Ten Things I Wish I'd Known as a First-Year Student | St. Lawrence University

Ten Things I Wish I'd Known as a First-Year Student

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Each year at St. Lawrence, I have learned about places and things that have made my college experience unique. But there are also things that I found out about a little late - things that I wish I could have taken advantage of since my first semester on campus. Whether you are just beginning your time at St. Lawrence or are winding it down, it's never too late to start adding to your senior year bucket list. These are my suggestions for you - happy exploring!

1)    Lampson Falls and Flat Rocks         

These are two great places to swim that are within a short drive from campus. Because our warm days are numbered here, I try to take advantage of swimming as much as possible. I have spent many refreshing afternoons here with friends and it is a great place to take the family. I suggest packing a picnic and blanket and letting the mist from the falls tickle your skin when you need a change of pace from campus.

2)    Azure, Ampersand and Arab Mountains

These are three easy, short hikes in the Adirondack Park that are relatively close to campus. They all have remarkable views of the High Peaks and Lake Champlain, two of them even have old fire observation towers on top! If you haven't been hiking, it's something I strongly suggest trying at least once while at St. Lawrence. I’ve been able to hike each of these with friends from SLU and one of them for an English class I took. They are also great for skiing in the winter.

3)    Winterlude in Ottawa

Despite the Outing Club advertising Winterlude my freshman year and selling bus tickets to the event, I didn’t experience the fun-filled ice skating event until my sophomore year. In January and February the Rideau Canal in Ottawa is packed with skaters, enjoying the vendors set up along the edges or even commuting to work! There are ice sculptures and Canadian delicacies like poutine ((French fries covered in gravy and cheese) and beaver tails (the Canadian version of a funnel cake). Even if you don’t have a car on campus you should definitely reserve your seat on the bus through the Outing Club and soak up this winter tradition. 

4)    Mingle with the upperclassmen

Like in any new place, people that have been there longer than you can seem really intimidating. I remember thinking the seniors were so mature and old when I was a freshman. Now that I am a senior, looking back, I wish I had gotten to know the upperclassmen a lot better. Many upperclassmen are eager to find adventures on the weekends or to chill in a hammock in the Enchanted Forest (the grove of trees near Herring-Cole) and if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that SLU kids have amazing experiences to share.

5)    Theme house communities and opportunities

As a freshman, I was too timid to visit theme houses. I went on a few trips through the Outing Club but had never set foot in most of the others. It wasn’t until after I did the Adirondack Semester my sophomore fall that I heard about the Greenhouse. This is the low-impact theme house on campus that hosts weekly dinners for students and workshops throughout the semesters. Each resident in the house fulfills 17 hours of farm work at Birdsfoot Farm (see #6) in exchange for organic produce. We also all commit to hosting two workshops on anything we like. In the past I have made apple butter, hair conditioner and arts and crafts. Don’t be afraid to knock on some doors and introduce yourself to the theme house community—it is one of the best ways to meet people outside of the FYP or athletics and, speaking for the Greenhouse, we love new faces!

6)    Local Farms: Birdsfoot, Little Grasse, Bittersweet

There are so many small family farms in the Canton area that are fun to get involved with. Whether you enjoy delicious, organic produce or fresh eggs, most of these farms offer Community Supported Agriculture shares (CSAs) where for a very reasonable cost you can get a box of produce each week. In many cases if you offer to volunteer your time on the farm, you can even get discounts on your food or get it in exchange for your work. Birdsfoot and Little Grasse are within a bike ride from campus and I go volunteer at Birdsfoot most Fridays to work off the Greenhouse’s CSA.

7)    The Outdoor Program (OP)

Different from the Outing Club, the OP is its own department on campus. Through the OP you can become a certified St. Lawrence guide and lead trips that range from rock and ice climbing to back country skiing. And you can get paid for it! The OP also organizes pre-orientation trips for freshman, holds kayaking and climbing clinics and offers a variety of other outdoor focused classes. For Winter Break my junior year I went rock climbing in Joshua Tree, CA through the OP and got course credit for it. You can also take courses under the OP to get an Outdoor Studies minor. 

8)    SLU and Tanner Fellowships

There are numerous opportunities for students of all disciplines to work under or alongside professors to conduct research over the summer. If you prefer to work more independently, you can apply for a Tanner Fellowship and create your own project. People I know have gotten funding to hike and canoe while others have been able to self-publish books that they have for sale in the Brewer Bookstore! This is by far one of my biggest regrets not taking advantage of all of these opportunities and learning more about them before my senior year.

9)    Honors Projects vs. Independent Studies vs. Senior Year Experience

Until now, I never knew the differences between these three things and had no idea what was required for my major. As an English major, I learned just a little too late that with an independent study or honors project I could create my own creative writing project in which I selected the reading list and came away with some form of completed literary work. Make sure you plan ahead and talk with your advisor early on so you don’t miss out on opportunities like these to craft your major in unique ways.

10) Summers at Canaras

St. Lawrence owns one of the few remaining Adirondack Great Camps in the region and ours is called Camp Canaras. It is located on Upper Saranac Lake and is used mainly for Alumni events and many families will stay at Canaras in the summer. SLU students staff the camp in the summer and if you like being outside and want to get to know the Adirondacks better before you graduate, you should definitely apply for a summer job here. For me, the Adirondacks will always be like home and if I had known about this opportunity early on, I would have loved to stay in the North Country for a summer.