Freshman Year Requires Acknowledgement Of Diversity

Perhaps this may not be an opinion so much as a freshman advice column today, but I can twist it to make it an opinion: my former self was blind to some truths. This person is not my childhood identity, but someone I was very recently: first-semester Kate. I had entered Wake Forest last August truly believing that I was completely prepared to take on whatever this university had to throw at me, and up until about December, I was still convinced of that.

My first mistake was considering the Pit to be my ultimate happy place. Of course, the daily excursions to the dining hall may unfortunately come with seeing some familiar faces you’ve embarrassed yourself around before, but I was used to that. Now, walking in there comes with a new base level of stress in result of the lack of tables available, as the juniors from abroad need to eat, too. Who knew that there were about 500 people that just didn’t exist to me for five months that could make the place I go to for lunch everyday suddenly a tense disaster of finding somewhere to sit? Although, I am technically stepping on their turf, and I should have mentally prepared myself for this war zone. I’ve become so much more inclined to go to Benson or Uber Eats for some junk to feed myself, but my Deacon Dollars and debit card are screaming.

Up until that North Carolina-shaking snow storm during finals week, I genuinely thought Wake Forest was going to be some sort of a tropical paradise compared to the New Jersey climate. Instead this “paradise” is just maybe five to ten degrees warmer than home. I seriously came without a proper coat, thinking I could be a “girl that layers.” You know, one who shows up to class (actually looking ridiculous) in a sweatshirt underneath a jean jacket. This isn’t the Caribbean, and I need to get that in my head.

Socially, I had a wake-up call, as well. Like many girls entering college, movies and mothers’ glory stories make sororities seem to them like the focal point of social life, but that is simply not true. I thought you were bound by your letters and colors, but they are just symbols of an extra social club made for fun and service. My friends and I split into six different sororities and are going to make a conscious effort to stay together, while simultaneously making new friends in our Greek organizations along the way. Coming in, I thought everyone was just friends with their “sisters” but after observing people for a semester here it seems virtually impossible to not be friends with people outside of your sisterhood.

The same goes for boys, as it is unlikely that you will only become friends with “frat” guys or ones all from the same organization, either. Although it is an important aspect to many, in the end, they are a bit artificial and just meant to join you with similar people.

On a more serious note, after I got in to Wake Forest, people at home would say, “You’ll fit right in,” meaning that everyone there would be just like me. It only took a few days of classes to discover that not everyone shared my ideas, sense of humor or academic preferences. My friends here happen to all think quite similarly to me on political and social issues, but occasionally my bubble will pop when I hear somone outside of us giving a total opposite opinion.

What’s gone on in the news regarding free speech at Wake Forest recently and the discussions I’ve had in class about this have reminded me that although we all may all have closely related intelligence levels, we are not all like-minded when it comes to beliefs. I should never come into a situation assuming that everyone is my religion, political party or has the same background as me just because we chose the same college.

This was one of the hardest lessons to learn so far and I have found peace with letting people think what they want and perhaps negotiating in a rational way with them.

I know that there are still so many things about Wake Forest that I am still naive about, but for now I hope I’ve passed over my peak of naivete.