When I first started eating in the cafeteria I noticed that not all of the tables were full. This was obviously because there were only a few skittish freshmen, as opposed to the writhing mass of people that would soon eat there. I felt comfortable during orientation because I knew that everyone was in the same boat as me. This made me a lot more comfortable introducing myself and asking for people’s names.
As soon as the rest of the campus arrived the ranks of students more than doubled. I could tell the freshmen from the rest of the students because they were the ones that were greeting each other by putting their hands on others’ shoulders or giving them big hugs. The difference between the freshmen and the other grades was that the other grades were comfortable in their place. They sat with people they knew and were laughing and joking around. The freshmen were deathly serious. Now that I know people I have a lot less time to observe people, however I intend to keep an eye out.
One of my major concerns leaving my hometown to come to Dickinson College was my ability to socialize and make friends. At home and in high school I was, in my own way, someone that had established his own personality and reputation. I felt accepted; I was comfortable here. It is a feeling that I enjoy. However, the moment I stepped foot onto the campus and began icebreakers with my orientation group, I realized that I could no longer assume that people my name or even of me. I was a nobody; I was just another body walking around awkwardly, trying to talk to everyone they met in an attempt to find people they could call friends. Since I had been born and raised in the same location, it was a relatively new feeling. This feeling was intensified when I walked into the cafeteria the day after the upperclassmen moved in to see hundreds of people whom I had never met before, but instantly recognized and conversed with each other upon sight. Just like high school, friends ate together in a groups. There were meals where I would sit at an empty table, inwardly hoping that someone that I was even slightly familiar with from orientation week to approach and eat with me. In the early days on my stay at Dickinson College, the cafeteria, to me, was often a place of loneliness and solitude than a place to catch up with friends.
As I continued to live here, I have become familiar with several people whom I can now call my friends. The cafeteria became busier as the upperclassmen joined the freshmen, but I have found my own group to eat with. While it is still early, I am beginning to feel a sense of community; a feeling that I belong here. The campus is less intimidating now; I am excited to meet even more people and establish a presence at this “home” as I had back home.
I walked into the cafeteria and noticed that there were more people than usual. As I was trying out for the soccer team, I had been on campus for four days already. This was my domain. I joined the team in making fun of the scared looking freshman, as well as checking out the cute new girls. I was part of an Alpha group, I suppose. I even considered hazing some of those freshmen. Indeed, I am one as well, but I was indeed still savoring some residue of my senior status in high school. I watched, with my gang, as my peers looked around, tripped over seats and looked for someone they were half introduced during a tour. I was comfortable with the twenty-five others whom I could count on to keep me from seeming like a loner. It was quiet, now that I think about it, in the cafeteria. There was noise, but the attitudes were still subdued. No one would do anything to have himself classified in some way or another.
Then the rest arrived, and I was no longer on the team. I looked out upon the sea of heads. There was boasting and bravado, and whatever it is that girls do to show who is dominant. It was almost a fever in which the student body interacted with each other. They hugged each other as they were reunited with the friends that they had not seen throughout the entire summer. There was intensity in their competition that made me feel as if it were a competition to see who could relate the most stories as fast as possible. It was the energy of wild beasts on edge. I was scared at this intensity. They were excited so at the necessity of socializing. I spilled my chocolate milk. Embarrassed, I asked for a rag, cleaned the mess, and found a place to sit at an empty table.