Every year, Pipe Dream — the illustrious publication you hold in your hands — publishes a summer issue, invariably read by the incoming freshman class. If you’re reading this now, you’re probably one of those freshmen. You’re likely surrounded by strange and new faces, unfamiliar surroundings and, knowing Binghamton University, a few too many deer. But it’s OK — you’re reading Pipe Dream, which is a good first step to navigating this school. This is supposed to be an advice column, and so it is my well-received duty to give you that advice, unsolicited. Let’s start with one you can already cross off:
One, read this newspaper. This newspaper is great. This isn’t a self-plug; this is my last year at Pipe Dream, and it’ll be just as good when I leave — perhaps even better. There are wonderful journalists here, insightful columnists and, if none of that interests you, there’s the possibility that you or a friend could be featured in our Weekend Warriors section. The paper comes out every Monday and Thursday. Better still, if there’s something on your mind — about the school, about the world — send us a guest column. We might publish it, and you, dear reader, could be starting conversations on campus.
Two, don’t be aimless. People will certainly tell you over the next few weeks and months that college is a time of exploration. This is true, but don’t expect the inspiration to come to you without effort. It’s up to you to cultivate your interests, to find out what inspires you, what motivates you, what makes you tick. There are wonderful opportunities out there in the city of Binghamton, which brings me to my third piece of advice.
Three, get after it. I understand; you’ve just come from high school, where most things were handled for you. School was regimented and scheduled, and your free time had clear boundaries. This is not so in college. Schedules are erratic and changing, and despite your workload, you will find yourself with plenty of free time, and you will also find yourself wasting that free time. Don’t do it — it’s a trap. There’s so much to do on campus, and all you must do is try. Opportunities have a way of compounding; one door leads to the next.
Are you interested in medicine? Try Harpur’s Ferry, one of the most decorated student-run ambulance services in the country. It’s an amazing organization. Want to help people in the Binghamton community? Try Binghamton Food Rescue, an organization that collects food around the city for donation to the Salvation Army, or volunteer at the Broome County Urban League. Join a student group. There are 280 of them, with everything from Aikido to Model UN to Mock Trial to the Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program. And you could get involved in student government — our Student Association is one of the largest in the country, and completely student-run and independent. Set your goals high. I don’t know what your name is, but “president” sounds good before almost anything.
Lastly, a warning — you’re going to mess up. You may miss classes, do poorly on exams or shirk responsibilities. None of these are recommended, but they may happen anyway. Don’t spend too much time beating yourself up about it, because the past no longer exists; there’s only tomorrow. Do better today and you won’t dwell on your failures. Learn from them, but don’t let them overwhelm you.
I lied, one last thing: When you put this newspaper down, you’ll see thousands of kids who you don’t know. The best piece of advice I can give you is that everyone is insecure about it, everyone is worried about making friends and everyone is overwhelmed. You’re not alone in this. Good luck.
Aaron Bondar is a senior double-majoring in political science and economics.