Our Take: A freshman's guide to AU

In just a few short weeks, our University will become the new home to hundreds of incoming freshman. For those who need the essential but perhaps not-so-readily available information of what college life is really all about, The Eagle has compiled a short list of essential things for new students to know. Good luck...

PARTYING

It's on your mind, and let's face it, it's on your agenda Friday, Saturday and possibly even Sunday night. So find a friend, tuck an extra $20 in your pocket just in case, and be on your way. Take the opportunity to meet new people, taste keg beer for the first time and have a night to remember (if you can remember).

And there are rules to remember: AU is a dry campus and it is enforced, and you don't want to get caught with a few bottles of half-empty booze by the resident assistants on duty. Be smart about it and use common sense. Never go to parties alone, watch your drink and have a designated driver-although most parties will be within walking or shuttle distance. Drinking isn't so fun when you wake up the next morning on a curb with no idea how to get home or in the bed of someone you don't remember meeting.

And if drinking is not for you, don't let your roommate, your boyfriend/girlfriend or your newfound best friend talk you into anything you're not comfortable with. Sure, college is about expanding your horizon, but if you don't choose your own path, it isn't your journey.

FOOD

So it's Sunday morning, and you need to get something in your stomach to absorb all the alcohol you drank last night. Where do you go?

TDR, the Terrace Dining Room, Teeder-the one and only cafeteria on campus. From cheeseburgers to fresh (or not) salad, from make-your-own stir fry to chocolate cake and limitless soda, TDR has a lot to choose from. While some of the food may not make you salivate, there's always something there for everyone, even if it's just cold cereal and orange juice.

A quick word about meal plans: You're wasting your money on unlimited meals-unless you eat more than four times a day-and watch your EagleBuck$ (AU's form of currency) carefully. Between food and laundry, they go quicker than you think.

Also in Mary Graydon Center is the Market Place and the Tavern, where yummier and quicker food can be found. If you only have 20 minutes to get to class, your best bet is to grab something easy to go. Other options include the Ward Circle Building, which offers the American Caf?, and in the tunnel you can dine at Megabytes Caf?, McDonalds or Subway. Still, there really isn't anything like home-cooked food, so don't expect too much.

With all the choices of food, especially fried food, it's not a bad idea to remember the food pyramid you learned in second grade. The "freshman 15" isn't exactly a collegiate myth-unlimited quantities of cafeteria food plus massive amounts of alcohol can pack on the pounds. If you search a little, you'll find healthier foods out there. For healthier alcohol, however, you're on your own.

DORMS

It can be a hard transition, and that's OK. One day, you're the top dog in your high school and the next you find yourself in a cinder block square, sleeping in a narrow bed and wearing sandals in the shower for the first time. If you've forgotten anything, you can always go to the Eagle's Nest in the tunnel for emergency supplies, but the most important thing to remember about dorm life is to be open-minded.

Make allies with your roommate. They have the capacity of making your life miserable or becoming your best friend. And while living with a random person, most likely from a distinctly different background and upbringing than you seems to be destined for tragedy, it most likely will not be. Give your roomie a chance. Speak up when something bothers you and be considerate of their space, clean up after yourself and give each other a little privacy. Even if you're not friends, both your lives will be better in the end.

Pack for your space. You don't have a lot of it, so use it wisely. Call your roommate before you arrive on campus and plan ahead: You really only need one fridge, one TV, one radio, one set of dishes. Think ahead-do you really need all of your bulky winter sweaters if you're going home for fall break? Pack for the season and realize that although you will need those clothes, you'll have plenty of chances to go home and pick them up.

Bring your ID everywhere. When you come in the front door, when you go on the shuttle and when you make a food run. While you might get away with only knowing your ID number, you'll save yourself and the students behind the desk a lot of headache if you don't have to.

Your RA's are there not only to bust your pre-gaming parties but also to help you find your way on campus, navigate your way to the best classes and professors, and to provide support and programming. They might not tell you about the unspoken elevator rule-it's not a good idea to ride to the first three floors, but if you're heading to the fourth you're fine-unless you ask.

GET INVOLVED

There is an organization for everyone at AU, and while D.C. is a great city, you can only get the true college experience on campus. Check out the club fair, the service fair and the job fair. Seek out clubs that you might like. Interested in the media? AU has an independent student newspaper (that's us) as well as a student-run television, radio station, literary magazine, and online sites. Want to get into politics, help out in campus programming or support your fellow classmates? Get involved in the Student Confederation or the General Assembly.

Show your Eagle spirit and support our sports teams, which have the added advantage of being free to students. Playing in high school doesn't have to be the last time, as both intramural and club sports are a great way to stay in shape and have fun.

Fraternities and sororities are a great way to get involved as well. Rush isn't until the spring semester for freshmen, but you can get to know the various frats and sororities on campus before then. While Greek life is a great way to get involved, it's not the only social option. There are no Greek houses on campus, and while Greeks contribute largely to the social scene, they aren't the end-all-be-all.

It's also good to do research if you plan on rushing, as the University no longer recognizes two fraternities. ATO and Sammi lost their charters in the past few years, which means that if you "rush" them, there are no rules or regulations regarding hazing.

GET TO KNOW AU AND THE CITY

Did you know that they found an old Model T in the fields behind Anderson and Letts Residence Halls when the Army was excavating for arsenic? AU has a dark side too, just like all universities, but that doesn't mean it's a bad place to live.

If you have questions or need a sympathetic ear, AU provides many resources. The Student Advocacy Center is a great place to turn to help find your way through the administration, and the Writing Center will help you pass your English class. The free health center is nearby and offers medical notes that will get you out of class. If you're sick, though, there are taxi vouchers to take you to and from Sibley Hospital. Read the free newspapers in the dorms, and attend the various free forums, speakers and panels that address various international, national and local issues.

Getting in and out of D.C. is easy, and although the Metro is raising its rates, it's also extending its hours. Explore the various neighborhoods that make this city the unique urban community it is. Take advantage of the free concerts and museums on the National Mall.

ACADEMICS

You're paying for it, so it's not a waste of your time. Go to class and make an effort. While every college student loves procrastination, no one will sit you down and make you do your homework. And when things aren't due every week, it's easier than you think to fall behind. And professors wont have second thoughts: They will fail you if you deserve it.

But it always helps to show interest-introduce yourself to your professors and drop by office hours, participate in class and ask intelligent questions. On days when you just can't make it to class, it always helps to have friends in every class. They're great for getting notes and for making study groups before finals.

Don't be afraid to ask for help, or to drop a class and take a lighter load. Resources are available on campus, such as your academic adviser. Take advantage of them.

Have an open mind. Your passion might not be in the original major you came here for. And it's OK not to know exactly what you want to do. Use the general education requirements to explore fields you might not have considered before. Let a professor, a class or a book inspire you.

Be safe, be smart, and have the time of your life.

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