First-year students reflect on early Colby experiences

First-year students at Colby are thrown into the proverbial fire in their first couple of weeks. The time blurs as they are shuttled through orientation, COOT, and their first classes. Now that they are finally settled in, The Echo reached out to some first-years to discuss their Colby experience so far.

When talking about their first few weeks at Colby, a first-year trio in Drummond was pleasantly surprised at how well their dorm was getting along.  “We didn’t expect our dorm to become so close so quickly. We do homework together, hang out together, eat together, go out together. Also, our CA is super cool,” one student said.

Two students in Piper felt similarly positive about their dorm.  “I think the CAs did a good job of building community in the dorms—all the freshmen in Piper are good friends. For the first week, we ate all our meals together. Later on, even though we stopped having planned dorm dinners, we kept eating together anyway,” one first-year commented.

First-years often bond over the shared experience of having a fresh start in a new place with people they don’t know. Many friendships are quickly formed in the first few weeks, which can be both positive and a cause for concern. “I’m really happy so far. At the same time, I’m wary that people are being a little superficial since we’re all trying to make new friends,” another first-year explained.

When talking about the upperclassmen who invaded campus after the first week, many were apprehensive about interacting with them.  “The upperclassmen are kind of indifferent to us,” one student said. Another student gave a different assessment: “I was worried about the upperclassmen coming back, but they generally seem to be more approachable than my fellow freshmen.”

When the upperclassmen get to campus, the first-years had already gone through orientation and have—for the most part, excluding COOT leaders and CAs—only met and befriended other freshmen. For whatever reason, there often seems to be some awkward tension between first-years and upperclassmen, especially early on. “I see other freshmen around my dorm and we have good conversations—on the other hand, if I see an upperclassman, we just acknowledge each other’s presence,” another first-year observed. Where some first-years are timid and feel they’ve made no impression, some of the more outgoing students worry about making too much of an impression. “We live next to an upperclassman, and we sing on a daily basis—we’re never sure when we see her around if she knows that we’re the ones singing,” a few first-year students explained.

While there may be some discomfort in dealing with older students, first-year students’ comfort level with their professors was markedly better. Part of that may stem from the fact that professors here are an important and engaged part of the community, and their involvement goes beyond teaching. One student boasted that he had played soccer the day before with one of his professors.  “There’s definitely a difference between the professors here and professors in high school—they seem more invested in our success as students,” another first-year said. Brian Fitzsimmons ’20, spoke about how his professors made his transition to Colby easier. “I’ve gone to office hours, and so far my professors have been very welcoming and willing to help, or even just to chat and get to know me. It’s actually a little surprising, in a good way, to see that even in larger classes here, professors make the effort to get to know you,” he said. However, with the prevalence of first-year students taking introductory level courses, some students feel that those courses are more harsh because of heightened expectations. “It seemed like all the intro classes were designed to weed out the students who weren’t planning on majoring in that subject.”

The Echo also reached out to older Colby students to see what they remembered most about their freshman year. “Last year, I noticed how often you see people you know pretty much anywhere, but at the same time, people you don’t know.  It’s a good mix,” said Eric Alimanestianu ’19. This is a common sentiment here—Colby’s size makes it so that after some time on campus, students can feel comfortable knowing there is almost always someone they know wherever they go, but there are also people they haven’t met before.

One student recalled being surprised “by all the outdoorsy people and the lack of fashion.”

Other upperclassmen recollected having some difficulty during the colder months up at Colby.  “Everything was fine until it started snowing.”

Finally, when it comes to roommates, first-year students must fill out a survey online before being paired up with a roommate. Despite the Administration doing its best to make good pairings, the survey isn’t perfect, of course, and not every roommate pairing works out. “Freshman year was pretty sweet because I ended up living in a [double without a roommate], but I love my old roommate anyways.  We just couldn’t live together,” Pablo Castro ’19 said.  Despite these stories, most first-years spoke about how well the roommate survey seemed to work, and are hopeful they will continue to get along. “I was pleasantly surprised that the roommate survey worked so well even though it was so short. My roommate and I coincidentally ended up having a lot of the same interests even though we didn’t put any of that on the survey,” one first-year said.

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