run at two in the morning to buy the game Jenga. The rest of the night was filled with hearty laughter and the clatter of Jenga blocks.
Thursdays are for Puppies
Thursday morning I woke up to a text from my friend Ellis. Since I have a car on campus, he asked me if I wanted to hang out at the mall with him and a few of his friends. I said of course, because we hadn’t been able to hang out all summer, but there was no excuse now. He introduced me to his friends, and we caught up on our lives. On the way to the mall, he told me there was a place where you get to play with the puppies for free. My excitement level rose and I stepped on the gas. There were puppies that needed my love. As I entered the large, college mall, I could hear the yips and barks of the puppies before I even saw them. I saw other puppy enthusiasts playing with many different breeds of puppies in cubicles, and my heart flitted with joy. I scanned the room for the one puppy that would steal my heart. Jonas. It was a Alaskan Husky. Immediately, I asked the owner to please let me play with Jonas for the time being. Don’t worry, I’ll provide cute pictures of him below. I haven’t felt this relaxed in a while, due to all the anxiety of being an official college student, and Jonas really helped with that. Reluctantly, after an hour of playing with him we decided to explore the mall and have lunch. Without a doubt, I will be back.
We left the mall, and I made plans to hang out with my floor mates to go the highly recommended Culture Fest. As the five of us made the trek to the plaza, we were hit with the smells of many different ethnic foods, each one more salivating than the last. The plaza was packed with students and organizations interesting us in the diverse cultures on the campus. Ethnic music can be heard all over the event, and live performances from different university culture clubs livened up the atmosphere and encouraged bystanders to participate. As we watched the Spanish Club perform the traditional salsa, a solicitor from a local Mongolian Grill restaurant called HuHot gave us all coupons for a free half order of crab rangoons with any purchase. After a short discussion, we decided to jump in my car and head a few miles outside campus to go give it a try. Our evening was filled with delicious Mongolian custom dishes each suited for our own unique tastes. We ended our night by going to an outdoor movie, where we watched Spirited Away. Although it was by far the most confusing and interesting film I have ever watched, it was a lot a fun being confused with new and future friends.
Fridays are also for Puppies
Friday morning, 4 o’clock, we were beyond the point of slap happy and one of my new friends, Jillian, expressed that she didn’t want to celebrate her birthday by just going to the nail salon and getting her fingernails painted.
“That’s not a way to celebrate your birthday,” I interjected.
“Well I don’t really know what to do.”
“Do you like puppies?”
“I love animals! I’m majoring in Animal Behavior.”
“I know just the place to play with puppies. The five of us are going tomorrow to celebrate your birthday and getting cookies from Baked!”
Twelve hours later we did just that, after an afternoon of exploring the Rec Fest and finding intramural and club sports that we might join. At Anthony’s Pets, I saw one of the owners holding the cutest spotted puppy ever. All I did was whimper a little, extended my arms and the owner carefully laid the sleeping, shivering puppy in my arms. I definitely will have pictures of this little guy below. Our new squad spent another hour or so playing with our favorite pups. Later that night we went to the Indiana University Spirits and Traditions. Thousands of students filled the football stadium and the ceremony began. My group decided to leave a bit early to avoid being trampled by everyone trying to leave at the same time. I spent the rest of the evening FaceTiming Tori, my beautiful girlfriend and texting her until 2 in the morning. I would say Friday was a definite success.
Saturdays are for Friends
Saturday afternoon (my usual wake up time, this whole week) I got a text from one of my best friends. He was bringing up another friend before they both departed Indiana for college. My best friend Jerry will be going to New York University and Vaughn will be attending University of Washington. I hung out with my floor mates before I introduced them to my friends from the Academy. Jerry, Vaughn, and I explored Bloomington and stopped to eat at Chipotle to catch up. We drove back to campus and met up with all our old friends at the Academy: Jim, Hannah, Graham, Ben, and Ricky. Oh and Ben’s roommate, James. As we reconnected and shared stories, we headed over to the annual Block Part Concert. Arriving early definitely had its advantages, we had front row seats right next to the speakers. I’m not even going to attempt to describe my first concert experience, but it was amazing. Have you ever been so filled with sound that it becomes almost a physical object that rattles your soul and the bass starts determining the beat of your heart? That’s a pretty accurate description. I want to give credit to the performers because they were absolutely phenomenal. Give them a follow on Twitter and go listen to some of their music! Matsu (I took a selfie with him!), MAX, kiiara, and Zhu.
Later that evening we walked back to Ricky’s dorm to have a last hurrah for Jerry and Vaughn before they left for a long time. On the way there we met a drunk group of friends waiting for the bus to take them back to their dorm. Of all the advice I’ve ever received, I think the most memorable and important one was from Brock (we’ll call him Brock to keep him anonymous).
“Yo. You. You have the best night ever alright? You are amazing. Live for tonight, because tomorrow is not a guarantee. Live tonight.”
I didn’t really take him that seriously as he pulled me in for a bro hug and tumbled on the bus with his buddies. Maybe because he was drunk, and for the most part of my life, I planned too much of the future and didn’t quite get to live in the moment with the people that mattered most in my life. As the bus pulled away and my friends and I resumed our interrupted conversations, I put my hands in my pockets and laughed euphorically with all the wild stories we shared. Sunday morning at 7 o’clock as I walked with Jerry and Vaughn back to my dorm after everyone parted ways, and I climbed into bed quietly without waking up my roommate Wyatt, Brock’s words echoed through my mind. I smiled and fell asleep.
Of course, this is Welcome Week at IU (most colleges will have something similar) so it was very social and you’ll lots of time on your hands to socialize and connect with fellow students. Please take advantage of this fact. Go out and make new friends. I know campuses can be large and scary, but in the end it’s a pretty small world. Especially on large public universities, you can meet up with people you haven’t seen for a long time and some you didn’t even know attended there. On the other hand, it’s probably not likely that you’ll be friends with everyone or even come close to meeting everyone. But try your hardest to. Make these connections. You never know who you might impress today that will help you out in the future. The most successful people have a small world of powerful networks with people that helped get them there.
In the end, your college experience really ends up being about you and how much effort you want to put into it. Don’t forget to pursue your goals and have them set in your mind. For some of you, the goal may be to live every night like Brock without a second thought about the future. But for most of us, this spontaneous life won’t be an everyday occurrence because we value the education we are going to pursue or our schedules could be filled with other activities such as sports, clubs and work. College will be really difficult, I know because I have been through the experience academically and socially. Don’t give up and push through. Remember my heels? Don’t let something minor like that stop you. Keep walking, you don’t have to roll on your heels, but you can tip toe. Don’t let other minor things like moving in on a pouring day (I did) determine the rest of your career at any university. The key is to let the good and bad days balance each other out and work hard. But please, don’t ever forget to have fun and treat yourself. In life there should always be a balance of work and play. You don’t have to be a Brock every single day, but on a weekend or couple days out of the month, listen to him. Live for tonight. You are amazing. And have the best night ever.
Best of luck,