The Freshman Experience (Part 1)

It’s extremely hard to start college with no prior experience. What do the professors expect? What’s class like? How can I still manage to get ‘okay’ grades?

So I thought I’d share the experience I had (while I still remembered it).

My class lineup for my first semester of freshman year is pretty simple. I have Comparative Politics with Mattiace, Political Biographies (FS) with Callen, Chemistry 120 with Guldan, and Calculus 160 with Lo Bello.

This is a regular run of classes for first semester frosh. It’s got a few of the pre-recs I need for my majors (I know it’s going to contain biology, but heck if I know what else is involved – I might end up in pre-med!), and my FS class. Freshman Seminars are just another part of your introduction to ‘Gheny – they help show you what workload is like, introduce you to speeches and opinionated writing, and overall, teach you what it is to be a college student.

Now, the first days of class are always stressful. They especially were for me; I’m a perfectionist, I want to enjoy my classes, and I had NO idea if I would be able to get through chem and calc which would decide if I could go into a chemistry-heavy major. So I nervously took my seat those first few days, waiting for the professor to speak, trying to make a few friends.

Turns out, I didn’t have anything to worry about. Professor Guldan was and is a fantastic instructor. And honestly? The rest of my professors are amazing as well. They all have their unique quirks, and of course there are little problems you need to adjust to or begin to appreciate.

Lo Bello is an extremely hard grader, it’s easy to lose points on his tests. But you’ll never make those mistakes again, and you’ll know the topics like the back of your hand. Mattiace covers yards of material, but her vibrancy and excitement about being a political scientist helps you enjoy it, too. Callen’s FS certainly has a lot of reading, but it’s beyond interesting and the class discussions make the work worth it. And last but not least, Guldan’s chemistry class whisks through topics, but she’s always sweet and approachable when it comes to office hour reviews and asking questions. Not to mention how well she explains the more difficult subjects!

The thing about college is it’s not all a piece of cake. It can be hard, stressful, and you might want to pull your hair out from time to time. But in the end, it’s worth it. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Even if that light is just more than 5 hours of sleep one night.

Acceptance: Finding Family on Campus

Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of strange things happening in the world, and a lot of controversial topics. Allegheny in particular hosts a wide variety of opinions, and it’s hard to always keep up. However, something that this campus seems to really agree on – something that I PERSONALLY agree on – is that acceptance, family, love… They’re all key to living life. They’re necessary, irreplaceable. And it’s up to us to make our homes where we see fit.

So, finding friends on campus is fairly easy when you’re a freshman. Everyone’s lonely and new, and grouping together to create tiny packs of hormonal little 18-year olds according to dorms, classes, etc.  is rather natural. It’s just the way things happen. But after that initial grouping, you can feel a bit off. There’s so much love and energy in all the newness around you, from the colors on the trees in the fall to the way you can laugh until you cry about your new inside jokes. For me, though, there was definitely something missing. I didn’t have the same stability other people seemed to have found. Yes, of course I’d fallen in love with the campus, the classes, the professors, and my amazing, beautiful friends, but I continued to seek the total acceptance and similar mindsets I’d found when I was home.

Luckily, there’s one major part of the new year that everyone enjoys: the activities fair. It’s a bustle of activity outside CC, and if you can’t find something to interest you there, you’re not elbowing people enough so you can get to the tables. The groups range from Game of Thrones to Delta Tau Delta – an array of people willing to welcome you and support your quirks and loves.

I wandered around, peeking here and there at booths, until I found the Queers and Allies table. There, I met the people would would be some of my closest friends. Queers and Allies is an interesting group – there’s the house, in which 4 people live, all of them open-minded and caring, and the club, which hosts meetings and open hours to all who wish to come. I’d already known a few of the house members via social networks and had an idea of what I could expect, but I went in with a pretty open mind.

The meeting was delightful. It was safe-space, pronouns were asked, and respect was the name of the game. I, for one, know how hard it is to keep up with politically correct terms and be respectful with everything that comes out of my mouth, and it’s really nice to be in a room with people hellbent on teaching you how to care for others’ identities.

Afterward, I was invited along with the other first years to go back to the house. I went, naturally, and wandered down to the red house on College Street. You could hear the laughter from down the walk, the house members and friends were waiting for us to join them on the porch.

It was a really great night, to put it lightly. I was comfortable, I was home. I began watching shows there with the QnA, discussing whatever was going on at the time. I almost missed class getting excited over the fact that Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Cosmos was put on. I stopped knocking, to the delight or chagrin of the house, we may never know.

In short, I found people I could call home. I found people who made me feel accepted and cared for, who pestered me by dubbing me “the baby”, and respected me by saving a place in their lives where I could stay, no matter who I was or how I identified.

I started writing this post sitting on the couch of QnA amidst my gaggle of friends. I was laughing, typing on my phone, thinking how lucky I was to have stumbled onto a goldmine.

College is hard. College is tough, and sometimes scary. But this campus? It’s something special. It’s unique. And as much as people bicker and fight over silly or really important things, it’s an understood concept that acceptance is important in so many ways. College is about finding yourself and loving whatever you find.

So, nothing will change the fact that someone is waiting to share an inside joke. Someone’s waiting to throw you into a pile of leaves, or snow. Someone’s waiting to steal your shoes so you can’t leave just yet.

Someone, somewhere, is waiting to love you, whoever that may be.



“Alas, poor Yorick!” And other ways to study

There’s a never-ending supply of work to do at good old ‘Gheny, fear not. But it can be hard to figure out where, when, and with whom you can finish that work. Sure, you can study with your roommate in your shared space, but that can be ultimately unfulfilling after you try to sit up straight and find your spine locked into place (those desk chairs can be hellish, you have been warned). On the bright side, they have the refreshing tendency to tip back so far that you see your life flash before your eyes, so you certainly won’t be falling asleep.

If a decision has been made and the hunt for a study nook is on, there are plenty of options. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

1. Lounges, the study hall of college

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Jared, Arianna, and Leah in Schultz

Chances are, your dorm has some sort of common area. It might not be as collective as the one full of windows in Baldwin, but it’s probably still there. Mine is in Schultz, and truth be told I don’t spend as much time there as of late, but it’s still a favorite. There’s nothing better than being around friends and then blocking them out completely with earbuds (they won’t mind, they’re probably doing the same thing).

2. Good old Pell 

The common library set-up: à la Amanda
The common library set-up: à la Amanda

The library is honestly one of the best places for studying, in groups or alone. The chairs are comfortable and it’s acceptable during finals and mids to bring in bedding because you’ve lost the majority of your dignity (or so I’ve been told). I recommend a personal computer, however. There are outlets for charging and you can wirelessly print, so make your nest and stay within it to study. Getting distracted helps no one.

If you’re doing group projects, this is definitely the place to go. Along the wall of Pell there’s a collection of glass rooms which block out most of the noise from within and vice versa. Half the time they’re empty, and you can always take one (however, do not ever come between a comping senior and a free room). I’m pretty sure I’ve seen someone doing a fairly vibrant rendition of Hamlet holding up Yorick’s skull, but I suppose I can’t be sure.

P.S. There’s coffee, tea, and a mutual feeling of “please be quiet”. All the more to entice you with!

3. Last but not least, Carr Hall

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The best fish you’ve ever had the opportunity to meet: Carr Koi

It’s impossible to get a good photo unless you have a high speed camera, but as you can see above, there are indeed fish in Carr Hall. Carr is the science hall near Quigley and Arter, and it has a tiny aquaponics system in the main area. Not only is Carr quiet and open, but if you sit anywhere near the foliage, you hear running water. If you’re stressed, simply walk over to the edge of the pond and laugh because the fish in it always swim to the edge in a flurry as soon as they see movement.

As a freshman, those are my three most commonly used/favorite places to settle in for a long study session. I heartily recommend them, though there are certainly more hidden ones which I will talk about later.


In all seriousness, don’t stay in your dorm all day, even when you need to study. There’s a reason I try to get out every day for a few hours minimum. College is a lot more than studying, and a lot more than having fun. It’s exploration, growth, and change.

There’s so much more than 4 walls here; it’s time to open the door and see for yourself.

The Beginning of an Adventure

You never really know what’s going to happen in your life until it does – or, at least that’s what I’ve learned in the past 18 years on this earth. So what are you supposed to do when you realize something amazing is starting?

To put it lightly, I’ve already had quite a few late-nighters here at Allegheny. Honestly, it’s just in my nature. I love staying up late and watching movies, reading, or spending time with the people I care about. A lot of my friends are the same way, thankfully, so it works out. But it was late on the 20th of this month when I received a text from my friend Matt to go out for a walk. I had been watching a movie in the lounge of Schultz but I was completely on board, so I texted a quick reply back and found out where to go.

I threw on normal people clothes (it may be college, but no, pajamas are not recommended on a daily basis) and walked across campus to meet him. It was an absolutely beautiful night with the lightest whisper of a chill so myself, Matt, and another friend Milt decided to go to the top of the Vukovich Center, or the Vuk, as we call it. This is a definitely not-used-enough gem; it overlooks the Campus Center and has a tiny garden rooftop.

The Vuk at night
The Vuk at night

We watched the night life for a while, laughing at the people who wander around at that time, and we ended up on the topic of the sky. That night was so, so clear. I stared up at the stars with those two for quite a while, pointing out constellations and talking about the ancient stories of the Pleiades and Orion, and pointing out as many as we could. We bounced from these tales to our majors to bioethics to where we came from. Milt eventually asked if we’d been to the cemetery yet, and after he found out we hadn’t, we hiked on back to our dorms to grab thicker clothing and started on our way.

We arrived after maybe twenty minutes of steady walking and it was breathtakingly stunning. Away from campus, the light pollution is so, so minimal; you can’t stop looking up. I passed my glasses back and forth between Matt and myself so he could see properly (his didn’t have his glasses with him), and we lay on the damp path talking about every topic we could think of, even about religion and spirituality. How do you pray? How are people connected? Is there more than just this?

It was 4:40 A.M. when we realized we needed to go back. With a layer of mist, we began walking in semi-silence down the road to our dorms, our regular lives set to begin any hour. There was homework to do, laundry to be folded, and faces to greet.

I had barely talked with these two before this night, but as they walked me to my dorm, I was more than content. I realized this was a different place than any I’d been before, with such special people. I realized that at that very moment, my life was about to change drastically.

I can’t tell you I know what to do when you realize something amazing is about to happen, not at all.

But what I do know is that I’m welcoming this life with open arms.