The Changing Freshmen Experience

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how things have changed over the last few years and decades. It seems like only yesterday I was a freshman in college living in the dorms. Living with roommates was a new experience for all of us. We all had great times together and formed friendships that persist even to this day.

We were almost always together in groups, sometimes small and other times large. We knew everyone on the floor by name, and even many of the people from the floors above us. Our dorm room doors were rarely closed, and we felt comfortable just walking in and out of each other’s rooms at will, which was not always ideal, but yielded close bonds (and a few embarrassing moments). It was a very friendly, accepting atmosphere.

I struggle to figure out how we spent our time during those golden days. I didn’t have a cell phone or a computer, and many of my peers didn’t either. Facebook was just in its infancy, and blogs were far from popular. My primary access to the Internet was nearly half a mile away in the campus library. Sure, video games were played–it was a guys’ dorm after all–but this was largely a community event.

Our jokes and fun were punctuated by late evening discussions about our dreams, frustrations, and fears, further strengthening our friendships and motivation to move on to more and better things. I owe a lot to my roommates. They helped me realize that a little silliness and laughter is necessary to smooth out the rough edges in life and that there is so more to school and education than getting good grades.

Several months ago I came across a cell phone in the basement lab where I was working on campus. Even the best of carriers has no service deep inside the concrete, so the cell phone remained quiet for several days.

After locking up the lab one evening, I decided I needed an adventure, or at least a change of pace. The seemingly never-ending homework, projects, and midterms were taking their toll my sanity. I needed something to break the monotony.

I grabbed the abandoned cell phone and decided to help it find its way home. After fiddling through the phone contacts, I finally came across the owner’s phone number. Using knowledge of some lesser-known resources available, I did a reverse-lookup on the student directory and found an address. The student apparently lived in one of the guys’ dorms nearby.

I walked around the dorm complex until I finally found the correct building and floor. I finally found the room I was looking for, but after knocking repeatedly and receiving no response, I decided to try the other rooms on the floor. Thinking back to my days as a freshman in the dorms, I figured nearly everyone on the floor would know the person I was looking for.

I was wrong.

I knocked on several neighboring doors. Several times the door was opened to a dimly lit room eerily lit by the blue light of a computer. After repeated negative responses–nobody seemed to know the person I was looking for–someone suggested I talk to the Elder’s Quorum President down the hall (a student leader generally charged with knowing each of the people on the floor). I was kindly directed to his room.

The president, however, also had no idea who the person was I was looking for or even if he lived on the floor. It seemed so absurd to me. Nobody could confirm or deny whether this student lived on the floor! I ended up leaving with the cell phone still in hand.

Oh, how things have changed! The people on the floor seemed so isolated and out of touch with their neighbors and roommates. I walked out of the dorm grateful for my experiences as a freshman, and saddened that these students won’t enjoy the atmosphere and bonds that so defined my freshman experience and changed me for the better.