October 3, 2014

Five for the freshmen

Some help navigating the minutia of being new at the University of Chicago.

So O-Week is behind us, for better or for worse, and we’ve all had to confront the harsh (or maybe exciting!) reality of going to class (well, y’all did, I don’t until Monday in France). This’ll be pretty easy for most of us, as we’ve been through the collective letdown (or maybe uplifting!) of taking off our party hats and putting on our carrel desks before, but for a lot of us it won’t. There were some things that always confused me my first year, and while most of the incoming first-years are probably smarter, more capable, and better looking than I was (or am), maybe they’ll get tripped up too. So, in hopes of helping those new on campus (transfers, too!), let me just break down the things I found tough about first-year and offer my unqualified advice.

Some people are going to treat you like a lesser being simply because you’re a first-year. Fuck those people.

You’re gonna get a lot of “Oh, that’s so cute” and “You’ll understand when you’re older” attitudes from some upperclassmen, as well as a lot of people telling you that you only think certain things because you’re a first-year. Go ahead and ignore that tone. You’re here for a reason. You’ll definitely undergo a lot of growth in your first year (and subsequent ones), but people shouldn’t treat you like an idiot just because you may not have yet. Don’t let it bother you if they do. That said, don’t be dick about it. Know that the people ahead of you have been here longer, and understand that they may know the minutia of some things a little bit better.

That door between Wieboldt and Harper opens into Wieboldt.

So a lot of you first-years will probably spend a fair amount of time on the first floor of Harper, as it usually houses a lot of Hum classes. And occasionally you may have to wander over into Wieboldt for Sosc or Global Warming lab. or maybe to just get back to South. The door between these two buildings is an asshole. It’s always tryna fuck with you and always looks like it should open one way and then opens the other. Just know, for once and for all, IT OPENS INTO WIEBOLDT. I think. Or does it open into Harper? Dammit, I can never remember. Just know that more than once you’re going to try to push it and it won’t open and you’ll abruptly come to an unplanned halt and look like something of a fool. Don’t worry, this happens to everybody. Whichever way you think this door opens, open it the other way.

You’re going to be told that it’s dangerous to wander out of Hyde Park and that Chicago is scaaaaaaary. This isn’t entirely true.

Chicago is an amazing city, and should be explored (when it’s not snowing). I remember at the beginning of my first year that Chicago was made out to be more dangerous than I found it to be in my following two years. Unfortunately, this led (in part) to me not seeing very much of the city until my second year. Now, obviously people shouldn’t just go blundering through the South Side or downtown without a clear idea of where they’re headed, how they’re getting there and what they’re doing, but don’t be afraid to see as much of Chicago as you can. Be smart and safe, but know that there’s a fascinating city rich with history all around you. Go find it. Oh, and don’t be afraid to take the Green Line. This was something I was told my first year, that the Red Line is safer than the Green Line, and it’s utter malarkey. One isn’t more dangerous than the other.

If you’re nice to the front desk people at your dorms, they will reciprocate it by doing something between adoring you and not entirely resenting you for existing.

And by “nice” I don’t mean you smile when you flash your ID, I mean you cater to these people’s desires like they’re the pope. My first year RA was a master of this. He brought the Max East front desk lady like all kinds of cookies and cakes and delicious French-Kentucky fusion foods (shout-out to Dustin Shaw, stay cuddly, my man), and she loved him. Like, he could’ve walked out with the ice machine or rolled a keg right through the front door and she would’ve been totally fine with it. Meanwhile, I was terrified of her and never said a word to her, and in return she hated me. So if you want the front desk people to like you, you’re gonna have to do the ground work.

Eventually you’ll find the bathroom that’s right for you.

All people prefer a different ambience when they’re doing their business, and it can take a while to find the right spot to take the kids to the pool. If you like granite, the second floor of Rosenwald is for you. If you prefer an interesting mix of sports team trash talk and poetry, Harper is your ideal locale. If you like grout puns, you’ve gotta try Bartlett or the Reg. Obviously I’m speaking for my male counterparts here, as I’m not qualified to comment on the best bathrooms for women, but everybody please feel free to leave your favorites in the comments on the interweb version of this article. Or nasty remarks about my intelligence. Or both.

Anyway, good luck to all who are new and all who are old, I hope the teachers are friendly, the learning thorough, and the fun to be had.

Oh, and here’s one last, web-exclusive piece of advice, brought to you by our washed-up/broken-up band of the week, Chiddy Bang:


Now get back to class.

Liam Leddy is a third-year in the College majoring in economics.