I can’t believe it’s already the middle of September. Time has blazed by. Campus has undergone the transition from the euphoria and optimistic overload of Orientation Week to a more somber academic reality. The clubs and icebreakers have come and gone, replaced with classes and homework.  Yesterday while unpacking my backpack, I found my old beanie from my freshman year. Slipping it on, it fit snug and tight, the same way it had three years ago. Needless to say, immediately my mind flooded with memories of my first weeks as a new Cobber.

I remember feeling really nervous and awkward, over-thinking everything from what time to head off to dinner to where to put my hands during conversation. Being the only student in my class from Nebraska, I constantly found myself trying to convey its distinctiveness to others. People still don’t seem to get it.

I watched lots of “Jon and Kate Plus 8,” placing bets with friends as to when they would divorce. My parents had just called it quits on their marriage, and naturally I found comfort in watching another family go through the same drama I was. I tuned in religiously every Monday night to watch them bicker back and forth and to see what their crazy kids were up to, much to the dismay of my roommate. He is still convinced I’m crazy.

I remember how classes were quite daunting at times. Being the overachiever I was, I took lots of AP and Honors courses during high school to prepare myself for college, which helped some. But college was sill a jarring experience. We were assigned challenging readings in my classes that helped me to dig deep and push myself further than ever before. Sometimes the challenge could be overwhelming. Sitting at my desk and staring at a blank screen seemed to remind me that I could always drop out and become a long-distance truck driver.

I will never forget the second day of my Inquiry Seminar class. We headed off to Moxie Java for some scholarly discussion. Since nobody knew where it was, we walked over together. When class wrapped up we regrouped and headed back. Somehow our count was off and we left a clubbie behind, who was forced to fend for himself in a frightening downtown Moorhead. He hasn’t forgiven us.

I also spent lots of time on my floor with the door open, getting to know my neighbors and being surprised at all the great things that we had in common. After classes and Männerchor rehearsal, we’d hang out in someone’s room, visit Fail Blog almost everyday, watch an abundance of YouTube videos of cats and reconnect with the greatness of Super Nintendo, all the while postponing homework as long as possible.

Looking back I remember how it seemed like everyone around me was telling us how great of an experience we were going to have, how much fun we would have in class and the lifelong friends we would make. With long and complex philosophy readings, voice lesson music to memorize, and massive waves of homesickness, I could barely see myself getting through the week.

But you know what? They were right.

Every fall I still get nostalgic for those first months on campus. During that short and dramatic time, I gained a greater sense of independence and responsibility. I learned to find my own way around town. I learned to live a little and not worry so much. I gained great friends and new life experiences that I will be forever grateful for.

My advice for those of you new to campus is short and simple. Your time here will come and go faster than you will ever imagine. Get involved. Savor each experience, cherish the past, and move boldly towards your future. A wise woman once said, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” You’re only in college once, so live it up.

James Vair

A senior majoring in Political Science and Communication, James hails from Omaha, Nebraska. He focuses primarily on the unique things that define our everyday lives.

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