When I came to Duke last August, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and I was nervous when the time actually came. After spending four years in high school, I wasn’t really in the mood to make new friends, socialize and worst of all, pretend to care. Orientation was an awkward time, to say the least. And if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t. Alas, I was ready to leave high school, and I was ready to be an adult. Little did I know, I was entering a world that may be bigger than high school, but it has all the same characters. Welcome to Duke High.
As I walked around my East Campus dorm, I still heard high-pitched squeals. “What should I wear? Should I wear the pink tube top or the red tank top? God, decisions! I have no cute clothes,” whines girl with closets and closets full of clothes. “It’s my first weekend in college, I had better look good for all the strangers I’ll meet tonight.” Taking four hours to get ready to go out is still protocol. Make-up, hair, clothes—it’s all an intricate art of looking desirable to the opposite sex. Oh, the malaise. Gel in the hair, backwards cap placed just right, these boys mean business. The lacrosse house is obviously the coolest place to be, right? Welcome to Duke High.
People are all still grade-obsessed. Going to Duke, you’d expect some of the smartest kids in the country. You would expect to hear about all their accomplishments in high school and you would be impressed. That is not to say that we’re all calculator-touting philosophical drones; those kids chose the Ivy League. “Failing” a test still constitutes a B-minus and is completely worthy of tears. But, I mean, we are in school, an institution for learning. Grades mean the world; for without high ones, you are doomed to a future earning low six-figures. Welcome to Duke High.
Although making friends is always important, it is even more important to find a significant other with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life… and yes, it must be within three weeks of getting here. People are vulnerable, getting over summer romances or better yet, long-term relationships. So, naturally, finding someone or something that can quench your hormonal thirst is of utmost importance. Not only that, but talking about sex and hot girls and guys still reigns as drunk AND sober topic of choice. Porno and sexual frustration rank a close second and third. And still, the most popular game to play is obviously the “penis” game, or any other game where we scream obscenities, preferably sexual ones, across the quad. The hormones continue to rage on. Welcome to Duke High.
And the crushing of beer cans and screams of “I booze!” are still the most desirable of mating calls. By the way, how much you can drink still determines how cool you are. Partying is a decisive factor on the cool scale. Without it, you can only reach a certain level of coolness, and that inherent barrier stares you in the face, taunting you. “I’m sorry, but you must stay over there with the other engineers.” Although frat parties differ from our old high school house parties… wait, how? Welcome to Duke High.
Now, you may be thinking, where is she going with all of this? You bring up a good point. I could end my column here saying how much I hate this place, but I don’t. I can say that I, too, am guilty of all said transgressions. However, there is a lesson to be learned.
I was afraid of something new and different. I was afraid that college was something I wouldn’t expect, when in fact it is, in its purest form, a continuation of high school. There’s an evolution that takes place here, as there was one in high school. None of us can say that we did not change in high school. There were lessons we all had to learn, sometimes the hard way. There are events that shaped us, molded us into who we are now. And it’s not only high school; it’s applicable to our entire lives. Things never come to a complete stop, nor are they so different from one day to another that we’re shocked to see that we’ve been left behind. College is indeed different from high school, but we’re all the same. We’re the same people we were in high school; whether that means you’ll always care about how people see you or care about nothing at all. There’s no doubt that who we were and what we did in high school plays a huge role in who we are and what we do here, in college. Some of us will always be five year-olds at heart. Some of us will never understand what youth is, but it’s not important how old you are. We’re not here to pretend we’re something we’re not. And most importantly, we’re not here to impress each other. College is nothing more than grades 13 to 16 of high school. So, welcome to Duke High.
Sarah Kwak is a Trinity sophomore.