Freshman - Now & Then

August 29, 2011

I work on a college campus and I am currently surrounded by the hustle and bustle of back to school time. Watching all the incoming freshman has made me reminisce about my freshman year here on the very same campus back in 1996, just to date myself a little. Though the same simultaneous air of “clueless” combined with “trying to be cool” is still rampant, there are many differences I can’t help but notice in such rather short amount of time:

1) Cell phones. As if I had to tell you, students are now glued to their phones and electronic devices. I, however, did not have a cell phone until I was 23. We had to check our messages on our corded dorm phone. Pay phones still existed. No one texted because there was just no way to. Can you believe that was only 15 years ago?

2) Computers. Slim, tiny fashionable lap tops and ipads are now the norm. I wrote the majority of my papers in the computer lab. We envied the occasional roommate who had a hulking desktop. Having an e-mail account was a brand new experience. What, pray tell, did we do without Facebook?

3) Clothes. Granted, it was the “grunge” era, so dress standards were much lower back then. But I am still taken aback when students attend class looking better than I do on a rare night out. At least some sloppiness still remains – let’s hope the big boots and sweat pants in public trend doesn’t return this season.

4) Jobs. I actually feel kind of bad for students nowadays. When I was in college I worked at a coffee shop throughout all four years and had a blast. Now students need to have internships and important jobs already when they graduate. What happened to fun?

5) Living Space. Okay, apartments in college now are way better than my first even out-of-college working apartment. Whatever happened to roughing it and scraping by in college in tiny, run down apartments? What are all these state of the art apartments and even dorm rooms for that matter? We also had a communal 14-inch TV with a built in VCR and were just fine. We had to walk to a laundry mat to do our laundry. Seriously, I have seen nicer furniture sets for students than we can afford in our own home in our 30s.

6) Awareness. Maybe it was just me, but despite thinking I knew everything, I was actually kind of clueless at 18. Kids today seem to know much more about the world and how to get what they want. Maybe it is the huge explosion of technology and social media over the past decade, but it is actually kind of intimidating in a way the knowledge/skills students have when they graduate. Of course, nothing beats real world experience to us oldies but goodies….