Dear “First Years,”
Welcome to the hallowed, carefully manicured grounds of Southern Methodist University. As you take your first steps onto campus, you will soon realize that your residential commons is full of sophomores who, having survived the terror and cluelessness of their freshman years, believe themselves omniscient. Now that they are no longer at the bottom of the totem pole, they think have learned enough to give advice. Perhaps they can, but after three years here at SMU I have attained far greater wisdom, some gained outside of the protective (if opposite-gender infested) bubble of the commons, which I will now give unto you.
It is inevitable that some poor, inebriated soul will try to make popcorn at two in the morning, set off the smoke alarm, and earn your eternal loathing. When that happens, just remember: it is completely acceptable to wish both the bubonic plague and scurvy on them. But please bear in mind that when cursing people you should always use illnesses humanity has conquered to avoid the risk that they have lost a relative to the illness. It keeps things from getting awkward.
Aesthetics are very important to SMU. President Turner takes enormous pride in our seemingly arbitrary status as the most beautiful campus in the country, so any time you see someone with a camera please adopt a brochure-worthy pose. Options include throwing a Frisbee with a broad smile, laying on the grass with a book in front of you (reading optional), or skateboarding with a heavy backpack on.
Almost everyone you know has told you to “leave your comfort zone” in college. This phrase is very vague, so here are some interpretations we have applied to it over the course of our college experiences:
- Always sit in very uncomfortable places to study. Comfort inevitably induces sleep (college words!), so a literal departure from a zone of comfort is vital to effective studying.
- Do something high school you would have ridiculed you for, like attending drag bingo. Because high school you was probably supremely close-minded and didn’t understand that fun is everywhere.
- Recycle clothing now that mom can no longer do your laundry.
Liberal arts majors, you will at some point be asked “but, like, how are you going to get a job with that major?” When the person asks that question, you can wish the aforementioned illnesses on them or, if you are feeling less creative, slap them. If you find yourself wanting to ask someone else that question or otherwise belittle their chosen course of study, ask yourself, “Do I want to be slapped?” Then refrain.
When writing papers, do not make up funny titles and forget to remove them. That is how you send an advisor an essay entitled “Why A.J. is a super badass leader (in 500 words or less).” You do not want to send anyone an essay with that title.
Appreciate the cafeterias while you have them. As you outgrow mandatory unlimited meal plans, you will come to realize that all of your complaints about food quality and cockroach infestations fade in the face of having to provide for yourself and not having unlimited quantities of food at your fingertips. The Umph cookie bell will single-handedly defeat Michelle Obama’s efforts to create a healthier country. Calories don’t count when the cookies are fresh.
I am sure you think my suggestions are little more than the musings of a dinosaur who doesn’t understand the world you are entering. After all, when I arrived at SMU as a freshman the residential commons and Arnold didn’t even exist. But do not simply dismiss them. College flies by, each year faster than the last, so I can still remember like yesterday walking into my room, seeing a Texas flag covering the wall of my roommate’s side, and thinking “how did I end up here?” I made the most of my time at SMU, and I hope all of you do as well.
– A.J. Jeffries ’17
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