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Incoming freshmen need your help

Illustration by Earl Larrabee
By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
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Summertime at the UA is slow, the 110-degree heat is not exactly making people want to rush off anywhere unless there's the promise of an emu–sized popsicle at the end of it.

Still, there are some benefits to being one of the few brave souls stuck on campus, like taking summer session courses and finishing the classes you should have been taking during the regular academic year. Or, better yet, going to the recreation center at 6 p.m. and not having to wait in line for anything.

The temporary mass exodus of the college students from campus, however, doesn't mean that the UA is completely depopulated. Various summer camps for grade school kids abound and it's still pretty hectic at the student union. People ignore various health organizations and their own common sense by proceeding directly to the Golden Arches and ordering the Big Mac meal while mitigating the effects of the fake meat and grease by downing it all with a large diet Coke.

Also around campus are the orientation groups, the packs of soon-to-be UA Wildcats soaking in as much of campus and student life as they can.

If ever there were a time that the term "fresh meat" was applicable, then these incoming freshmen would be the definition of the word. The boys look like they still have a few more stages of puberty to undergo, while the girls have yet to grasp an understanding of the concept of casual wear. In college, wearing your pajamas around campus is not only acceptable behavior, it's also the unofficial uniform. I'm reminded that about three years ago, I probably looked just as ridiculous trying to look dressed up and proper, willing my glands to get themselves under control but still spewing forth an unrelenting river of sweat.

My own orientation process was in the dead heat of a Tucson summer, at the tail end of July. It was my first time on the UA campus, and coming from a northern state, the heat was beyond intimidating and so were the current students still on campus. They looked so experienced, so capable, so very old.

Now, with the roles reversed, seeing all these newly graduated high-school students touring the UA campus is making me feel nostalgic, and "nostalgic," is just a polite way of saying I feel old. Really old. Granted, we've only got about a three or four year difference between us, but the jump from high school student to a college setting is like de-clawing an overweight and highly domesticated Tabby and leaving it smack dab in the middle of the African savannah.

Susan Bonicillo

And, judging by the look of apprehensive fathers who will have to leave their young, naïve daughters to the mercy of lecherous upper-classmen, they know that the university environment isn't one where virtue is heavily protected.

Much like these incoming freshmen, my fellow classmates and I came armed with a barrage of advice from good-intentioned friends and relatives like "call your mother," "eat your fruits and vegetables; scurvy isn't just a problem for pirates," "know your professors," "show up to class regularly," and "you are about to rediscover your childhood love affair with napping."

As much as others try to instill into us these maxims and sage pieces of advice, trial and error is probably the way most college students discover how very true each one of these stock adages is.

To borrow another tried-and-true maxim, it's the burned hand that teaches the best. People, as a whole, learn better by doing, and college seems like the best time to make mistakes and get messy while we have nothing tying us down.

Though college forces you to go out on your own, you also will need some support system. It's tempting as an upperclassman to dismiss these newcomers, but we were in the same boat just a few years ago. I know that I would have had a tougher first year if I didn't have older friends showing me the ropes at the UA.

To say that upperclassmen are wiser is stretching it a bit. But I would say that older students have experienced enough to know what not to do.

If there is one thing that I could tell those kids in orientation, it would be that every piece of advice you get about college is true. To add my own bit of experience, I've learned that a massage is never just a massage. Young girls beware.

Susan Bonicillo is senior majoring in English and creative writing. She can be reached at

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