Twenty-eight years ago, I was a parochial St. Louis boy venturing to California for my first year at Stanford University. As I recall it, I was first struck by my peers and wondered how I had been accepted.
One of my roommates was the best high school tennis player in Washington state, while the other was an award-winning cartoonist-yes, I lived in a triple. On the hallway lived a professional ballerina, an Olympic swimmer, a future major league baseball player, two perfect SAT scores, and a cousin of the Kennedys.
I worked as a waiter during my senior year to save up money for college. At Coco’s, I sold a record amount of strawberry pie during Strawberry Month. That was my special talent.
In my first days, I also felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. Indeed, orientation was disorienting to a fellow like me. The freedom associated with being far from home and on my own was heady, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fact that everyone around me also was enjoying it-perhaps too much-made it all the better.
In those first weeks of school, people were unmoored from their old networks and very motivated to make new friends and have new experiences. There are very few times in life quite like this, and they tend to come at a few major transition points. (Remarkably, I met my wife and two closest friends at another of these transition points, the first day of graduate school.)
It is amazing that, almost 30 years later, I remember college orientation as if it was yesterday. In my adulthood, time has been one big (happy) jumble, and I cannot distinguish what happened in one year as opposed to another.
But I have detailed recall about my first year at college. I hope that our incoming first-years savor these first few days, weeks and months. This is a special time, and Tufts has wonderful opportunities to offer for those who are ready to seize them.