We’re gearing up for the return of our students. First it will be the young ladies who are participating in sorority recruitment (what we called “rush” when I was in college), then the rest of the student body. The start of the spring semester brings two particular sets of challenges: one with our first-year students, one with juniors returning from abroad.
What’s the challenge for the first-years? Their routines from the first semester are all shook up. They have a new set of classes, so a whole different set of professors, expectations, assignments, and classmates. First-years might find that the friends they ate lunch with every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 am in the fall semester now have classes at that time in the spring semester. So even for things as simple – but important – as “who will I eat lunch with?” can change, and that change can be unsettling.
Finally, there will be many first-years (and some sophomores) who go through fraternity and sorority recruitment (and this topic is deserving of its own Daily Deac, look for it in the coming days). At the end of that process, some students will find themselves in Greek organizations and will have new social commitments, new additions to their friend group – and possibly some of their first-semester friends will land in other organizations or not go through recruitment at all – so the old social groupings will change and shift. All that change can add up to some discomfort – so if you are a P’21 and your Deac seems a bit shaky in the early weeks of the spring semester, this could be why.
What about our juniors returning from abroad? They have different challenges. Probably the biggest one is that many of them (especially if they were in Europe) might have gotten used to having the world’s best museums, art galleries, historical and cultural sites at their fingertips or within a short plane/train trip away. And by comparison, Winston-Salem can seem quite small. Our Deacs returning from abroad are typically coming back with a new and broader worldview. Many of them might have been seeing political or social unrest in their study abroad countries, hearing differing opinions about our country and its role in the world, and so forth. After some of those big issues, coming back and thinking about Greek life or parties or some of the fun social parts of college, that can feel a bit small too.
When I was abroad with my friends, we all came home and were a bit shellshocked. We felt different, but campus and our younger friends seemed the same. And that was disorienting. What helped us was to go to lunch or dinner or coffee or hang out with other abroad students, because we understood each other. So to our P’19s who might find their Deacs in similar situations – reassure your students that they can reach out to other students back from abroad and help each other readjust.
This is not to say that sophomores and seniors don’t also have return issues, they do. Perhaps it is most poignant for our seniors, for whom it will be inescapably real that This Is Their Last Semester (Holy Mackarel, I Have To Leave Wake in Five Months and Live My Adult Life!) It will be hard for many of our seniors, and they will want to cram in the Last Time for X, Y, Z experiences at Wake. Believe me, I was the last kid who wanted to leave (witness me hanging around to get a graduate degree and then work here). But I believe deeply that we all find our place post-Wake. It will happen for your Deacs too, in their time.