I can still remember the day I came to Duke. The warm feeling of pure euphoria that bubbled through my body upon opening my acceptance letter, that validated all of my hard work throughout high school, that carried me joyfully through the summer as each day brought me closer to warmer weather and gothic architecture: to my future. I can still remember the crash, the startling and unforeseen collision of this exhilaration with a colder and darker anxiety; the realization that I had no idea what to expect of college. 

It was as though I had been partially blind for two years, worrying endlessly about college and working tirelessly towards my goal of attending Duke. Yet I had never really considered what it meant to actually attend Duke. And suddenly, on the day that I was expected to board a plane, leave behind the comfort and familiarity of my home and look onwards, the uncertainty of this future rattled me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still arrived in Durham with the immense excitement of a student overjoyed and grateful to be here, but I was also extremely conscious of the hundreds of unfamiliar faces and the unwavering voice in my head that wondered “what do I do next?” I wasn’t armed with a detailed list of instructions, a blueprint of how to build the perfect life at college. All I had was the schedule that was printed in my bluebook, and the vague notion that if I sat in Marketplace long enough, I might be able to make some friends. 

My stake-out in Marketplace was an overwhelming triumph. I departed from O-Week with newfound friends and more confidence in my ability to college (not that “college-ing” is technically a real verb, but I digress). I quickly established a comfortable routine and eight months later, as I call upon the memories that have shaped my first year at Duke, I can say with utter certainty that this has been an amazing year. 

That being said, I can still hardly suppress a shudder each time I recall the chilling uncertainty of my first day of school. Although I cannot go back in time and ease my past-self’s worries with a detailed explanation of Duke’s many intricacies, I would now like to pay it forward with a list of things I wish I’d known on that first, ominous day. P-Froshes, pay attention. 

1. Midterms don’t really mean midterms, you’ll have them basically every other week and the only thing they are a-“mid” is your attempts to sleep.

2. Don’t text while you are walking onto a bus. First-years who accidentally board the C2 will be frustrated by the 8 extra minutes they spend on the way to east campus; even more vacant freshman who board the Robertson Express will be additionally frustrated when they return to reality and find themselves at UNC. 

3. “First semester friends” is only a thing if you make it one. While rushing SLGs or joining Greek life has the incredible potential to expand your social sphere, it doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to spend time with the people you met first semester. Duke is filled with so many amazing people, and it is immensely easy to stay connected with friends outside of your organization if you choose to join one. 

4. Sleep is paramount. All of the studying in the world isn’t going to pay off if you don’t squeeze some hours in each night.

5. It does actually get cold here. Not freezing, but as a New Yorker who basically envisioned Durham as a tropical beach destination, having sweaters and jackets will help infinitely. Enjoy the warmth while it is here, brave the weeks in which it isn’t and trust that it will come back soon.

6. We don’t tent for every basketball game. It’s actually comedic how often Duke students are asked how we all manage to live in tents for the entirety of the basketball season, but rest assured all of you indoorsy P-Froshes, most games simply require committing to a walk-up line (or mob, depending on the day).

7. If you want to actually get work done (not just sit on your phone and snapchat your entire social network about the 12 midterms and 4 papers you have to write, while your computer screen goes to sleep from lack of attention) don’t go to first floor Perkins. Quieter, more work-conducive study spots can be found anywhere above this vibrant, social hub. 

8. Food points translate to real money! It may feel like you are not spending any money when you never have to physically relinquish cash, and the boundless promises of West Union or Vondy are just a swipe away. However, food points do in fact represent money, and they are fleeting. Spend wisely.  

9. Stay on the sidewalks at all times. I know this may seem obvious, but every Duke student knows that you move for the bus, they don’t move for you. Don’t learn the hard way.

10. Flunch your professors. Flunch, an abbreviation for “faculty lunch,” is a great way to get to know professors, learn about their research and make connections all on Duke’s dollar. 

Despite my extreme apprehension and uncertainty during O-Week, my first year at Duke really was a success. Ultimately—whether you learn not to walk in front of a C1 from me or a near-death experience—everyone finds their way, carving unique and exciting paths, growing both academically and individually and finding that the initial, chilling anxiety only really returns in the face of leaving. 

Carley Lerner is a Trinity first-year. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.