I pity myself. Or rather, first-year Katie pitied sophomore Katie. After all, there’s nothing good about sophomore year. You’re not a frosh, not a Junior Advisor (JA), not abroad and not about to graduate. Sophomore year of high school was the epitome of the sophomore slump for me, with my grades, swimming and social life all taking a nice trip to the garbage dump. When my entry bid each other goodbye in May, the Ghost of Williams Future was breathing down my neck, reminding me that college would be awful for the next two years and six to 10 months.
I must confess that upon arriving in Williamstown on Aug. 24 for the beginning of sophomore year, I was immediately crushed by ennui and a sense of impending doom. There wasn’t time – as a Wilderness Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-years (WOOLF) leader, I was immediately thrown into meetings and 16 hours of wilderness first aid training (including a very sketchy description of “line and traction,” which made me confident I could never set a broken bone). The eight-hour days in Bronfman 105, not to mention the restricted meal swipes, could have sent me spiraling into deep despair. Fortunately, there were about 100 other orientation leaders and student staff who realized that, as fellow victims of the “sophomore year syndrome,” a support group could be a useful resource. We met in Brooks basement nightly for quiet reflection and measured discussion about the pointlessness of it all.
On a more serious note, leading an orientation trip was truly a great experience. Not only did I get to spend more of my summer in the Purple Valley, but I met an incredible group of new people who were fun, weird, insanely creative and possibly a little crazy. By the time classes started, after surviving a lightning storm and lots of shnuggling (a term coined by a WOOLFie to describe “a hug, but lying down”), I had 80 more familiar faces around campus with whom to eat, drink and be merry. I was also able to hang out with seven fantastic first-years (and a fabulous sophomore transfer) whose excitement for Williams reminded me what a great place this really is.
Life as a first-year is great, but for me, it was also incredibly overwhelming. I was trying to make friends while learning everything about college culture (and apparently I still need to get out more), which led to significant stress and at least one night of crying to my JA. I was so worried about alienating people that I decided I shouldn’t rely on anybody, just in case they thought I was bizarre or too needy. With a little distance, I can see much more clearly. I no longer feel like I have to face my problems – ranging from general stress to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness to family illness – alone. I can turn to my classmates, my entrymates, my co-WOOLF leader, my JAs and my teammates, and I know that every single one of them will be there for me. The ugly caterpillar of first-year social awkwardness became the decent-looking moth of “Hey, I know more than three people at this class/TA session/library study date/club meeting/party!”
Luckily for me, thus far sophomore year is the opposite of a slump. As my dear roommate quipped when I mentioned writing this op-ed, “you should call it a sophomore surge!” Yes, that’s right, I have a roommate, and I’m actually happy about it. The sophomore dream isn’t necessarily a suite in Greylock Quad (although those are pretty nice). Sophomore year is really whatever you want to make of it, and unlike freshman year, you know enough people to make that happen. It’s been entirely different from what I expected, and yet completely satisfying. Classes are harder, but I know which doors to knock on for help. I even know a TA! Going out is more fun because there’s usually less vomit (except for the visitor to second floor East on Thursday night) and more Snack Bar. We still get to have Sunday snacks courtesy of our fantastic Neighborhood Leadership Team. I know it’s early yet, but if the next eight months are half as good as the first one has been, I’ll be one happy purple cow.
Katie Bennett ’16 is from Arlington, Va. She lives in East.