Two days after I moved into my final room at Albion College, I received a Timehop notification which took me to a photo my mother posted on Facebook three years ago. It was a picture of me from the day I moved into Wesley Hall my first year, all dressed up in my Albion purple shirt with an arm wrapped around my dad and a huge smile on my face, looking much younger than I thought I looked at the time.
This year, I packed up my car and took off for Albion totally on my own; no welcome wagon, no big important pictures, just me and my roommates settling into our new home for a year. Something about that picture stuck out in my mind, mostly because I still can’t believe that I am entering my very last year at Albion and partly because I can’t believe how much has changed since my first year of college.
After spending the majority of my Sunday night dwelling on that instead of preparing for my classes, I realized first-years and seniors have completely different approaches to almost everything on campus, like classes, the dining hall and even parties.
First Day of Class
Freshman Year: Show up with a backpack full of material and all of your books, including a variety of different color pens to color-coordinate your planner. (This system will last about a month before you grow tired of it). Take notes on the syllabus and write down the reading you have to do before next class.
Senior Year: Show up with a backpack empty of everything but a pen and a folder to keep your syllabus in. Wait to buy the books until you actually know if they are worth spending $75 on or if you’re only going to use one chapter of the book. And you know where to buy books much cheaper than at the bookstore. The chances are you’ve had this professor before and you know how their grading scale and class usually works, so reviewing the syllabus is more of a formality.
Freshman Year: Spend about 10 minutes trying to figure out how all the lines work and where to get silverware and plates. Go with a group of about 15 people you most likely won’t be friends with in two weeks, and ask the Baldwin workers if they can give you more food, only to be told “no.”
Senior Year: Try to avoid Baldwin as much as possible , especially if you’re lucky enough to live in an apartment. Or go only when you’re too lazy to cook and can borrow a friend’s swipe to let you eat for free. Once in Baldwin, eat as much food as possible, bring home fruit for later and steal a couple of dishes. At this point you know better than to ask for extra food.
Freshman Year: Either go to all of them for something fun and free to do or go to absolutely none of them because you’re afraid it will make you look lame.
Senior Year: Go to the events that have free food, steal a bunch of pretzels, corn dogs, etc., and then go back to your room.
Freshman Year: Wait until the first large party of the year and spend all night dancing in that living room. Nervously walk around upstairs to see if any frat guys will give you free alcohol (spoiler alert: free alcohol is not what they made it seem like in TV movies, and is in fact very hard to come by). Show up at 10 p.m. or earlier to the frats and wonder why absolutely no one is there yet. Wear long pants and shirts to look cute even though it’s approximately 1000 degrees inside of any given frat house.
Senior Year: At this point, you probably have solid group of friends or a particular room you always go to when you go out, which isn’t as often anymore. You already know to bring your own drink and to ask to fill up later in a friend’s room. You spend a lot of the night complaining about lame parties or how the underclassmen are being annoying and feel much better now that you’re most likely 21 and can buy your own drinks. Now you wear clothes in preparation for how hot and sweaty it’s going to be inside the frat house and don’t show up until the party has actually started.
Freshman Year: Chances are you probably don’t know your roommate and were randomly paired with them. You’re discovering for the first time in your life how hard it is to really live with someone else, even if you’re an easy-going person. (And if you’re uptight, like me, I’m so sorry in advance for what you and your roommate are about to go through). Spend hours decorating your room exactly how you want it to be, as if your dorm room is an exact replica of your Pinterest board.
Senior Year: Now, you’re finally living with exactly who you want to live with, and your room has basically looked the same for the past four years so not much is different there. You actually know how to compromise with the people who share your living space and what rules are necessary to keep your sanity. If you’re lucky, you now get to cook your own meals as well and have an actual living room where you can host viewing parties of The Bachelor.
Freshman Year: At this point in the year, you don’t know a lot about Greek life or even if that is something you want to join. You probably hear a lot about in on campus or see the girls and boys walking around in letters, and you either want to be part of that community or are totally unsure. If you’re a boy you might even start going to the different houses each weekend, trying to feel out which one you like best. Or you could get lucky and bond with the guys in the very first house you enter. You might even learn that Greek life at Albion isn’t exactly what it appears to be on the outside, and in fact the friendships forged there are strong and amazing.
Senior Year: By now you’ve either found your home in Greek life or you’ve realized that it just isn’t for you; of course either is fine. But if you have found your home, now you get to see all of your classmates as the presidents and leaders in your house, or maybe you’re one of them! You feel very comfortable with your sisters or brothers, and you know that you’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.
Freshman Year: You might not know a lot of people on campus yet, and that’s fine! You’re probably meeting a ton of new people and you’re not sure how to interact with them yet. Awkwardly introduce yourself to friends in class, and see who sits near you and if they’re interested in the same things you are. Bond with the people in your hall these first few weeks until you’ve branched out and met people outside of your tiny bubble.
Senior Year: Almost everyone at Albion seems like a friend now that you’ve known each other for so long. Basically no one is a stranger to you anymore, but you have your core group of friends who always have your back. Whether you met freshman year on the first day or if you met much later, you know you’ve met people at Albion who have changed your life for the better and whose friendships you’ll always carry close, even after this very last year.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Miller