Sep 04 2013

Delusions of Grandeur

Filed under Blog Posts

I remember coming into my freshman year excited and feeling like I had finally made it.  This was it!  I was going to the Promised Land.  A place to do all those things I dreamed of, heard of, and saw on television.  I looked forward to the partying, the freedom, and the fresh start. I wanted so badly to make connections.  This anxiety even applied to academics.  I could not wait to take classes and have deep discussions.  I might even read a book or two.  The options were endless.

The start of my college career was a chance to start over. I could be whoever I wanted and I had an opportunity to pick a path that was my own.  I could start developing habits of my choosing.  Whether bad or good, I had the power to try things I had always wanted to try. This new world was exactly what I wanted and prepared for.  As a result, there was this “energy,” that I believed I shared with a majority the incoming freshman class.

There is only one word to describe orientation week: overstimulation – a word I could now use to describe almost every aspect of Middlebury College.  The millions of names I learned each day but could not remember, the freshman energy (from every other freshman) that consumes you, and the buzz on campus was inescapable.  However, in retrospect, I could neither put my finger on how I felt nor could I diagnose what was going on. At the end of the day it’s pretty simple:  Midd is in your face.  From the start, Midd tells you, academically and socially; it’s in your face and its unapologetic.  It also seems like everyone is bought into being “In your Face.”

As freshmen, during orientation, we did not step into a total of 2 classes and we did not attend a Midd Party (besides the square dance and 80’s/90’s party) with the rest of the student body but we know everything.  We speak of our future majors, partying all year, and being life long friends.  I could pay tuition if I got any amount of money for the many times I heard, “Work Hard Party Hard” during orientation.  All of these expectations come before we even spend any substantial time on campus. Not only was everything in your face but suddenly everything was moving quickly and it seemed like life was now in the fast lane.

With all my peers seeming like they bought in, I was confused.  I was unsure of how I felt.  However, it seemed easy to buy in like everyone else.  Eventually I needed to decide if was going to pretend to enjoy campus or if I was going to make my own fun. I expected parties at midd to be fun, I expected everyone to be open and warm, and I expected classes to be challenging but not overwhelming.  To my surprise, everything was quite different from my expectations.  On top of that, everything was coming at me so quickly that there was not time to reflect and realize that the grand college experience was not as golden or squeaky-clean as I thought it would be. This was my experience: some of my peers knew exactly what to expect.  Some of my peers already had an in-group.  Some of my peers already experienced the culture that an elitist* institution produces.  Some of my peers were already aware of social norms that exist in this type of institution.  I had no clue what I walked into.  It did not click immediately for me.  I looked to upper classmen and hoped that with time I could be in their place and eventually it would all come together.

As soon as I felt like everything was different than what it should have been, “my world” (because when we are freshmen everything is bigger and badder** than it actually is) began to fall apart.  I fell behind in class and on top of that it seemed like no one else in the class was in the same predicament.  Everyone seemed like he or she were getting it.  I was drowning and no one else in the classroom was with me.  I was falling asleep in class.  I set an early bed time and was knocked out first thing in the morning. To make it worse, I sat in the front row every single day. It was so bad that during my Biology 0145 final someone in the back of the room shouted, “Is Tim up?”  I tried eating in class.  Brought apples everyday from the dining hall and nothing was working.  I sat next to people who I knew would elbow me awake but nothing was working.  I somehow survived Freshman fall and there were dramatic changes after J-term.

My biggest take away from my first year at college was that confidence is everything.  Being confident in your abilities changes your entire experience.  I noticed that when I was confident in my academic classes, I could speak up more often. I also noticed that once I found my confidence during J-term I felt comfortable in class and had more energy.  Once I was confident, I stayed wide awake in class.  I did not need apples or a strict bedtime.  Being confident and feeling like I could take this whole college thing on mixed with planning my schedule better helped it click and come together.


If I could talk to Freshman Me here is what I would say:

1. Take a step back.  Breath.  Everything in this bubble, everything in this campus, is magnified.  When you look back at it, something that might infuriate you on campus, might not even be that serious.

2. Speak up.  You are your only advocate.

3. Use your planner.

4.  Its okay if Friday night is just walking around (If you are walking around with people you genuinely like).

5. The CTLR is amazing resource.  Plan ahead and use that time wisely.

6.  Let experiences take you.  Expectations can be hurtful to your experience.

7.  College is a place to grow but that takes time.

8.  Adversity helps you grow.  Failure or feeling like you failed should be embraced.

9. Acknowledge your privilege and your surroundings. Notice who is around you and who you think you are.

10.  Enjoy the moment but realize that almost everything on campus is annual and you have at least 3 more opportunities to experience.

11. When you are in class, remember that college is about YOU! This is your experience and it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or how they seem to be doing.  Compete with yourself.


*Elitist (As defined by American Heritage Dictionary Online):

1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.


       a. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.

       b. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.


** Badder:

1. Not a word.  It’s my blog I do what I want.


Editor:  Ola Fadairo, Currently Located in Madrid Spain.  Shout out to the big homie.

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