Joseph An | The sentimental freshman
Honest-to-God | NSO, Locsut Walk — you've heard it all before. Or have you?
April 4, 2012, 11:43 pm · Updated April 9, 2012, 1:03 pm·
Before I begin, I must warn you to continue at your own risk. What you’re about to read will make you cringe. The following column consists of nothing but banalities and futile musings from a freshman who is three weeks away from completing his first year of college.
But most of you have been here before, so allow me to opine.
I wish I had a whole lot to say, but I don’t. I regret not having made more mistakes to learn from, not having more wisdom to impart to the incoming Class of 2016 and not having stumbled upon a revelation in the last two semesters while I wandered aimlessly through classes and relationships.
So let me talk about the obligatory hallmarks of any Penn freshman’s experience.
First, New Student Orientation. Naturally. Seven months on, my memory of NSO sits at the back of my mind like an afterthought. Even now, I find it hard to understand all the excitement that surrounded it.
What is seen on the surface is really all there is: superficial self-introductions, shameless drunken debauchery and instant best friends all to create a temporary sense of belonging.
During the day, NSO meant engaging in contrived conversations. At night, well, it’s all a blur now. The point is neither of the two experiences were conducive to forming meaningful relationships. Success was entirely determined by one’s ability to make small talk and find ways to enter conversation based on superficial commonalities.
Yes, this is me whining but it’s also an attempt to think critically about my freshman experience. Or maybe, I haven’t been doing it right.
Next on this list: Locust Walk. Is it just me, or is feeling like you’re being watched part of the experience of walking through it? It’s weird, kind of empowering and humbling at the same time.
Often, I trip. Then I look back to see what it was. But let me tell you a secret: even before I look back I know that nothing’s there. I’m just trying to lean my embarrassment on a rogue brick or something, you know? Why can’t I just accept that I tripped for no reason? It’s what Locust does. It makes you self-conscious.
Have you ever been harassed with flyers? Of course you have. Please, flyering defines Locust Walk. It’s impossible to walk to and from class without being bombarded at least once.
I’ve come to learn that flyering is an art form. There’s effective flyering and then there’s ineffective flyering. Being shoved in the face with a flyer = effective. Asking if you want a flyer = ineffective. On an unrelated note, have you noticed all these questions I’m asking? It’s as if I’m pretending to interact with you. How arrogant.
NSO? Check. Locust Walk? Check. What else is there to talk about? Why am I trying to talk about things that are so familiar to Penn students? It’s a symptom of wanting to do college the right way.
By talking about what’s familiar at Penn, I’m trying to assert that I’ve caught on to things.
Sometimes, I feel like I’ve bought into a system by confining my conversations to these topics. I’m not denying the status quo but I’m not changing it either — so what does that make me?
Which leads me to the question to end all questions: why I did I feel obliged to write this column, just because the end of freshman year is drawing near? I’ve allowed myself to indulge in sentimentalism without surfacing with answers. Thank God I have three more years to figure it out.
Joseph An is a College freshman from Vancouver, Canada. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Honest-to-God appears every other Thursday.