Kline Center

When I had my orientation at the Kline center, I felt like a high school student touring Dickinson for the first time. We were informed of the different rules and regulations of the gym and were taught the safety precautions to use on the equipment. While I was going through yet another orientation process, other students were already working out, making me feel even more like a newcomer than I had before.

Today, when I went to the Kline center to work out for the first time, I felt much more like a part of the student body, rather than just an observer. This time I used the equipment instead of just looking at it. People weren’t giving me the “oh you’re obviously a freshman” look that had become so familiar. In fact, while I was at the gym, I saw another group of freshmen doing their orientation, but this time I had the fulfilling feeling of being one of the students using the equipment. After being on campus for a few days, using the gym felt like another part of my daily routine.

the library

The Waidner-Spahr library is the hub of campus in more ways than one. Its behemoth size and central location on campus make it hard to ignore, but it also serves as a space the facilitate the two predominant aspects of social life – socializing and studying. During orientation, the library had an earnest energy – first year students sat at computers or in arm chairs completing work for their seminars, relishing their first late-night college coffee from the bibliocafe. Many worked in groups, sacrificing the efficiency of solitary work for the comfort found in numbers in these early days. Library staff prepared for the rest of the student body to descend upon campus, ironing out technological kinks with the printers and setting up book displays in the lobby.
When classes started, the energy of the library transitioned into a quiet, purposeful bustle. The earnestness of the first years has been replaced by the experience of upperclassmen, who do not wander looking for a familiar face or peek down hallways looking for a secluded space to study. They already know the quietest study corners or the spaces with the best light for reading, and head right to their favorite spots upon entering the main doors. Some areas buzz with socializing, but most students work by themselves, comfortable with being alone in a way that younger students are not.
I feel at ease in the library. It is a place that fosters focus; a place where it is okay to be alone, where the need for silence is understood and shared by others.

The Library

The air felt as if it was not fresh, but rather someone else’s stale exhalations—someone who had studied here, and known people here, and been comfortable here. Here was the library, the massive belly of a campus that I could hardly navigate.

And so we sat down, the cold, dead air chafing against us as we tried to focus on our homework. There is a line in “Ulysses” by Lord Tennyson that refers to Ithaca as a “still hearth”. Well, here we were, on the hearth that was dearly meant to be lit, and it felt as if at any moment, someone was going to come in, light the fire, and send us running–screaming–out.

I walked back into the library yesterday after my first class, expecting the same cadaverous, unwelcome silence. But rather, people sat everywhere; pages turned in comfy chairs, keyboards typed, and laughter echoed out across the floor.

And, as it happens, I’m sitting in the library now. I am no longer the Outsider that I felt I was on the first day, inhaling someone else’s stale breath; I am inhaling and exhaling—not a visitor to, but a member of, the library.


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.

The Hallway

Though there are a variety of places on campus that have changed since we arrived last week, the one I feel most compelled to describe is the hallway outside my dorm. The hallway may not be the most populated or social area, but despite how its physical appearance is identical to what it was on move in day, my perception of it could not be more different. When I arrived at Dickinson on Tuesday of last week, I was terrified. Not only was I at campus a day earlier than everyone else, but there were orientation assistants milling throughout the halls, and there was nothing I wanted more than to unpack as quickly as possible and slip into my dorm for the night. Now is the opposite.

The idea of socializing no longer makes me want to duck into my room; on the contrary, I’m itching to meet the rest of our freshman class and even upperclassmen. The hall outside my door does not remind me of moving related chaos, but of hallway dorm meetings, and its proximity to the place that I’m going to call home for the next nine months. I may not (and with good reason) spend as much time in it as I do in the cafeteria or on the fields, but it’s comforting to know that I’m friendly with just about every person in it, and that there’s at least one place on campus that isn’t new and daunting. It feels almost ridiculous to be analyzing a hallway in a manner as detailed as this one,  but my perception of it is constantly changing, and I can only hope I will grow as familiar with other places around campus as I do with the area outside my dorm. In the instance of this area, physical change is not nearly as significant as the flip-flopping of perspective and the emotions that come with such.


When my roommate and I met–not counting the Facebook stalking that had occurred prior to our arrival on campus–we were both flanked by our parents, who appeared to be at least twice as excited as we were.  We had a very formal introduction, and were relatively silent as we unpacked.  Our first two days were characterized by lots of “so when do you usually…” and “oh okay, yeah…” A lot of nodding, and living logistics.  A lot of wandering to the same places in an attempt to look social.  Our room was pristine, our conversations were about orientation, and our bed times were early.

I don’t know if the change was drastic after upperclassmen arrived and classes started, and I don’t know if they were its only cause, but the other night, we broke into our chocolate stash as we tried (and failed) to efficiently finish the work we’d put off for our classes.  We chatted about going out two nights before, and about finally meeting people who didn’t live within 40 feet of us.  Our shoes were all over the place, our communal fruit bowl was looking a little sad and empty, our laundry baskets seemed pretty plump, and I don’t know about her, but I felt like we had actually started living here.

The Cafeteria

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.


The view from my room

Arriving around 10 o’clock at night I certainly was not in the mood to observe Carlisle. As if resonating to my exhaustion the city seemed quiet and calm. As I reached near the grounds of the campus the calmness appeared to grow and turned into a deafening silence. The place that first grabbed my attention even in my condition was, the Morgan field, which clearly was the first scenery that I observed from my room. It wideness, greenery and simplicity made it appear to be humble and accepting towards people. The next morning the silence did not break, if anything it grew further. The early morning fog and drizzle made it seem the field, devoid of people was lonely and wanted someone to sit and bask the sun on its arms. As noon came and I met with other students I felt their anxiety to be the same as mine. However, after a few hours of socializing and I felt we had known each other for a long time. The next time I came to my room the grass seemed greener the sunshine was yellow and the weather turned for the better as if in stimuli to the people. Begin orientation and Morgan field was covered with the hustle and bustle of different orientation groups begining their work. The evening sun had turned a shade of golden and the air, heavy with the voices of people. Everyday as I spent more and more time there I realized the rapidness in its change. From a cold, gloomy land to a hot, cheerful one. The chairs turned redder in color and the sun always shined on them. I had only spent 5 days on campus but it felt like a month had already passed. Everything seemed so close and personal to me that I had gained a sense of community and acceptance before realizing it. Now, even when the uppenclassmen have arrived and the view from my room does not feel unknown anymore. The red chairs do not seem as sad as before. I have already started referring to my Neighborhood as my home.

Morgan Field

The first day I arrived on campus I spent the majority of my time walking around and trying to find a familiar face from the few people I knew from accepted students day, or even to find someone who was interesting to me. The problem was that no one was outside. Morgan field was entirely empty. So I sat down in an Adirondack chair to read and relax and was invited to sit with a group of kids who I of course assumed were freshman as well. Little did I know they were actually mainly “townies” and a junior at Dickinson. As orientation progressed I found that everyone became more friendly and more students were outside playing frisbee or socializing. Whenever I walked by someone greetings and smiles were exchanged. It reminded me of a story my psychology teacher from high school told me about his college in Tennessee. He said that he always assumed girls were interested in him because of how friendly they acted to him. It wasn’t until later that he realized it was only southern hospitality.

I do not feel that was the case on Morgan field. At least all the freshman were still in the phase were everyone is friendly with each other because you never know who could be the person with the potential to become a close friend. As the upperclass mans had arrived Morgan field’s general air has changed to me. Although it  busier with more students studying and chatting outside it doesn’t have the same affect as the first few days. The older students tend to ignore the freshman and as we ourselves are slowly developing friendships we have become more selective in who we choose to talk with. Hopefully in a few more weeks it will transform into more of a community feel without so much segregation between freshman and the older students when they come appreciate us as people as apposed to the immature children they seem to view us as.

The delicious transition

The cafeteria room in the HUB building was, for the first couple days of orientation, packed to the rim with people, with lines extending long past the cashier. The sound of hundreds of people could be heard from outside, filled with excited conversation from the eager, but anxious first-year students. Most of these freshmen, if not all, were prepared for the day with a precise schedule, with a date for everything, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.

However, as the days went by, it became clear that these meals became less of rigidly-placed times of day, and more of casual meetings, set up whenever the students desired to eat. This was consistent with the rest of orientation, all into the beginning of the academic term itself. As we are making the transition from high school students to university scholars, we are becoming more independent. Thus, it has, and will even further, become true that we take control of our lives and schedules, even if it be simply for lunch.