Expectations vs. Reality

From what I remember about my sophomore-year Philosophy Honors discussions on Buddhism, expectations and attachments are the root of all suffering. And man, lots of freshmen are out here suffering. It’s no accident. The College Experience™ is a monolith in our culture, and rightfully so. We’re all invested (literally and figuratively) in the idea that college is a transformative experience, one that takes us from lost, listless teenagers to well-adjusted adults with degrees, life-long friendships, career prospects, even fiances. The varying degrees of truth to this statement are a topic for another article.

Because I really want to talk about unmet expectations. The Class of 2018 walked into Orientation with images of college drawn from movies where all the students are attractive and popular and constantly inebriated, plus whatever amalgams of truth and myth we’d been shown on our pre-frosh tours of Amherst College. Obviously, this set some of us up for disappointments. A blessed few instantly clicked with their sports teams or lucked out and got to live on a super-tight-knit floor, but a lot of us are still out here trying to figure this college thing out.

I’ve had this conversation with my own friends ad nauseam this week. Over and over, we’ve sat in Val and complained about how nothing is quite like it was supposed to be. Next to complaining about the food and the workload, this topic seems most likely to bring out a common response from almost everyone. 

After all, it’s only been three months. I’m not going to go into an exhaustive analysis of what exactly, about Amherst College makes so many of us feel this way, but my gut feeling is it has something to do with Amherst’s unique approach to student life. For better or for worse, we are more sheltered here than we would be at other schools. There’s a big emphasis on athletics, Friday nights consistently kind of suck. All of this is at odds with the images of higher education we’ve been fed since practically middle school.

I don’t really have a solution to the problem I’ve spent the last four paragraphs discussing. I won’t even claim to understand it fully. In reality, I like it here. I’ve made good friends and I go out every weekend. The only time I’m upset about my time here is when I compare my experiences to movies, T.V. and my high school friends’ Instagram feeds. I haven’t met my soulmate or soul sister yet, I haven’t had a night out worthy of I’m Shmacked, and that’s okay. I have plenty of time.