First Day Awkwardness

Jessica Benmen

I wrote my college essay about being awkward, and seeing as how it got me into this elite liberal arts institution, I feel like somewhat of an expert on the subject. And so, with this Gary Ross-conferred authority, I present to you my musings on the supreme

awkwardness of a new school year.

First of all, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention some of the highlights of first-year awkwardness. The main problem that comes to mind is finding literally anything around Colgate. To demonstrate my point: I was handing out mugs in East Hall during move-in day this year when I ran into a bright-eyed first-year, carrying his belongings into the building. Though he was meant to receive a mug, his name was strangely missing from my list of residents. We were both fairly confused, until he told me that his housing assignment “definitely said West Hall.” Though I briefly considered letting him attempt to move into a suite of girls as punishment for not reading the name of the building he had entered, I simply suggested he take his lanyard off his neck and sent him on his merry way.

Another rough spot for our youngest Raiders is the process of locating evening festivities. I know I’m not the only upperclassman who specifically went out on the first night of orientation to watch the first-years frantically checking their Google Maps navigation, occasionally stopping random passerby to ask “Do you know where the party is?” (The conversation often continued, “What party?” “Uh . . . any party”). Then there are of course the more mundane patches of first-year awkwardness: the impossibility of opening a mailbox, locking eyes with a stranger in your communal bathroom, running into someone from class on campus who you don’t really know/like, determining whether or not you’re good enough friends with someone to add them on Facebook, the list goes on. Point is, first-year life is pretty awkward.

Then there are the moments of awkwardness that follow us throughout our years at school, like starting classes. We’ve all experienced that moment of walking into a class and recognizing no one – or even worse, walking into the wrong class only to have to run down the hall to barge into your actual room late, where you still recognize no one and now have the added bonus of everyone staring at you. Also, at some point during the weird 20-minute period first day you will inevitably encounter a free hour or two which does not line up with any of your friends’ free time, so you’ll just sit alone and self-consciously do some online shopping. And if you’re planning on dropping a class, you will unavoidably run into the professor teaching it as you go to add its replacement (true life, this happened to me – it was awkward).

Living with new people tends to initially be kind of awkward too, even when it’s your friends and not just some random pairing determined by the whim of Residential Life. For one thing, there’s the process of boundary setting. Can she borrow your sweater? Can he eat your yogurt? And if you do decide to share things, what happens when one person uses more of something than the other? No one wants to be the jerk who refused to split the price of paper towels, but it can be frustrating when you feel like you’re constantly buying things for your roommate that you don’t even use. 

Then there’s the timeless question of romantic visitors. How much notice does the other person need to be given? Are visitors allowed to stay the night? And how often is too often? This is a particularly awkward conversation to have because with roommates there are a number of variables at play, including but not limited to: their history of conquests thus far, how considerate they are, how desirable you perceive them to be on campus, the likelihood of them getting into a relationship, how deep a sleeper you are, among many others factors. It’s a tough call to make and almost impossible to accurately predict.

The last paragraph is traditionally the place where I impart some wisdom about remedying this ever-lurking awkwardness, but even if I had any suggestions, I’m not sure I’d want to share them. Maybe a little awkwardness is a good thing every now and then. It builds character, it’s good for the soul ­– or something like that. Or maybe I just like to know that it’s not only me. Either way, you might as well embrace it.