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Easing into Campus Life

Written by Allison Musante '10

“So, have you won the Pulitzer Prize yet?” my older brother teasingly asked me on the phone two weeks into my first fall semester at Ithaca College.  He knew I had high expectations for the college that I'd taken four years of high school to choose.  After all, piles of admissions literature still cluttered my house, each brochure promising me success and happiness with its pictures of beautiful green campuses and smiling students.  After deciding to enroll at Ithaca, I doubted my ability to turn this idealistic scene of college life into a reality for myself.

Like most incoming freshmen, I felt really anxious about making the transition from high school to college.  I worried about making new friends, deciding who I would eat lunch and dinner with everyday, and how to find my way around campus. (I trekked around the entire campus at freshmen orientation in search of the bookstore!) During those first few weeks, I was confident that I could handle the workload, but the new environment quickly overwhelmed me and I wondered how I was going to make this place my new home. I expected freshmen to be ignored or bullied, much like in high school, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a welcoming atmosphere on campus. Getting involved with campus activities turned out to be easy and fun and the best way to ward off homesickness.

Many freshmen are especially concerned about what it’s like to live in a dorm (or, as we call them, residence halls) with a bunch of strangers. To those future freshmen, I highly recommend the First-Year Residence Hall program, which is a housing option for freshmen only and is staffed by resident assistants (RAs) who are specially trained and selected to help freshmen adjust to college life. Besides organizing social activities for the residents, my RA always left her door open for advice or just to chat. Some of the fun things she planned for us were organic baking parties, trips to the Commons (an outdoor, pedestrian-friendly shopping “mall”), and Sunday night dinners. Thanks to her I wasn’t alone for long; I quickly made friends with many of the girls in my residence hall.

In addition to making friends with the people in my dorm, I got INVOLVED. Literally! Led by upperclassmen, the INVOLVED program (which stands for Intelligently Navigating Volunteer Opportunities and Leadership Values for the Educationally Determined) takes groups of up to 10 freshmen to campuswide and off-campus events. My INVOLVED group went to Ithaca’s annual Applefest on the Commons last fall. We also participated in the Adopt-A-Family program by taking a Saturday trip to the mall and buying clothes for a local family at Christmastime.

Other programs that freshmen strongly recommend are Community Plunge and Polar Plunge, which are two great ways to make friends while serving the Ithaca community. Both programs engage students in fun community service projects before the fall and spring semesters begin. Student volunteers get to meet new people and move into their rooms earlier than everyone else! Last fall, Community Plunge volunteers did painting projects at the Cayuga Nature Center and helped out at an annual festival at the Eight Square School House in Dryden. Community Plunge is open only to incoming freshmen but Polar Plunge is open to all IC students.

Since I wasn’t too handy with a sledgehammer, I relied on my interests and hobbies to help me find new friends. IC offers nearly 150 different clubs and organizations to connect students who share the same political and religious affiliations, cultures, academic endeavors, and interests. I joined the Ithacan, IC’s award-winning newspaper, and had my first published byline within the first month of classes. I found another outlet to pursue my journalistic goals when I joined the executive board of IC’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists during my spring semester. I also joined the IC Ballroom Dance Club just for fun, as well as the President’s Host Committee, which is a group of current students who give campus tours to prospective students and their families.

Most important, however, I kept my eyes open for new and interesting opportunities. Bulletin boards, college-wide e-mails, and Facebook are great ways to fill your calendar with events and activities like musical recitals, social events, club meetings, and lectures by prestigious speakers like Disney CEO Bob Iger, class of ’73 (whom I actually got to meet!).

With so many options to make friends, further your career aspirations, stimulate your interests, excel academically, and make lifelong connections on campus, you’ll soon see that there’s never a dull moment at IC. Perhaps the best advice I can leave you with came from a fortune cookie I ate the night before move-in day. It read “Begin…the rest is easy.”



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