There is nothing like the chaos and thrill of the first year of college: roommates who like the temperature hot when you like it cold, merciless deadlines that constantly ride our tails and the roller-coaster journey to independence. Though the freshman experience resonates with many of us, year after year members of the incoming class face the same condemnation from higher grade levels, whether justified or not. While a majority of jabs are pretty lighthearted, sometimes, they can be unnecessarily hurtful and unfair.
Don’t get me wrong — this is not meant to be a plea for mercy on behalf of all first-years from the wrath of upperclassmen. During high school, I also participated in my fair share of freshman slander. As a matter of fact, it was one of the things I looked forward to being able to do.
I believe this is part of the reason why this annual tradition has become so ingrained into our academic culture. As first-years, we are objects of constant ridicule and blame, so when it’s time to renounce the title in the late spring, we feel justified in inflicting the same treatment on next year’s fresh batch.
Of course, not every freshman is an angel. There are many first-years who display annoying and immature behavior, sometimes in the hope of seeming cool. As a result, the whole class is reduced to the negative image perpetuated by those individuals, pushing those less troublesome to conceal their freshman status.
Because the anti-freshman attitude has become so prevalent in our campus culture, even some first-year students make the declaration of self-hate. However, there is nothing inherently wrong with being a freshman. The title merely denotes the first phase in the college process, and someone is not less worthy by virtue of their freshman label.
There is no denying that college is hard, regardless of the grade you are in. But it’s especially hard for those new to the experience. For many of us, this is our first time navigating life without the emotional and monetary support of our loved ones — our first time meeting the harsh demands of college courses — our first time “adulting” and living autonomously.
Since college life is so vastly different from our lives beforehand, mistakes are inevitable. Sometimes, those mistakes will seem annoying to more experienced students. However, it’s important to note that at one point, many of us were the irritating and insufferable freshman we love to bash.
One method that may reduce negative attitudes towards first-years is perspective-taking. Perspective-taking refers to the process of understanding the world through the lens of others. When we take on another person’s viewpoint, we expand our version of reality, foster respect and empathy and grow as individuals.
Seeing that a majority of students on campus have walked the road freshmen are currently on, it should hopefully come as no challenge for those individuals to see the world through their eyes. This ability to take someone else’s perspective could be especially useful in assessing whether mockery is necessary in a given situation. Though it may be tempting to make fun of the first-year who asked a silly question, before you do, take a moment to envision what it would feel like to be in their position.
Look, I get it, poking harmless fun at freshmen can be amusing. However, when the taunts cross over to insults or unfair generalizations, it may be time to reevaluate why we are doing it in the first place. At the end of the day, we are all college students trying to survive and find our place in this jungle called NC State, and who knows, we may learn something by opening our hearts as well as our minds.