The Art & Science of Navigating Your First Year | St. Lawrence University

The Art & Science of Navigating Your First Year

Friday, December 4, 2020

A common experience most people have when making the transition from high school to college is the worry of making new friends. Even though some might deny this, no one goes into college with 100% certainty and 0% fear.

It's normal for first-year college students to be apprehensive when navigating a new degree of academic rigor, a brand new social scene, and what seems to be endless opportunities. When I reflect on my past three years at St. Lawrence, the way in which I embraced the SLU community began with my positive FYP experience.

My FYP class was "Sherlock Holmes; The Art & Science of Reasoning," taught by Professor Jeffrey Maynes and Professor Tina Tao. After I had moved into my dorm (shoutout Lee North!) I waited in the hallway with other students in my hall to see what our Orientiation Leaders and Community Assistants had planned for us. I remember no one was talking or even looking at each other. At the time, I thought this meant everyone was a stone-cold person, when in actuality, everyone was just as nervous as the person next to them. After the first few days of Orientation, I truthfully didn’t feel like I knew that much about people aside from their names and hometowns.

One night while going to the vending machine, I heard a number of voices and music coming from one of the double rooms at the end of the hall. Curious, I walked over and saw the familiar faces of my FYP in the room. I did my best to remember people's fun facts and basic info, and despite getting a few names wrong and some seemingly awkward introductions, I was surprised at how natural the transition felt. On top of this, it strangely felt like I had met some of these people before. Some of my closest friends to date were in this room.

This made class time with my FYP all the more fun. Between reading chapters of Sherlock Holmes for homework, murder mystery games in class, board game nights, and struggling to create the most detailed argument maps, the structure of our FYP topic and teaching styles were catalysts that strengthened the forming friendships, which I and many others felt very fortunate for.

Nothing, however, brought the Holmes College ‘17 FYP closer together, quite literally, than 15+ of us getting stuck in a double room due to a faulty door lock (everyone was fine, the door was fixed, and this was a very rare occurrence, but let this serve as an example to NOT pile more than capacity in a double room). It wasn’t long before many of us felt like a large family.

 Of course, this isn’t the case for every first-year student. I felt lucky to have spontaneously decided to stumble into that room the first week because it was the beginning of many of my closest friendships I have now as a senior. Whether or not first-year students get along with their floor/FYP-mates, I think the best thing to do in the first week, even with a bit of nerves, is to chat with as many people as you can until you get a sense of natural connectedness and familiarity. The process of making friends in the first year is not the same for everyone, but the first step in doing so (from personal experience) can be much easier when one turns uncertainty into a type of excited motivation which helps facilitate the early relationships of college.

Throughout the rest of my first year, I was encouraged by my positive FYP experience to put myself out there more and embrace those last-minute decisions which could result in long-term friendships. Whether it was asking a classmate in Gen Bio for a ride home for break, wandering around campus on weekends to get a sense of the social scene at SLU, or applying for campus jobs which were slightly out of the comfort zone, I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and welcoming my classmates and the larger SLU community was.

Even though some friendship dynamics changed slightly after our first year due to people living scattered across campus, it is still rewarding to be a part of such a close-knit group early on who you can always wave to across the Pub or catch up with on your way to class. In my experience, the St. Lawrence campus atmosphere is friendly and welcoming for all Laurentians alike. Even though it may be intimidating to immerse oneself in the SLU community, whether it be through FYP, clubs, sports, or classes, there are plenty of personalities willing to embrace all Laurentians. It just might take a little bit of spontaneity to get the process started.