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College advice column, hold the pressure

cut the bull

So, you’re starting college. Congratulations!

An old Chronicle tradition dating back at least 100 years suggests that I give you some advice as you sit on the precipice of your Duke career. And because I’m self-absorbed and hate breaking rules, I’ll acquiesce. 

My DukeHub profile says I’m a senior, which means I must have been here three years, though—as corny as it sounds—I couldn’t tell you where they went. I certainly feel more mature, but I don’t feel much wiser or even like a better person. 

This, though, might make me the perfect candidate to give advice, because my advice is realistic. I don’t expect you to stay on your pre-med track; I haven’t taken a single science class at Duke. I don’t expect you to hook up with every crush from a class or a party; I’m still dating my high school boyfriend. In truth, I don’t expect you to do anything other than find your most authentic self in these four years… And if you fall short of that, well, you’re in good company.

All this to say, if you’re like me, you’re coming into Duke with a million expectations. And somehow, if you’re like me, you’ll meet them all and miss them all simultaneously.

There’s nothing to prepare you for the twists and turns you’re about to face. But, as much as I hate using this section as a diary, I figured I’d walk you through my experience to give you a better idea of what’s to come.

First-year year(?):

I became a columnist for the Chronicle before I got to campus, cause, why not?

I moved in to Giles and got sweaty at Devine’s.

I learned to be scared of men during O-Week.

I ate so, so many Marketplace curly fries.

I turned in my first graded essay.

I got my first C on my first college essay.

I went to the writing studio and got an A on the final draft of my first college essay.

I tried to white tent but didn’t make the cut.

I rushed and joined a sorority.

I took Public Policy 155 and was the only person in the history of the world to enjoy it (sorry, Sanford).

I came to class hungover and threw up in the bathroom. Twice.

I did DukeEngage and claimed to be one of those people who went in prepared and picked a good one. Maybe, but we should probably fix the bad ones.

Sophomore year:

I applied for things and didn’t get them. I applied for other things and did get them.

I lived on Central Campus—a joy most of you will never experience—and developed Seasonal Affective Disorder from the lack of windows.

I became a Teaching Assistant for Public Policy 155, and tried to convince other people to enjoy it.

Everyone tried to get an appointment at CAPS while pretending like they didn’t need an appointment at CAPS.

I became an advocate with the Community Empowerment Fund and saw Duke differently. I wondered if I deserved to be somewhere like Duke.

I joined an SLG and stopped going to Shooters so often (still love you, Devine’s).

I took a class with Bill Chafe and understood why people went to college. 

I tried again to white tent, but didn’t make the cut.

I became disillusioned; I saw pervasive inequality everywhere. I joined a group of progressive student activists.

I went to live in Montgomery, Alabama for the summer. It was sweaty.

Junior year:

I went abroad to Madrid, Spain and lived with a host family.

I grew closer with friends, new and old. I went to thirteen countries in planes and trains and BlaBlaCars.

I appreciated art and tried to be more creative. I started a short story and never finished it.

I lost things and found things and was stolen from and was given to.

I dropped my sorority and still kept the friends.

I moved into a house and built a little family there. I lit more candles and read more books.

I finally took an English class and loved it. 

I tried to white tent and didn’t make the cut, again.

My friend dropped out of his white tent so I took his spot and spent three miserable nights in K-Ville.

I watched Zion bust his shoe in the first 27 seconds of the Carolina game. But hey, Obama was there.

I resisted the urge to go through consulting recruitment. I pretended not to judge my friends for going through consulting recruitment.

I became the Opinion Editor for the Chronicle and vowed to focus our contributions more on policy than emotion. But alas, here we are.

The point is, this week marks the beginning of a new chapter for you. As you’re going through it, each moment feels all-consumingly important, unbearably significant. Some of those moments actually are. But in hindsight, at least to me, they all add up to a beautiful blur of lessons. I wish I had known that going in.

I encourage you to dive head first into as much as you can with the knowledge that all of the hard is temporary and all of the fun is temporary but all of the growth is permanent and necessary. 

And don’t go to class hungover.

Leah Abrams is a Trinity senior and the Editorial Page Editor. Her column, “cut the bull,” runs when she feels like it.

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