I decided to graduate from Binghamton University a year early, so what would have been my senior year was cut short when classes went online due to the coronavirus. Because my time at BU is over, and because it went by so quickly, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my experience. I wish I could go back and do it all again. You are so lucky to be at the beginning of this journey. So, here are the most important things I have learned from my time at BU, and what I wish I had known from the beginning.
The classes I took were among my favorite things about BU. You will meet the most intelligent, empathetic and hilarious professors. Take advantage of office hours. It can be intimidating, but your professors want to talk to you! They didn’t study for all those years and become experts in their fields NOT to talk about them. Your professors are passionate about their fields of study and actually want to share with you and hear your ideas. Plus, forming relationships with professors can be so rewarding. When you give them the chance to get to know you, the door can open up for things like recommendations and research opportunities. Ask for help, you will benefit greatly from being involved.
Explore Glenn G. Bartle Library. I was too scared to go into Bartle Library for most of my freshman year and I literally didn’t check out a book until my senior year. Don’t make the same mistake! Once I got my bearings, I quickly realized how much I loved studying in the nooks and crannies, how social it could be and how much information was so easily available to me.
Go to class. It can be hard to drag yourself out of bed — especially on a snowy morning — but it will make your life much easier in the long run.
On the topic of your social life: It can be hard to make friends during your freshman year because many classes are big lectures that don’t allow for much communicating. Regardless, you will still make friends and they’ll be some of the best people you’ve ever met. Everyone says this, but it really is important: join clubs. It is a great way to meet people with common interests, as well as to strengthen bonds you already have. I did a radio show with one of my friends every semester and sometimes when the semester got too crazy, that hour and a half was the only time we got to spend together.
I met some of my best friends simply by living next door to them, striking up a conversation in the laundry room or by saying “hi” while we awkwardly stood next to each other outside of class. It can be really hard to approach people, but it’s often so worth it.
Going out is a big part of everyone’s “college experience,” but it’s not the most important thing. When I look back on my most fun nights, it wasn’t crowding into Tom & Marty’s, but getting wings at 2 a.m. from Chenango Champlain Collegiate Center (C4). It was watching the kids in Bing Stand-Up perform at someone’s house in Downtown Binghamton. It was spontaneous trips to Olive Garden or Buffet Star. It was staying in and playing College Jeopardy with my suitemates. My point is not, “Don’t go out,” but rather, “Do it all, and appreciate everything.” The small nights that seem insignificant sometimes end up being the most fun. I don’t regret the times I stayed in instead of going to the bars, but I do find myself feeling guilty over the fact that I never went to a basketball game or tried a spiedie.
The biggest thing I wish I had known about freshman year is that it can be hard — it takes time to adjust and get your bearings. That is totally normal and I don’t think enough people talk about it. The kids you graduated high school with are going to be posting on Instagram looking like they are having the time of their lives. In reality, everyone is freaking out. You might miss your mom or hate your roommate, or both, and the friends that you start out with are not always the same people you end up with. That is all OK. Everyone is experiencing it too.
My last piece of advice is this: Enjoy it.
Sophie Miller is a junior majoring in English.