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November 18, 2013

Senior Year is Like Freshman Year

One

I have a theory about social life at college – well, at least a college like Clark.  It was prompted by looking at the picture above, which is of my entire class – the Class of 2014 – on our first day at Clark back in August of 2010.  But that’s all silly – I’ll get to that later.  The theory is pretty simple.  During the first semester of your freshman year, everyone is excited to meet everyone.  (I wrote about it at the time.)  Nobody wants to get left out, so everybody is basically nice and genuine to everyone they meet.  Friendships can be formed on the simple basis of running into each other on the green on the way to the Caf.  It really doesn’t take much.

Unfortunately, it also doesn’t last.  Winter break of freshman year changes people.  They come back from a month cloistered at home with friends and family to realize that some of the people they spent time with during their first semester actually weren’t that interesting, and that some who they’d initially written off were.  Thus, by the time the end of second semester rolls around, social groups have been pretty well established.

Those social groups persist – strongly – through sophomore year.  Sophomore clusters of friends tend to be fairly rigid.  They’re not interested in knowing more people, just deepening their relationships with the people they’re close too.  That can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s also isolating, to a great degree.  (If one were in a punnier mood, one might say that it’s also rather sophomoric.)  All that changes during junior year.

Junior year, for many Clarkies, means study abroad.  That tears 40% of the junior population away each semester, tearing existing social groups apart and forcing people to meet and mingle with those they wouldn’t otherwise have spent time with.  This process takes the existing social order and shakes it up to an enormous degree.  Just in time for …

Senior year.  This is when you realize – almost immediately – that you actually really like just about everyone you go to school with, and that you’re going to miss them when you’re all off in the wide world after May.  The feeling you had during freshman year comes back again, and you find yourselves smiling and waving at people you never would have before.  It’s a fantastic feeling.  So that’s my social theory.  It’s not particularly predictive – at least, I haven’t tried it out yet – so it doesn’t really fit the formal criteria for a theory, but it does seem to be descriptive of many of the Clarkie experiences I’ve seen.  Let’s see how Dale turns out …

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