Q: What will I take away from my first experiences?

It’s a feeling you’ll never forget.

After almost three years, I can remember exactly what was going through my head as my family and I finished setting up my humble new home on the 10th floor of Trelease Hall in the Florida Avenue Residence Halls. We walked across Florida Avenue, back to our minivan in the parking lot to say our good-byes.

With all the hugs done, it was time to turn around and go back into FAR, but this time, I was on my own. All I could think as I headed back up was, “now what do I do?”

Going back inside the dorm alone for the first time after my parents left was one of the most memorably surreal experiences of college. The whole first few weeks of college are a whirlwind — confusing, unfamiliar, but most of all, exciting.

Although finally being a senior has its perks, I would give anything to have the feeling of those first few days in the dorms before classes started back again. Everything felt new and exciting. Waking up after the first night was one of my more interesting experiences.

I knew I had to take a shower, but how? I’d never had a shower make me nervous before, but on that morning, I felt I had accomplished something by mastering those stalls. And yes, there are shower stalls in the dorms. That was another worry I had — I’d be faced with a big, open shower room, which would just add insult to the already omnipresent injury of the dorms’ lack of privacy. The dining halls were another challenge. Sure, I’d done cafeterias before, but I’d never gotten almost all my food from one.

Looking back on that first night, though, I’m still a little torn about my choices. When my randomly assigned roommate said, “I’m leaving, bye,” I was faced with a tough decision. What do you do on your first night at college? Just sitting in my room wasn’t a valid option, so I called up a friend from home and hung out with her and her new friends at Allen Hall, just down the road from FAR (I didn’t know this at the time, so I set out for the journey with a map I printed out from the University web site).

I ended up falling in love with Allen when I got there. It was a little weird, but a lot of fun. The dorms in the week before classes start are kind of a zoo, and Allen was out of control. There were drum circles on the front porch, a “question board” in the basement lounge where people could get advice on how to deal with issues such as consistently naked roommates and almost everyone’s door was open. That wasn’t the case at FAR. Or maybe it was, but I’ll never know for sure — I hightailed it out of there on that first night before I could even find out. I loved hanging out at Allen with my new friends, but I still didn’t live there. Every day, usually multiple times, I had to make the almost 10-minute walk there from FAR. I wish I would have spent some time getting to know the people in my own dorm better; I ate a lot of meals there by myself in that first semester before I finally moved out.

Still, things worked out in the end. I found a close group of friends who have stuck by me and I’m still meeting new people all the time. Freshman year is all about exploring, and I think that’s what I miss most about it. Literally everything was new and full of opportunity. Just walking around campus was an adventure, and getting lost was sometimes part of the fun.

Now that I have an apartment, I kind of miss the dorms. Some people say I’m crazy, and I admit that I enjoy having my own room and some space to move around in. Still, it was nice always having people around and your friends close. It’s a lot harder to get everyone together for dinner when you live in an apartment, but in the dorms, the dining hall would unite us.

The best advice I can give you, just about to start your time here, is to get out and explore campus and your options as much as you can. You never know who you might meet, what you might enjoy.

When you arrive here, life is more of a blank slate than ever before. Leave the door to your dorm room open. You never know who might walk in or who you might meet. You’ll walk around campus getting lost with people, and you’ll inevitably lose touch with some of them. However, some of those people will end up becoming your new family. Don’t worry if you feel confused or overwhelmed. Everyone does at times, but campus will eventually feel like a second home.

And that’s what college is really about. It might be a little scary, but it’s the beginning of the rest of your life. Take advantage of the opportunities you’re about to have, because times like these only come around once.