To my surprise, I was the last person in my flat to finish unpacking on the morning of move-in day. Only about an hour before, Danieley N was swarming with fellow first-years and their parents, who brought the building to life with their energy and conversation.
But as the last drawer of my wardrobe clicked to a close, everything fell silent. Peaking my head out of the doorway, I listened for a murmur or a pin drop, for the assurance that I wasn’t alone in my very first hours of college.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. Unaware of 204’s exodus, I instantly began searching for signs of life, or at the very least, another addled and solitary freshman just like me. Instead, I came across two orientation leaders outside my building — to which I introduced myself and apprehensively asked, “Am I supposed to be doing anything right now?” Both girls turned to each other and laughed. “Welcome to college!” they said, to my dismay.
It’s hard to believe the interaction I had with those girls was already a month in the past. Even though it unfolded in a matter of seconds, the words “welcome to college” have had a profound impact on me.
I thought I was ready for college. After all, I bought the textbooks, packed my socks and read numerous Reddit forums that quelled my anxieties about the college experience. In fact, the sole reason I was the last person to leave flat 204 that morning was because I brought everything I needed — or so I thought.
Coming from San Francisco, I don’t have the option of returning home during a short break or weekend to retrieve more of my belongings. In anticipation of this, I overcompensated by bringing literally everything. Consequently, I spent way too much time moving into my dorm, when I probably should’ve been meeting my flatmates instead. As a result of being fixated on the items I owned, I sacrificed valuable first impressions. I’d only been on campus for one morning and already started to feel the onset of loneliness.
Though it took me a while to fully process what I learned on my first day of school, the takeaway was profound.
It goes something like this: It’s a Sunday afternoon, you’re laying in bed and the door is closed. You look around the room and think to yourself, “My desk chair could be a lot nicer. I should go to Target right now and buy a new one.”
Or you say to yourself, “These walls are pretty bland. I should go to Target right now and buy some artwork.”
As you’re calling the Uber to Burlington, you may even decide that you need an eighty-dollar strobe light because it’d be sick for next week’s pregame. The latter is actually a true story of my flatmate.
But you’re wrong. You don’t actually need any of these things. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that most dorm accessories are objectively useless.
The first problem in this hypothetical (but not unlikely) scenario is that the door is closed. Maybe, if that door was open, somebody might walk by and ask you how you’re doing, perhaps leading to a stimulating conversation and a newfound friend. But, if that door stays shut, they may never even know you’re there.
I suppose what I’m getting at is that if we shift our focus from materialism to interpersonal aspects of college life, we may find more value in the relationships we cultivate with people, rather than the relationships we form with our material belongings. I certainly did.
Since that first day at Elon, I discovered a sense of home that I never thought I would find so quickly, and I know that is paramountly due to the genuine, charismatic and kind people I meet everyday. Welcome to college.