A rite of passage for most high school graduates is a commencement party attended by family and friends, and associated with a generous supply of cash and checks. However, only future Owls can sympathize with the endless line of concerned relatives who all want to know: “Are you sure about Temple?”
I found this question insulting. As if they thought I didn’t take my own college selection process seriously enough that I picked a name from a hat. I had weighed my options and Temple offered everything I wanted. I dreamt about the fast pace of the city and all the exciting opportunities it presented.
But all my confidence began to wane in August when I packed my first suitcase. As I pulled up outside my dorm on Cecil B. Moore Avenue for move-in day, I began to wonder if I really was sure about Temple.
The journey from high school to college is a difficult transition for everyone to make, but it’s especially challenging for freshmen on Main Campus who hail from a variety of backgrounds and now find themselves in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Unlike other young adults getting dropped off in Happy Valley or other picturesque university towns, we’re smack in the middle of the real world.
Like many Temple freshmen, I’m not a Philadelphia native. Instead, I reside in the cozy western suburbs where the city skyline looms like a faraway Oz and the biggest crime is a fender-bender outside McDonald’s. It’s still jarring to hear distant booming and know instinctively they aren’t fireworks.
Another concern exclusive for city schools is traveling — since we do eventually have to leave campus for one reason or another. SEPTA makes it easy to get around, but it can be intimidating. The subway at night is terrifying. Have you ever seen “Midnight Meat Train”? Don’t. Also, any time of day can be aggressive. Most riders are experienced with transit and aren’t keen to answer naïve questions.
Issues not unique to urban freshmen are making friends and surviving classes. I’ve been lucky enough to have a ton of hometown friends to fall back on, but the first week was painfully awkward.
It’s also no secret that high school does little to prepare us for the intensity of college courses. Professors usually don’t care enough to learn your name, let alone give individual leeway when it comes to grading.
With one semester under my belt and another quickly approaching, I can say that all my concerns at the beginning of the year have been addressed and solved.
I don’t fear for my life walking at night anymore, thanks to the security provided at Temple. While many upperclassmen have gotten past the novelty, I’m still impressed by the TU Alert System and presence of campus police almost everywhere I turn.
I’ve found that flipping to the back of Temple’s personalized yearly planners, handed out during orientation, reveals a handy-dandy guide to SEPTA — an invaluable tool for any freshmen who will have to venture out eventually. Keeping a list of directions in my phone has helped prevent any overwhelming feelings of lameness derived from needing to study the map at the station. Now I know that buying tokens in advance is always a good idea when I’m too far off campus to walk or lost in the “Temple party shadow-land.”
After a while, it was easy to make friends, thanks to the support and guidance of the extracurricular programs. Aside from my roommates and friends from my building, I spend the majority of my time with the various clubs and organizations I’ve joined.
Classes became manageable once I fell into the rhythm. The work may be harder, but there’s more time and resources to get work done. I no longer feel as if I’m drowning in a sea of faces in my lecture halls.
The main objective of college is balance — finding a happy medium between constant fear and relaxing into a false sense of security or weighing the benefits of intramurals with the possibility of overbooking ourselves. It’s a struggle, but it’s doable.
As a freshman, I don’t have everything figured out yet, but I know that I made the right choice for me. Now I can answer with complete confidence that yes, I’m sure about Temple.
Jessica Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.