The Freshman Experience: College Is Not Summer Camp

The first week of college is summer camp. The second is back to reality. When I arrived on campus a little over a week ago, I never imagined going from name-games to essays in a blink.
My college has a week of orientation, so it never really felt like school until I walked into Geology on Tuesday morning. Before that, I had been watching movies with other freshmen, exploring—well, really getting lost in—the campus, and trying every imaginable ice cream combination at the dining halls.
From the moment I walked into my class, I realized I can’t just watch movies and eat ice cream for the next four years. Buying textbooks before the class was its own problem—really, if a book is used, shouldn’t it be dirt cheap, not just a fraction less expensive than the new version?—but being in a room filled with strangers, most not naïve first years like me, was unnerving.
In high school, the first day was one of my favorites. Sure, I hated knowing I had a year of work ahead of me, but I loved seeing old friends, catching up on summer gossip. Here, I sat down and immediately started taking notes. What part of this lecture was important enough to write down? Who was the person sitting next to me? Was I allowed to raise my hand to ask a question?
And then came the dreaded syllabus, something I’ve never used before. So now I have four separate syllabuses from my classes, all confirming that I will be piled down with reading and papers for the next few months. Not only is it overwhelming, but it’s making me feel hopeless to even consider joining clubs or having a semblance of a social life in college while keeping up with work. Sure, I worked hard for the last four years. But that was nothing.
What really scares me is I just don’t know what to expect. One professor told me to call him by his first name, but I’ve heard that another thinks “Hi Professor _____” in an email is too informal. Upperclassmen have told me that some professors expect students to drop by during office hours, while others think it’s a nuisance. How am I supposed to gauge what is expected from me?
From new subject matter to new academic expectations to new professors, I am overwhelmed. When I look at my cluttered dorm room and list of homework in my agenda, I still can’t believe I’ve been here for less than two weeks. And I can’t help but partly wish I were back at camp, not college.

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