Getting past that new college smell
It’s that time of the year again, folks. The last sultry days of summer are winding down.
The smell of the bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils and previously unopened notebooks hang in the air as we begin the new academic year. The promise of crisp, colorful leaves and cooler weather are just around the corner. Sounds picturesque, right?
To our new freshman class (not to mention a little reminder to some of our returning students who may have forgotten): Welcome to western Massachusetts, where the valley dips low and the surrounding mountains create a basin effect of heat and humidity. The dog days of summer linger into September, well after the metaphorical school bell rings and classes commence. Invest in a fan for the dorm room. If you’re stuck in one of the lecture halls in the basement of Hasbrouck for 50-75 minutes, beware of heatstroke and body odor. Dress accordingly, drink plenty of water and wear deodorant.
Whether you chose to attend the University of Massachusetts to obtain that coveted higher education degree or because it has a reputation as a party school, this column is here to help you succeed in everything from study tips to balancing school work and social life. There are plenty of things available on campus and in the neighboring area to do for fun, not all of them having to involve partying like Ozzy Osbourne until you’re passed out in the emergency room getting your stomach pumped. Contrary to what is seen in movies sometimes, throwing up on the hot guy or cute girl you’re trying to chat up is most likely not going to score you any points.
O.K., fresh meat, you’re finally in college. Unless you attended some ritzy private boarding school in the Alps, this will probably be your first time living so far away from home for a great length of time. Does that sound scary? It doesn’t have to be. Of course it doesn’t help if you’ve been assigned to all-freshmen housing. Not the greatest idea the university has ever had, sticking a bunch of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshmen to stew together in their misconceptions of the college life.
So, before you take out the posters of expensive cars and half-naked attractive people from behind your shot glass collection, get the facts straight. In a setting of only your fellow inexperienced peers, your first resource should always be your Resident Assistant (RA). Living there on the same floor with you, they would be the most knowledgeable in how to handle most situations that students might run into. That is, after all, what they’re trained to do.
Don’t give them too hard a time if they bust up one of your rowdy parties. As much as they might want to cut you some slack because they’re good people, it is their job to enforce the rules. Read up on what is and is not allowed in the dorm rooms – some of the things will surprise you – so you won’t get written up for something innocuous such as having the wrong kind of lamp or wrapping a cord in the wrong place.
Living in a small dorm room with another person can be tricky if you’re not used to sharing your space. If you’re rooming with someone you knew prior to college, just realize that even the closest of friends can sometimes make poor long-term roommate material.
If you’re rooming with a complete stranger, the key is communication, as in any relationship. You’re not required to be best buddies, but it would be nice if you could tolerate each other. Work out what you will expect from one another early so there are no grievous misunderstandings later. Do you snore? Are you an early bird? Does he or she prefer to sleep with the window open? Do either of you have a food allergy? Define boundaries.
Almost everyone has heard of the sock-on-the-door signal. That’s all well and good, but it is inconsiderate if you don’t warn the roommate ahead of time that you’re having an overnight guest. After all, it’s your roommate’s space too. If there is ever a problem, it is better to voice it than to keep feelings pent up.
Perhaps you are worried it is too insignificant of an issue that you don’t want to come off as a whiner. As long as you address the concern calmly and respectfully, your roommate will most likely honor that request. Just think, if you don’t say anything, you could be kept up until 4:00 a.m. every night by your roommate’s friends who are always over until you explode due to lack of sleep. And then, no one will be happy.
College is a time of transition. My series of back-to-school articles will continue throughout the month of September. As an advice column, however, I need feedback from you. Suggestions of topics to discuss or more traditional Dear Abby letters of inquiry are both welcomed. Welcome – or welcome back – to UMass, everybody.
H. C. Wang is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.