I arrived at Williams this August with few real expectations. Unlike many of my college-obsessed friends, I had not done much research on the logistics of college living or transportation, and I was all too used to the comfortable confines of my 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. routine of high school. Among the neatly scheduled confines of our First Days schedule, I was herded to various assemblies of the Class of 2018 in a mesmerizing display of speakers, presenters and performances, all designed to drum up enthusiasm from wide-eyed first-years.
I had heard the statistics claiming a high percentage of Williams alumni marriages, and as I looked around, I pondered my wedding-day chances with anyone and everyone. Still, there were more pressing issues that I had to address. First and foremost, I was acutely aware of the fact that there were 2000 talented, motivated and completely unknown students suddenly surrounding me. As someone who came from a small high school, this element of the unknown was frightening, especially considering my Hollywood-influenced preconceptions of college as a place where professors were unreachably esoteric and first-years were targets of hazing upon stepping foot on campus.
Though I found some of these archetypes to be partially valid, I was struck more by a variety of peculiar Williams-isms, which I quickly noted and Googled later. I did not want expose myself as an uneducated frosh, after all. That word itself – “frosh” – seemed loaded with condescension among Yik-Yakkers and the more experienced members of the Williams community, but I accepted my place quietly and unashamedly. I accumulated a variety of questions, many of which were cleared up by a willing JA or teammate. Others continued to elude me: Why have I never heard of GroupMe? Where can I acquire a pair of jorts? What is Frosh Revue, exactly?
Surrounded by such speculation and intrigue, my entry acted as a point of security and honesty, a place for people to be immediately at ease. Initially, it was intimidating to meet my entrymates in person after having carefully combed their Facebook profiles for any useful background information. However, I adjusted to the idiosyncrasies of my entry companions with surprising speed. I learned of my new compatriots’ music tastes, high school lives and goals for college. We talked about our mutual life fears, and I emerged from each frank discussion with the knowledge that I was not alone. Encouraged by the First Days schedule to spend so much time together, it was clear that each of us played a valuable role in the group dynamic.
Before arriving in Williamstown, I had previously survived summer camps of various lengths and intensities, and each time I left with little desire to live for an extended period away. It was difficult for me to accept new people that I met as anything other “replacement friends” for my “real friends” back home. Whenever I had free time, I would occupy myself with hypotheticals of what I would be doing if I were in my warm, familiar hometown. I imagined attending college nearby, perhaps going back home on the weekends to hang out with my cat.
My first week at college has mostly dissuaded any residual longing to make the 12-hour drive home. Sure, I miss having easy access to a variety of restaurants, and I have yet to withstand a Williamstown winter. But First Days has achieved exactly what it advertised: by slowly acclimating me to the rigors of college living, I could feel comfortably socially before having to take on any academic schedule. Williams’ First Days process is lengthy and allows very little free time, yet so far being at college has never threatened to overwhelm me as I once feared it would. I found instead a universally welcoming community of driven and thoughtful people. The painstakingly planned structure of EphVentures and entry functions were refreshingly easy to grow used to, and I am grateful to all those who were involved in my own first week at the College.
Ian Concannon ’18 is from Durham, NC. He lives in Dennett.