The making of a first year

I spy with my little eye...someone new to the University


Laura’s column runs biweekly Fridays. She can be reached at

Marshall Bronfin | The Cavalier Daily

I’ve written many a column aimed at a specific subdivision of the student population. I’ve addressed the small group of men who don’t seem to realize they’re still living under sexist assumptions about who women are and what they can do. I’ve addressed fellow student popsicles who suffered through the blizzard Armageddon of 2013, and when the Gooch-Dillard fire alarms went off at 2 a.m. I’ve addressed girls many, many times.

But this column belongs to the first years.

I would not have dared write about first years a year ago. After all, the first week of second year, you’re still essentially a firstie, not yet settled into your new position in the educational hierarchy. As a wizened third year, however, I feel distanced enough from my first semester at the University to ask an interesting question: what makes first years so easily identifiable?

What makes you an obvious first year? You’re all fairly easy to recognize. I can’t fathom how many girls I saw this week dressed up as if they were attending a middle school dance. Come on, ladies — you’re making my T-shirt and shorts look tacky. I saw a girl hustling to class in a sensible — albeit still inappropriate — pair of high heels. I’d be willing to bet $20 she leaves them in her dorm tomorrow — and $40 she fell down some stairs today.

What makes you an obvious first-year? Not having a clue where you are. Two people asked me where Bryan Hall was. I passed a guy who seemed to be seriously considering flying from New Cabell to Nau, since he clearly couldn’t figure out where the stairs were. During last weekend’s block party, I overheard a group of ladies discussing whether they were on Wertland and near Rugby when, in fact, they were on 14th Street. Nailed it.

What makes you an obvious first-year? The way you celebrate the weekend. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say most frats will not let seven first-year men into the house — keep that in mind, fellas, before you trek from Fitzhugh to Rugby. Besides, no amount of beer will help you forget you just dropped $450 on textbooks you’ll never read. Next time, save a chunk of dough and get your older friends to buy you your own keg. Actually don’t do that, my dear children — because it is, in fact, illegal.

We could talk for hours about the potentially embarrassing situations which so clearly label you a first year, but there’s something far more important.

What makes you a first year is how you’re connected with 10,000 other young adults who, if not in the same boat, are at least in the same naval fleet. We’ve all walked in your shoes. We know what it’s like to trip on the way to class because of poor decisions in the footwear department. We all got lost at least once in the first week of classes. We all bought every textbook on the syllabus before realizing many of those textbooks will only serve as pillows for afternoon naps.

Relish in your first year here at Mr. Jefferson’s University. Enjoy all the miseries and embarrassments and wild nights and the intrigue it all brings. You are all uniquely first years — just like the rest of us are uniquely second, third and fourth years. Each stage’s unique virtues and vices make us who we were and who we are.

We evolve every year. In a year’s time, you’ll be picking out first years like the rest of us. You’ll be encountering the new challenges brought on by a new level of education. You’ll be a different person. But you’ll always be part of the club. Welcome to the party, Wahoos.

Laura’s column runs biweekly Fridays. She can be reached at

related stories