The Frosh Look

Frosh. Freshmen. Freshers. First-years.

No matter what you call them, every university has them.

O-Week (Orientation Week) has finally started here at Otago, and I’m finding myself in a strange, in-between place. I am not a first year. I put in my time as a frosh nearly three years ago, thank you very much, but I’m as new to Otago as any of these kids clutching their free posters and giveaway tote bags.

Here’s the difference, though.

Frosh have a certain look.

They’re wide-eyed and trying to look in every direction at once. Their smiles are just a little too bright, their laughter a little too shrill thanks to that edge of nervousness. They travel in clumps, checking their new compatriots a little too frequently, obviously in that awkward phase of making friendships through happenstance.

I’ve been in New Zealand for just over a week, and I can pick them out.

Now, I was a first-year once, too. I know I had the very same look. We all did. The first week of university is vital for meeting people, and I’ve been trying to remember how I did it the first time around. Unfortunately, I can’t. All of my university friends seem to have just… grown into my life. Little by little, chance encounters turning into anticipated meetings, until it seemed like they had always been there. Even now, you can tell that’s happening with this crop of first-years.

Now that I’m old and jaded and cynical, I’ve apparently stopped sending the “I’m-so-desperate-for-friends-please-come-talk-to-me” vibe that first-years all broadcast to each other. The fact that a pair of them asked me for directions seems to suggest that I look like I know what I’m doing. I’m not one of them, and yet, as a “new kid,” I am.

The first week of university is one of those experiences that can’t really be recreated. There are some events on offer for exchange students, like the coffee hour I went to this morning. There, we smiled, asked and re-asked the dreaded three questions (“What’s your name? Where are you from? What are you studying?”), but it wasn’t the same. I suspect that these friendships will be more like the ones I’ve made in my various places of employment: not so much growing as building, the foundation laid brick by conscious brick until one day you realize how solid the structure is.

Only on exchange can you simultaneously feel like a mature student and the Über-Frosh.

Posted on February 21, 2012, in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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