I’ve never been a patient person. I often feel myself rushing: through tests in order to finish faster, through friendships by oversharing very early on, through books to get to the end. This impatience has permeated and defined several aspects of my life, especially my transition to college. I applied early decision to Brown, so I’ve been impatient about coming to Providence since December.
Waiting for Aug. 31 made summer long and short. Most of my friends headed to college earlier than me, some several weeks before. Parties and new faces sprung up on their Snapchat stories right away. Little did I know that these first few months of my transition to Brown were going to put my impatience to the test.
After flying to Boston, driving to Providence, spending an anxious night in an Airbnb, running to Target, rearranging all the furniture in the dorm, hanging up photos on the wall with Command tape, dining in a nice restaurant for the last time in a while and saying goodbye to my parents, I sizzled with dissatisfaction once orientation began when my roommate and I were just chilling in our dorm, day after day.
Freshman orientation was very good at overwhelming me and pretty bad at making me feel included. Intense individualism and a lack of effective icebreakers made making friends immediately a little tougher than I had expected. I was jealous of the people who went to A Day on College Hill and pre-orientation programs because they had found a niche and narrowed down the pool of people already. I was jealous of the people who knew seven-plus kids from their graduating class. I was especially jealous of people who could go home for a weekend.
“What now?” my impatience seemed to ask me, wondering where all my lifelong friends, my laundry list of activities, my cool new internship and my hot college bae(s) were. As I finished the first few weeks of college without checking these boxes, my impatience got louder and louder.
Examining what made settling into Brown take longer than I expected has been kind of hard. Brown is incredibly decentralized, even past orientation. Students are expected to self-govern in all ways, from the open curriculum to ResLife’s rules to weekend nights. This adjustment from complete structure to almost none at all took more initiative than I thought it would. The school is big enough that it’s hard to randomly run into certain people. (And small enough that you see the same randos everywhere.) I began to feel foolish for comparing myself to my other friends from home. No college experiences are comparable, across campuses or within them.
Somewhere between orientation week and now, my impatience got busy. It had me join a club or two and do hours of homework and get a job. I had been waiting for my college experience to happen automatically. But I realized Brown isn’t like me. It doesn’t overshare or bare its soul at the beginning to get you in. Instead, Brown is kind of shy. You’ve got to do a little work to make its real heart show — the one the tour guides gush about.
I always considered my impatience something that held me back, something that kept me from living in the moment. I’m thankful now, as first semester comes to a slippery close, that I wasn’t satisfied with being a passive recipient of a prepackaged college experience. Brown’s self-governance is overall extremely positive, and I’m incredibly grateful for the academic, personal and institutional freedom. Creating my own structure has been a necessary and slow trial-and-error process involving lots of Ratty takeout boxes eaten hurriedly on the way to class.
If you’ve found that Brown hasn’t immediately welcomed you, don’t be scared off from its first semester impression. One needs to narrow everything here down to a manageable size. To get through the day I try to schedule in time with new friends. To get through the week I make complex to-do lists. To get through the semester I just worry about each day.
My impatience is finally satisfied by keeping busy. I know this school is perfect for me, and that I belong here. I feel this when I climb the stairs of the Granoff Center to nestle into the geometric cozy chairs to study, procrastinate by flipping through Courses@Brown for the millionth time and attend events like Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere’s eviction talk in the very same auditorium where I attended an info session while visiting. I’m still figuring this whole thing out, but these experiences each signal I’m on the right track.
Amelia Anthony ’22 can be reached at email@example.com. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and op-eds to email@example.com.