Balk: Don’t worry freshmen, you’ll settle in


Tim Balk , Assistant Opinion Editor

One of the great joys of being a sophomore is that I know the tricks. I understand how things work. For example, I know I can steal the Chicago Tribune from outside of Willard, where the paper piles up each day a few steps from the door. And I know I can skip frat parties, day parties, ragers, fundragers, etc. without needing to feel any fomo. They’re not fun, they’re gross and they’re all the same. I know how to get into other dorms without having to check in — it’s all about keeping your head down and not making eye contact.

I know Northwestern football will let us down. Same with the basketball team. And that the Campus Loop probably won’t be on time.

I have a routine. I know how classes work. I know how the social life works. I have friends. In short, I am a savvy veteran. NU is my element now.

One year ago, it was not. That is not to say I had a bad first quarter. On the contrary, I was a typical eager and excited freshman. More than anything, I was simply happy to be off at college.

Still, like most freshmen, I had a distinct sense that NU was not my home. It felt like a foreign land I was momentarily occupying, a thousand miles from my family, the comfort of my bed, my cats and what I knew up to that point as my life. I worried I would never be at home at NU. I worried I would never settle in.

What I have found, like so many others, is that I did settle in. I became comfortable navigating the various aspects of NU and Evanston. The truth, though, is I did not fully settle in until this fall. It took a full year for NU to truly become my home. In fact, I still grow more comfortable as each day passes, discovering a new trick here or there.

This experience is not unique to me. It is not unique to NU students. And it is not unique to college students. Indeed, it is a universal experience. And this experience is among the most valuable of college experiences. College forces us to grow up and find a new home. And it forces us to do it on our own while a blizzard of other new experiences is being foisted upon us.

That is what can make it so scary. Fall Quarter of freshman year involves a cavalcade of baptisms: For many it represents the first time away from home, the first time taking college classes, the first time taking care of oneself and the first time dealing with a wide array of new freedoms and opportunities. There is an overwhelming variety and range of firsts, each piled on the bedrock of having to make a new home.

Do not despair, freshmen, if you have not settled in yet. Settling in takes time. Getting comfortable at NU is a process. Trust me, I know. Heck, I didn’t realize you could use your meal plan at Norbucks until Winter Quarter of freshman year. (The day I discovered that, you could say was a glorious day indeed.) But I did settle in, as everyone does, each at his or her own rate.

Freshman year is a transition year. But transition you will, freshmen. And I have to say, once you do, college is a whole bundle of fun.

Tim Balk is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.