My First Day At College

Of course, it’s Thursday, and that means participating in Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, hosted by Kat Bouska, who has the FAQ here. The prompt I’m choosing is this:

Share a back to school memory.

Here goes…

September 16, 1974 was a sunny day in the Chicago area, just starting to get cool but not quite “sweater weather.” It was almost nine o’clock in the morning, and I was sitting in a classroom, with the shades drawn, in a decrepit building, with 29 strangers, needing a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and not really wanting to be there.

Welcome to Freshman Orientation at Northwestern University.

A middle-aged professor with a haircut like Brother Juniper came into the room, welcomed us, and we did the usual go-around-the-room-and-introduce-yourself thing: What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major? What dorm are you living in?

I didn’t hear most of the introductions; I was too busy trying to figure out what I was going to say. They got to me and I told them I was John Holton, I was from Northfield, Illinois, and I was thinking of being a math major. I stopped and smiled.

“What dorm are you living in, John?” Brother Juniper asked.

“Uh, I’m local. I’m living at home.”

Half the room turned and looked at me with “oh, you poor bastard” looks on their faces. I smiled and shrugged, and thought, so this is what the next four years are going to be like.

After introductions, Brother started going over some logistical issues, and he reminded us that most of us would have to take foreign language tests on Wednesday. Naturally, I had to chime in that I would have to take Latin. More “poor bastard” looks. Some sniggering at the crazy commuter. I wanted to climb under the floor and vanish.

A few minutes later, the hour was over, and we all got up and left. I found myself standing on Sheridan Road, wondering what to do now. I considered walking back up Foster Street, getting on the train, and going home, never to return. I would have, too, except the Wil-Bus (which would take me home) had stopped running until 3 that afternoon. Might as well find that cup of coffee, I thought, lit a cigarette, and headed toward the cafeteria.

12 thoughts on “My First Day At College

  1. I always hated that round robin style of getting to know everyone in the class. I would have preferred to just get on with it already!


    1. It wasn’t as though we were going to be spending that much time together anyway. Although there was this one girl who had a couple of classes with that quarter, and by the time I heard her spiel a fourth time, I was saying it along with her…


  2. I met one of my daughter’s college friends this summer. He is going into senior year and attempting to save money while finishing school. As we visited it came out that he is living with his parents this final year. He couldn’t explain quickly enough—But I have’t always lived at home! So, apparently it hasn’t grown any easier for a young college man to feel cool under Mom and Dad’s roof!


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