Monday, August 17, 2015

What Do You Remember Most About Your First Day in College?

I start back to class today, and have a 40 student first year seminar at 8 am. I am nervous, as I always am about a new semester, but know that I surely must be more ready for my task than my young "charges."

My strongest memory of my own first day of college (at Antioch, I'll reveal), was how smart everyone seemed, the other students. They spoke like little adults, and I felt like a middle schooler among them.

One young lady who sat next to me in a French intro class actually leaned across the aisle of a classroom and picked a piece of cheese off the front of my shirtand dropped it into a tiny tissue in her hand. And she smiled at me.

Eva. I remember her name was Eva.


  1. I remember using public toilets with 20 stalls. I remember hiding out in one on my first day and skipping my very first class. Nobody in my family (not even cousins) had ever been to college and I was simply overwhelmed with it. Away from home, etc. I was GLAD to be away from home, but I was not ready for what was next.

    1. "I was GLAD to be away from home, but I was not ready for what was next."

      that's it in a nutshell. and I came from a family with lots of college grads.

  2. feeling scared, excited, worried, hot (no AC), lonely, meeting a few new people, and going for a cheeseburger at the grill in the student union.

  3. from Kimmie:

    Oh, God, I remember that I got the wrong building and raced almost a half mile to the right building. I burst into a darkened auditorium with a film playing. Pitch dark. I felt my way up to a high row, head beaded with perspiration, and sat right in another girl's lap. I plunked down on the cement stairs and waited until my eyes adjusted before I tried again.

    1. Yes. Always make sure your eyes are adjusted before trying to sit in someone's lap.

  4. 8am chemistry taught by a guy who looked like the mad scientist from Robot Chicken. He turned out to be a pretty cool prof, even if I couldn't stay awake in class.

  5. Honestly, nothing sticks out.... my first class was almost certainly Japanese, and coming from a year in Japan I was just a bit ahead of the material, so it was kind of a soft cushion.

    I do remember getting my first English 101 essay back with a bleeding D, which let me know in no uncertain terms that I was in a new league and needed to step up my game....

    1. I was a historically bad student, and I was at a party school in the late 70s, so the bar was pretty low already. The lumps I took didn't hit me for a while, at least until that first transcript arrived in the mail in my hometown before I'd even returned from that dreadful first semester. I promised to do better, but it really wasn't until grad school that I felt like I was college material.

    2. I had the exact same thing happen in grad school: my first short paper came back with the second paragraph nearly obliterated with RED ink, and a little note at the bottom saying "The rest, similarly"... Knew I was in a new league, needed to step up or fail. Nearly didn't pull it off, honestly, but you know the old joke about the med student who graduates last in his class....

  6. I remember one of the first class I took was a political science class on case law. I would read the cases and come to class prepared to discuss the cases. But every time, I was blown away by how the case was about an entirely different concept than how I understood it. The biggest thing that this class taught me was not how to understand a case, but how to think differently and critically. At the time, I didn't think I was learning anything. But in retrospect, it was one of the most eye opening classes I ever attended.

  7. I remember on my first day in "Introduction to the Bible," the professor noted "You know, you all should be taking notes on everything I say?" I was shocked. No one ever told me we had to take lecture notes. I just never did much of that in high school. Of course, no one knew what was important and what could be ignored, so we wrote down everything like drones. The important facts were not handed out to us on a silver platter like in high school. He was new to teaching and it took him awhile, but he found his stride.

  8. I went to a private liberal arts college, and my very first class was the mandatory Freshman Writing Seminar. I felt nervous; this was a big deal, and I had no idea how well I'd do because this class's focus ("Eugene O'Neill: American Playwright") was the FWS that I'd ranked as my absolute last choice.

    I got up early that first Monday, walked downhill to the then-brand-new theater building on the corner of the main drag and the small residential street that serviced the college (I'm not as brave as Hiram, but I've given enough detail for at least one CM reader to know my alma mater), and made it to class on time. This was a miracle for me, especially since it was a 9 a.m. MWF class.

    I chose a seat in the second row, slightly stage right. I'd never seen a whiteboard before. A brunette girl walked into the room, smiled at me, and took the desk directly in front. This was awesome. She was one of my cross-country teammates and simply gorgeous. I had an enormous crush on her.

    The professor--an ebullient fellow, a chemical engineer turned theater prof who, without fail, wore a tiny AIDS ribbon pinned to his shirt--started class. He handed out the syllabus and frightened the bejesus outta me with the attendance policy.

    Then, we all took turns introducing ourselves to each other. I classified a few of my peers as complete idiots. I took an instant dislike to the redhead girl sitting in the back left corner. (The idiots I was correct about; the redhead, not so much. By the end of our sophomore year, she ended up being one of my best friends, and by senior year I was head-over-heels for her.)

    Come 9:50 a.m., the professor released us into the Southern California sunshine.

    And that's it. That's all I remember from my first day of college. But it's a vivid memory.

  9. Two things stand out form my first day:
    The first class I walked in to I was shocked by the size of the room, but not why you'd think. It only had about 150 desks in it, but from the looks of the rest of the building (a converted dorm), I didn't think a room that size could fit in that building. Turns out it was an addition built on to the back of the original dorm.
    The last class I walked in to I was also shocked by the size of the room. This one only had 15 desks in it. I was expecting something much bigger. (that'swhatshesaid)

  10. The first day is a blur for me, and the first year didn't leave a strong impression beyond having to actually start studying, a skill I hadn't learned in highschool.

    The first class of my second year is a vivid memory, however, because it was my first upper division course and I had really only started playing up to the college level at the end of the first year.

    I slipped in a few seconds late and sat at the back with my coffee and bagel, but neither notebook nor textbook. Thankfully, I always carried a mechanical pencil in those days.

    The professor wasn't there yet, so I figured I'd gotten away with it. And I had, by about ten second.

    Then he comes in through the side door: on the older side of middle aged, jowly, balding and scowling. He's carry a stack of paper almost a foot thick which he drops on the first occupied desk as he passes. He places himself behind the podium and abruptly begins talking.

    "I am professor Martian Malarkey and this is computer science number number number B. If you think this is a different class you're in the wrong place.''

    Quick scan of all twenty or so faces.

    "Good. The syllabus is going around and will be enforced. The assignments are listed and you are expected to turn them in by the dates listed in a three ring binder or they will not be graded. There are three take home examinations. Let us begin."

    He turns to the board, picks up a piece of chalk and begins to write

    "A ring is defined as ..."

    I had to borrow paper for the guy next to me and took about twenty pages of notes that hour. Yikes!

    But even in grad school I wasn't intimidated by a fast start ever again.

  11. I have no memory of the first day of classes. I definitely remember parts of the drive up from home with my father, and getting settled in the dorm, and his leaving, and going out for a meal with my hallmates (one of whom, fortunately, was from the area, since the dining hall wasn't open yet). That part -- the social/leaving-home part -- was definitely the hard part for me, since a tough prep school had prepared me pretty well for the academics (including the experience of not doing well in some things).

  12. What do I remember most from my first day of college? Thinking, "WOW! The girls are SO sophisticated and urbane!" It didn’t take me long to find out which ones had single rooms. Loneliness and homesickness were not issues.

    For the first time since kindergarten, I was no longer the smartest kid in the school. I was aware of it, but it didn’t concern me at all. I'd gone to high school in a rural town you probably never heard of, so I thought it was pretty good that I could still keep up with much more privileged kids at the quasi-Ivy everyone’s heard of---and if anyone tells me they haven’t, I think, “What a yokel!”

    What I should have been thinking on my first day of class was, "UGH! The quality of the classroom instruction is TERRIBLE!” My intro-physics proffie couldn’t speak English, and this was the honors section, for crying out loud! Who taught the non-honors section, I cringe to wonder? The advising was also stinky. From the beginning I told everyone I was there to major in astronomy. My advisor was ancient deadwood who forbade me from taking any astronomy courses until I’d finished a year of physics. Maybe he meant well, but a year is an awfully long time to a 17-year old. I therefore do my best today to be a better teacher and advisor, but with such a low standard that’s easy.

  13. I'm with Hiram. I found myself surrounded by brilliant women (it was a Seven Sisters college), all of whom had been just as much the star pupil in their respective high schools as I had been in mine, and most of whom seemed far more worldly and sophisticated. I was completely intimidated. As the semester went on, however, it became clear that many of them had not actually worked very hard in high school and were shocked to find that college was different. Having worked my little tail off in high school myself, I ultimately had the psychological advantage. Bottom line: I loved every minute of college, even the parts I didn't do all that well in.


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