It’s only a matter of time now. The leaves are going to start turning into that wonderful shade of orange that brings with it the sight of scarves and sweaters. The fall, for me, is always a somehow comforting time. As much as I love the summer (and, boy, has the weather been amazing this year), I can’t help but love that time of the year when it’s not too warm and it’s not too cold. It’s just comfortable. Alongside all of this, the fall also signals the arrival of fresh, new faces. As someone heading into my sixth year of university, I’ve had a long time to forget about what it’s like to enter a completely new environment with few, if any, too familiar faces or places. By this point, I’ve met so many cool people that it’s difficult to walk through the halls of a building like Metsätalo and not see someone that I can wave at (or nonchalantly nod my head at if I’m feeling extra suave).
However, it hasn’t always been like that. It certainly wasn’t the case when I first started at university. Now, as the wistful fall season approaches, I find myself reflecting back at that time for two reasons. The first is an attempt to put myself in the shoes of the new students that are arriving fresh off the metaphorical school bus (I’m a sucker for that nostalgic image of the yellow school bus).
The other reason is that this year I’m entering into somewhat unfamiliar territory myself. I’m partaking in a pedagogical program known as STEP meaning that I’ll be finding myself in unfamiliar locations with unfamiliar people learning about unfamiliar things. Despite being a sixth year student, I’ll essentially also be a freshman. The truth of the matter is that, as orientation week approaches in less than a week (at the time of writing this), I’m becoming increasingly more nervous about the coming school year and all of the strange new things that I’ll have to come to terms with. I’ve no doubt that many of the real freshmen starting university this year are doing so feeling confident and excited, but surely there must be some of you who share my apprehension. I write this particularly for you (and, in many respects, for myself) in order to help you feel less daunted by the upcoming challenges that await you (and, in the process, assuage my own nerves).
I think one of the most important things to remember is that, first and foremost, everyone around you is in the same situation as you are. Some of your fellow freshmen may have attended other university courses before but you are all entering your respective major for the first time. The point is, if you feel lost and overwhelmed, just turn to the person next to you and realize that they’re going through the same experience you are. Safety in numbers, eh? You all have this same experience in common. Also, remember that even if some of the older students might seem intimidating at first, we’ve all been through the same experience that you currently find yourself face to face with. Here’s a secret: we’re not some superior beings nor are we monsters. If you have a question, never hesitate to ask. This isn’t high school anymore. We’re all adults here. Well, more or less.
Another thing to remember is to try and stay active. I know, that might seem easier said than done for many of you. Trust me, before I became that weird guy who openly sings about cross dressing lumberjacks at sitsit (all will be revealed in time), I was the guy nursing a drink in the corner of the room refusing to make eye contact with anyone that was not definitely a friend of mine or was not the floor. I’ve been incredibly shy in the past (and, at times, I still am) and I’ve had trouble communicating with people (again, still happens) but, these days, I’m still myself.
Let me explain.
You’re probably going to hate me for saying this because it’s such a cliché, but the truth of the matter is that if you just be yourself, you’ll find that you gravitate towards people with similar interests and, in turn, those people will gravitate towards you. At the same time, I urge you to step out of your shell and be active, even if it requires you to push yourself more than you’re accustomed to. During orientation week, this is especially true because, again, you’re all starting at ground zero. If you’re active during orientation week, it’s that much easier to become familiar with the other people around you and it’ll be that much easier to come to parties or events in the future. Remember that older student you briefly met in the park during orientation week? Ask them a question and I guarantee they will answer it. We like showing off our knowledge. Over the school year, there are plenty of opportunities to keep being active and the best part is that there’s such a large variety of clubs, parties, and events, you’re almost certain to find something that you’re legitimately interested in.
All of this will require some effort of stepping out of the shadows but here’s the way to look at it: it’s all about becoming more in touch with yourself. Nobody’s hobby is living in a shell. The more you let others see who you are, the more likely you are to realize how many like-minded people there are around you. You might even become friends with someone that isn’t like you but will encourage you to look at things in a new light.
As I said, I’m entering a different program this year which means that I’ll be hanging out with people I’ve never met before. The thing that I’m reminding myself about now is that I’ve done all this before. These people are in the same situation I’m in. I’ve been able to get past my own hesitations before and all of you freshmen can do it too. In the future, surrounded by the new people in your life, you’ll look back at that initial fall season when you entered the grounds as freshmen. You’ll reflect, laugh, maybe even feel a tinge of nostalgia. It’s a comforting feeling, isn’t it?
Bonus Tips Section! 1. Don’t forget to drink water! 2. When suggesting a song at a sitsit, remember to point out that you’re a freshman. People will love you for being courageous enough to suggest a song during your first year! 3. Also, while suggesting a song, avoid using the words “no niin”. Trust me on this one. 4. Noodles. Good stuff. 5. Write for BTSB! (Yes, I have no shame.)