Freshman Year Part II

I told myself that during this semester at Duke I’d blog every day or every other day, at least as consistently as I did in New Orleans. And now I’ve been here almost three weeks and this is my second post. I’m going to excuse myself because I was busy “settling in,” and I hereby re-resolve to post regularly from now on.

The last three weeks have been a blast. I’m having such an incredible time here. It’s more different than I expected — which for me makes it more exciting. Before I got here, I thought, “Oh, I’ve already done the college thing. It’ll be like freshman year again, except I know what I’m doing this time. I got this.” And it is like freshman year… except I’m the only freshman. Even the freshmen have already been here an entire semester, and at the very least know their way around campus and have already discovered things like West Union being an entirely different building than the Union on West Campus (read: I spent twenty minutes wandering around the basement of the Union looking for a room that didn’t exist there). And they just do things differently here. I was surprised to realize that the social scene at UNC is distinctly different from the social scene here. How parties are set up, where they are, who goes to them, what you wear… I truly feel like a first-semester freshman, carefully observing everything and everyone, trying to figure out how things are done around here.

For example, the parties are in the dorms here. That’s such a bizarre idea to me. At UNC partying in a dorm is super risky and everyone is super paranoid the entire time because if an RA hears loud music, s/he is required to investigate and/or call the cops on you for drinking. There are rules at UNC banning alcohol-related paraphernalia, which means you could get in trouble for a souvenir shot glass or an empty beer box. Last spring I came to a party at Duke where kids were roaming the halls with beers in hand, and the RA was pouring people shots. It blew my mind. I’m also still not completely comfortable with walking into a complete stranger’s room during a party. But that’s where the party is, so it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t directly invited in or that I don’t even know whose room it is. People flow in and out of the dorm rooms, mingling up and down the dorm hallway because that’s how parties work here.

At UNC, everyone goes off campus to party. We have Franklin Street with all the restaurants and bars and clubs, and we have frat houses and apartment parties and house parties. Duke really has none of these things. They have one 18+ bar that EVERYONE goes to, and they have parties in the dorms. The reason for this difference is that at Duke, you’re required to live on campus your first three years so the vast majority of the student body is in the dorms. At UNC, you’re required to live on campus only your first year, so by junior year most students have moved into apartments or houses.

This might be TMI, but I just think it’s really interesting how the social scene can be so different at two neighboring universities. It has been an adjustment, but I’m concluding that either way college is fun.