The first semester away at college is tough.
Whether your parents washed your dirty laundry your whole life or you were the most self-sufficient, I-know-my-social-security-number-and-how-to-use-jumper-cables kid in your high school class, there’s some adjusting to do after arriving in Oxford.
Among the things our first-year writers found out:
A box full of bright-pink tools isn’t the worst way to make friends.
It can hurt to watch your parents drive away.
No, Brick is not a movie theater.
Store-bought tortillas do not taste as good as your grandmother’s.
It’s easy to feel lonely on campus — but there are always reasons not to.
Introduction written by Jack Evans.
Read on for four stories on first-year ‘shock’ from some of our newest writers:
Missing home and hot tortillas
by Chloe Murdock
“No, I should wait to visit. I’ve only been at school for a few days,” I say over the phone.
My family only lives two hours away, but it’s my first weekend away at Miami and they already want me to come visit.
I love my family, but maybe I should have chosen an out-of-state school.
That said, I start calling Miami my home the day I move in. I love my new friends, I love the campus and I love being disappointed every time I see Brick Street’s entrance and think it’s a movie theater. I can’t wrap my head around being homesick in such a place because I’m ready to live such a life, just like that moving (and propaganda-tinged) poem said I would.
I’m not ready for the feeling when it hits. I’m fighting procrastination in my dorm alone, when my stomach outright scoffs at my growing to-do list.
I open my fridge for the Mission brand tortillas graciously given to freshman students without anything to put inside, and can’t push away the memory of my grandma’s homemade tortillas.
Mission tortillas taste fine when microwaved, but they don’t taste like home. I spit out the limp bite of flour, remembering how hot a fresh tortilla is when you snatch it off the pan with just your fingers. Homemade tortillas taste good even when you don’t have anything to stuff them with, even when they grow cold.
My name sounds white, I look white and I am mostly white. But my great grandma Rodriguez greets the men in our family with an ecstatic “Papasito!” and kisses their cheek, and tells tales of the teachers in San Antonio who scorned her for her accent and her appearance. And my grandma wistfully recalls when she could speak fluent Spanish just as well as she remembers the recipes from her late Mexican restaurant, which closed before I was born.
My heritage is part of my identity, even though I feel strange sharing it. I want to, but I also don’t want to lay claim to the experiences I don’t have. It gets awkward when a basically-white girl reminisces about her grandma making mexican food for Thanksgiving, especially to someone who actually looks the part.
I don’t know how to fight this kind of homesickness here. Instead, I call home.
“Grandma, can we make tortillas this weekend?”
Move-in day blues
by Ben Finfrock
On the drive from Columbus to Oxford, the morning sun peeked through the trees along Route 127. I looked over to my mom in the driver’s seat. This was not a typical first day of school. Yes, my parents would be dropping me off, but at the end of the day they would not be there to take me home.
“You know, I don’t know what I’ll do without you this year,” I said.
“You’ll be ok,” she said. “Remember, I’m only a call away.”
There had been months of touring schools and filling out applications. There had been heartbreak over denials and financial-aid offers that came up short and celebration over the letters that read,
“Congratulations, you’re in!”
Now, it was move-in day.
At 10:30 am, we arrived at Havighurst Hall and began unpacking my belongings. When everything was unpacked — my sweatshirts placed in drawers, my Keurig plugged into the outlet and my poster of The Beatles mounted on the wall — I started making up things to do to delay my parents’ departure.
My mom caught on and played along.
Finally, at 1:00 pm, we decided there was nothing left to do and agreed it was time for lunch. My dad drove us to Uptown Oxford. We sat at Kona Bistro, ate fish tacos and told stories about my childhood.
After lunch we walked around campus so I could get my bearings. My mom and I kept making up things we needed to see. Finally, at 2:30 my dad said, “Alright, it’s time to get rolling or we’re going to hit rush hour traffic.”
He pulled the car up to Havighurst Hall for the second time and we all got out. My dad shook my hand and wished me good luck. Then I looked over at my mom. Her face was reddening as she struggled to hold back tears. I reached over and gave her a big hug.
As I watched them drive away I wanted to scream, “What are you doing? Come back!”
I thought about running after them and getting in the car to return home. Instead, I turned my back on the car and walked into Havighurst.
The tools for finding friends
by Julia Arwine
Before I left for college, my dad bought me a toolbox. Every tool contained within it was bright pink, including a hammer, a screwdriver, and a tape measure. I laughed, doubting that I would ever use it, but I appreciated the gesture. And, as my dad wisely pointed out, one never knew when one might need a toolbox.
About a week later, I was alone in my dorm room, FaceTiming my little sister, when a girl paused in my open doorway and asked:
“Hey, do you have a tape measure?”
We were both delighted and surprised at the fact that I did. I handed it over to her, happy to have helped, and settled back on my bed as she disappeared down the hall.
My sister, still on FaceTime, asked the questions I had forgotten to pose: who was that girl, and why did she need my tape measure?
After a time with those questions brewing in my mind, my curiosity came to a peak and I decided to go track her- and my tape measure- down. The problem was, of course, that I didn’t know her name or where she lived.
I began knocking on doors at random, introducing myself and explaining my plight. The girls I met- although not the ones I was looking for- were eager to help. After interrogating hall-mates and RA’s alike, my small posse and I finally found the tape measure in the room at the end of the hall. The girl there was using it to figure out if she could fit her dresser in her closet. The answer was yes, but she would have to remove the closet doors.
For that, we used my pink screwdriver.
In the midst of this adventure, precariously balanced on a desk and a tiny step-stool, struggling to unscrew the doors from their moorings and trading jokes, names, and cupcakes, I realized something. Despite my summer-long worries and my late-night anxieties, I had actually made some friends.
Huh. I guess that wasn’t so hard.
"It's a Small World" on campus
As I step out of my dorm, a sharp gust of wind slaps me across the face. September has certainly set in, as it’s bitterly cold. I glance at my phone, pulling up the weather app, and the screen informs me that it’s an abysmal 51 degrees in Oxford. Sighing, I get on my bike, scrunch down into my jacket and head off to class.
After sitting through an absolutely riveting session of statistics, I’m back out in the crisp fall air. It’s warmed a little and I no longer shiver relentlessly as I pedal my bike back towards Collins hall. But despite the pleasant temperature change, I feel indescribably worse than I did on my way to class. I realize that I haven’t spoken to anyone all day.
My hand subconsciously reaches for my phone, searching for validation in texts and Snapchats that aren’t there, then return the device to my pocket. I trudge past groups of my fellow Miamians, talking like old friends, and a sharp pang of loneliness twists itself in my gut.
Stopping at the edge of Cook Field, I scan the vast campus before me. In this one panorama, I can count more students than the entirety of my high school. Amidst this sea of strangers, I can’t help but feel isolated.
Sure, I’ve gotten people’s phone numbers and made a few introductions over the past week, but none that really felt genuine. Nothing seems like it will ever come close to the friendships and bonds I formed back home.
Suddenly, the bell tower belts out an eerie rendition of “It’s a Small World.” A humorless smile spreads across my face as the irony of the situation hits me. Here, at a university five times the size of my hometown, surrounded by people whose names I’ll never know, I’m being told that “it’s a small world after all.”
I shake my head to clear it, driving out the hollow feeling resting in my stomach. I remind myself of the club meeting I’m looking forward to, the lunch date I have with dorm mates and even some of the classes I’m starting to like. Sighing once more, I settle into the strange half-sadness, half-optimism that has become the norm over the past week, and head off for the dorm again.