Articles, Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 08/26/2011

Campus Confidential: My Freshman Year, I Vow To Major In Unafraid

Barnard College

Barnard College

I’m proud to announce that for the next school year, I’ll be writing a column for The Frisky about my Freshman year in college. I’ll be writing about everything from frat parties to relationships to financial aid, all from a feminist perspective. The first post in this series was published this week, and is reprinted below. I hope you guys like it and continue to read!

I wouldn’t say that I was a nerd in high school. Although I have adopted the art of procrastination as ardently and with as much love as if it were a tiny puppy alone on the side of the road in a rainstorm, I did in fact manage to get some studying in. But despite grades and test scores that were high enough to award me admittance to one of the best schools in the country, I’d never call myself geeky. “Loner” probably isn’t the right word, either. I wasn’t exactly in the running for prom queen (real talk: I didn’t even go to prom my junior year, gasp) but I had a particularly close group of best friends who were like my sisters. I never felt alone, but rather constantly surrounded by people who loved me. No, the only thing I can definitively say to describe who I was in high school is that I was there.

I felt it on the first day of my freshman year: I didn’t belong there. I know, it’s the oldest story in the privileged white girl’s book. Nobody understands me! I wish I went to an alternative school that exchanged P.E. for reiki treatments and preferred Woolf and Plath to Dickens and Thoreau! Whinewhinewhine! Okay, maybe that’s not what every privileged white girl wants (Uggs paired with skirts in summer and Natty Light come to mind as viable alternatives for many a P.W.G) but it’s certainly what I wanted. Or at least it’s a hyperbolic version of what I wanted. I remember, as I took my first steps into high school thinking, Julie, if you make it through today, I will reward you with a cookie and a ‘My So Called Life’ marathon. Get your head in the game. Ward off everything that makes you uncomfortable with sarcasm and cynicism that your classmates don’t yet and may never understand or appreciate. Only four more years!

And now, here I am, four years later. I graduated high school. I am headed off to Barnard College of Columbia University. When people here at home in ol’ northeastern Ohio ask where I’m going and I answer a little too quickly, they tilt their heads skeptically and ask, “You’re going to a farm in South America?” thinking I’ve said, “A barnyard in Colombia.” I internally roll my eyes, but at least I know the truth: I was simultaneously accepted to the number one women’s college in the country and an Ivy League school, and I’m going to New York City to do some fancy learning.

The truth is, I’m absolutely terrified. I have older friends already in and out of college who tell me that being afraid is perfectly normal, but that doesn’t keep me from waking up in the middle of the night from stress dreams of a bleak future. In one dream, I’m alone in my dorm room on a Saturday night wrapped in my Snuggie with a hand shoved into a box of Munchkins, so far past the freshman 15 that the ability to fit into my jeans is but a distant memory, sobbing, “Forever alone. Why am I forever alone?”

If it’s not a dream, then it’ll be a gripping panic interjected into the most mundane of daily tasks. The other day, I was loading dishes in the dishwasher when it hit me: What if I have to eat alone? People can’t possibly go to the cafeteria in groups at all times in college like they do in high school, can they? While I’ve eaten alone, I’ve only ever eaten really alone, like alone in my own house. I’ve never eaten alone while surrounded by other people who are not eating alone. What the hell do I do then? Am I crazy for worrying about this? Probably. I’m probably insane and nobody will like me. Cue me crying in the corner in the fetal position.

But despite the panic and fear and just plain sadness that has been pretty consistent throughout this whole leaving-everything-I know-behind-forever thing, I’m also pretty damn excited (bet you didn’t see that coming). I’m scared about being alone … but I’m also really happy to finally be independent. I’m excited to possibly meet people with whom I have more things in common than being born in the same location. I want to learn, I want to meet my soulmate (of every variety), I want to have a lot of fun and I want to experience as many things for the first time as I possibly can.

One interesting thing (amongst many!) about Barnard is that they’re extraordinarily (and rightfully) proud of their alumna, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Anna Quindlen. The school constantly quotes her as saying that at Barnard she “majored in unafraid.” Well, I think I’ll follow in Ms. Quindlen’s footsteps and add “unafraid” to my academic and personal agenda. I don’t want to repeat my experience in high school – of showing up, doing what’s required and dying for it to be over. I want to make the absolute most of college. I want to really be there.

And I want you to come with me. For the next year here on The Frisky I’m going to write a tell-all account of my freshman year (well, at Barnard I am technically known as a “First Year” because we’re not into that patriarchal “-man” suffix s**t, but you know what I mean). And, like I said, I’m officially fearless. Or at least I’m going to try very hard to be.

So, I think the only area of doubt that remains, the final question that begs to be asked is: are you ready to vicariously relive your freshman year?

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  • logoskaieros @ at 2:12 pm, August 26th, 2011

    My first day of college, there were dancing lessons I decided to go to to meet other freshmen. Myself and 2 dozen other young adults found ourselves on this dance floor, facing each other in two lines. Then we were asked to walk forward and pick someone to dance with. I almost peed myself I was so nervous. I didn’t know anyone there. And then it hit me: Neither Did Anyone Else. We were all loners there. So I walked forward and turned to the person near me. We danced. It was fun.

    I experienced lots of social anxiety my freshman and sophomore year. I went to an extremely small college, and yet I was still intimidated to walk across our campus quad or….heavens forbid…sit in the dining hall alone.

    But looking back, I laugh at myself. I wish I had just said “screw it” and made myself walk up and talk to more people.

    My advice: be as outgoing as you can at the beginning of freshmen year. In the early fall, people are geared up to meet new people. They are more open to talking to strangers. And then once you’re in that mode, you’ll find it easier to keep going the rest of the year.

    Lots of people also use alcohol to meet new people in college. If you’re responsible, it can help you overcome social anxiety. Of course, I’ve seen lots of people get blitzed out of their mind because they thought that would impress people or they lost track of their drinking or they wanted to obliterate all nervousness. Bad idea. At my college, alcohol poisoning was most common in the first two months of the fall semester.

  • Amy CT @ at 9:52 pm, August 26th, 2011

    Oh, gosh, I’m already reliving my first year! I’m a second year at the moment, but I’m on exchange in Australia (I come from the UK), and I have to tell you: second time round, I wondered why I was so worried the first time.

    I did NOT want to go to university. I wanted a degree and I wanted to education, but I did NOT want to go at all. I know – a confusing paradox, but I don’t drink alcohol (it’s not an “I’m boring” choice – I react badly to it, and I just plain don’t like it) and as British freshers’ week is all about boozing, I was petrified.

    My fears were unfounded. I have the BEST group of friends back home, to the point that I would actually consider them family. And, out here, I’m at the best university in the Southern Hemisphere, getting to see the world, and having the time of my life.

    That, to me, is fearless: I’ve left behind everyone I know and love for a year. But, it will be worth it.

    Good luck: I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time, and that your fears will be unfounded, too. Just remember… it’s nothing like the movies. I swear. :)

  • Emma E @ at 3:42 pm, August 28th, 2011

    OMG, you’re going to Colombia? That’s my dream! :) Good luck there! I’ll be reading your column.

  • Chloe @ at 1:47 pm, July 23rd, 2012

    Barnard is my dream school! I can’t wait to read your column. :)

  • Saul Goodman @ at 2:23 pm, August 28th, 2012

    I wish you all the luck in the world. The only way I got through college was online TV like HULU and Netflix LOL. I would highly recommend investing in accounts to get your through procrastination with style. Just saw a good horror movie that is worth a look. It’ll keep you from writing any essays :) it’s Truth or Dare and the website is

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