Expectation v. Reality
A note from the columnist: Believe me when I say that the only reason I waited until the last day of Orientation Week to begin writing the first installment of my fall column is that I wanted to fully experience O-Week start-to-finish so as to provide my most accurate and realized reflection of my first week of college to you, dear readers. (Not that I may have done Wednesday Night Shooters or spent too much time in the Randolph common room.) What, you don't believe me?
On my second day of Project BUILD, a sophomore girl told me that I dressed well. I was surprised by this compliment—at my high school, where Nordstrom’s was considered to be the lowest-end department store worth shopping at and girls wore Tory Burch rain boots and Lululemon leggings to a swamp for a field trip, my simpler style went unnoticed more often than not. But there I was, in a remote West Campus dorm room, changing for dinner with girls I barely knew in various states of undress, being complimented on my outfit.
I began to realize at that moment that Duke is not all Sperry's and Jack Roger sandals, despite what I had read and been told, like that Duke boys only wore pink shorts. As the third and final grandchild to be sent off to Duke, I felt that I knew all about my school before I had even stepped onto campus as an official student—I knew what kind of backpack girls carried, what the PUMP was, the unofficial graduation requirements and how to get to Devine’s from East Campus. (My over-confidence of this knowledge proved tragic on Saturday night. I'm now much more familiar with Durham's sketchier areas than I ever wished to be.)
In more ways than one, Duke has surprised me this O-Week and FDOC. It has caused me to ask questions about my time here, like "What extracurriculars will I get involved in?", "What kind of people will I hang out with?", and "Does Epworth dorm actually exist? I don't think I've ever seen anyone go in or out of it." The following is a collection of the surprises I have encountered during my first week here at Duke.
Not everyone is a J. Crew model, thank God. It's refreshing to see a bunch of different styles of dress and meet the many kinds of people who wear them. Despite what I've heard, I've yet to see a single person bleed Nantucket red.
Not everyone is from New Jersey. Almost everyone is from New Jersey.
Shooters packs hundreds of people inside on Wednesdays and Saturdays but doesn't have air conditioning. I would have seen my look of shock in the floor-to-ceiling mirror, but it was fogged up.
Everything is made into an acronym. It seems as if only a few things, like Cameron Indoor, the Chapel and Shooters, are worthy of fully articulated names.
Marketplace brunch is enjoyable. Needless to say, the idea of being one of 1700 people—a substantial portion of which includes division I athletes—scared me. But I found myself enjoying brunch, or at least keeping it down, where the omelets aren't half bad and I can get all the lukewarm eggs and hash browns I want. (Don't bother me with the pizza or bagels though— I'm one of those kids from New Jersey who actually contends that pizza or bagel dough has to be made with water from New Jersey to be fit for consumption.)
The pamphlets haven't lied (yet). Being a freshman, I imagined that my courses would be held in fairly unimpressive lecture halls and basement classrooms, much different from the classic Gothic buildings and rooms I saw advertised in admissions pamphlets. But my first class on FDOC was in a gorgeous lecture hall in French Family Science Center, and my next was in the Perkins Link. I felt as though I were one of those students in the glossy photos, and although I'm sure I'll run into my fair share of musty classrooms over the next four years, it is nice to sit in Carpenter Reading Room, mindlessly glance out the window and see the top of the Chapel rising over the tops of buildings as a part of the normal scenery.
It's impossible, I now see, to know just what Duke will be for my classmates and me over the next four years. But until that time, I will be looking forward to its surprises.
Mary Ziemba is a Trinity freshman. This is her first column in a semester-long series.