Looking back: stories from the first year

First-years, welcome to this moment: You sit on the precipice of a transformative time in your life. From here, your path could lead untold directions, weaving between lulls and leaps on your journey through the next four years.

Not so long ago the Class of 2022 joined us on campus and began their meandering paths through the enlightenment and, often, bewilderment of liberal arts education. As we begin this academic year, we at The Miscellany News welcome the Class of 2023 by first pausing for reflection. One year after their own Orientation, three of our sophomore Assistant Editors reminisce on their first-year experiences.

Aena Khan, Assistant News Editor

During the last week of January, at the start of the spring semester, a friend and I had just moved into Noyes. We were just two of a handful of people who had moved in early. After we both finished unpacking, aware of our growling stomachs and a tragically closed Deece, we decided to grab dinner at Nelly’s. When we arrived, the woman at the counter recognized us from past excursions. When my friend couldn’t find 50 more cents in her pocket, the women treated us like valued guests, and said it was okay. The food was warm and delicious. Snow began to fall while we were eating, hinting at the full-blown blizzard that would greet us on the way home. That night, as we reached Noyes and shook off the cold, Vassar’s status as a true “home away from home” was solidified in my heart.

First-years, the people you meet and the places you go will shape your Vassar experience. Don’t be afraid of an adventure. Just don’t forget to bring gloves if it’s cold out. In a year, you too will have a Vassar story.

Taylor Stewart, Assistant Arts Editor

There were many times that felt unreal. There were many times I was doing something, anything, and I couldn’t help but recede into my head and think, “What am I doing?” This spontaneous self-awareness made me want to both laugh in disbelief and weep. Still I struggle to describe the feeling, but I do know the memories are bittersweet, because anything that bizarre can’t be recreated. I will give you three examples.

I was in the city for October Break and my friend was going through a breakup. We still went out because I hadn’t seen her since freshman year of high school. In the middle of the night, she cried and cried, and we left someone’s apartment to go back to her dorm. The subway station was nearly empty and she cried some more with her head in my lap, and I nodded and soothed her. We passed a bar playing “Cake By The Ocean.” Her face suddenly lit up, and she exclaimed, “I love this song!” I didn’t know anyone could feel that strongly about “Cake By The Ocean.” She started dancing with tears in her eyes. I was incredulous.

I was walking in the little forest by Sunset Lake. Light was spilling through the tops of the trees and it smelled so good and cold. I could hear water. I cried a little. The scene itself was not the unbelievable thing—I thought it was funny that I cried at a nature scene.

I was at a birthday party and the cake was a cheap upside-down cake with strawberry icing and four or five candles. We used cut-up plastic cups as plates. The birthday boy insisted we sing “Yellow” by Coldplay with the lights off (“Look at the stars/Look how they shine for you”). It was something out of a YA novel, maybe “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” or something, but very sweet nonetheless.

Dean Kopitsky, Assistant Arts Editor

I’m assuming you have some sort of plan for the academic year. That’s good! Going into my first year, I had one too. I was going to major in psychology, dabble in American history and take an English class. I was pretty sure that plan wasn’t going to change.

Then one night, after The Miscellany News’ weekly Paper Critique, I got caught up in a discussion with a fellow writer. I don’t know where we started, but it became one of those classic college conversations that makes your mind go full galaxy brain for a few moments, and all of a sudden you never think in just the same way.

We went back and forth about our two cultural experiences in America—how they were vastly different, yet exactly the same. I came to two conclusions. The first was that we do not have an American “culture” but an American liberalism. It’s an amalgamation of the loosening of traditional practices and constraints into something more neutral and unrooted, I guess.

The second was that I was going to be an American Studies major. One talk and suddenly my plan was out the window. American history had always filled me with so many questions—but the thought of choosing it as my major had seemed a little far-fetched.

I said screw it, this is fun, this is what I enjoy learning about. What I love about a liberal arts curriculum is that it doesn’t determine what you study at all, and I was determined to take advantage of that. Welcome to Vassar: Don’t get too attached to that plan of yours.

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