For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Mar 22 2017
by Anna DiGiacomo

A Freshman's Guide to UNC Chapel Hill

By Anna DiGiacomo - Mar 22 2017

First off, let me start by welcoming you, the Class of 2021! Between somehow miraculously finding a roommate on that terrible Facebook page, trudging through all the scholarship applications and still finding the strength to finish senior year strong, this can be a hectic time of the year. And unfortunately, it's not about to get much easier. Before too long, you'll be packing your bags and heading to your new home on campus.

In order to make this transition as easy as possible, a group of friends and I comprised a list of everything UNC freshmen should know going into their first year at Carolina. Hopefully you will learn from a few of our mistakes.

1. Please don’t buy Carolina gear.

There’s nothing more painful than watching people go on Franklin and spending $20 on a shirt from one of the sportswear stores. Listen closely — those stores are for visitors who just don’t know any better. You’re a Tar Heel now, and you’re better than that. So do your wallet a favor and just wait for the free campus shirts because there will be plenty throughout the year. Seriously, I could put half of Franklin out of business if I decided to start selling mine off!

2. Participate in Week of Welcome. 

Week of Welcome is a great way to kick off the school year and you'll miss it once class starts. With so many different activities and so much free food, you really shouldn't blow it off. It’s a great way to meet new people or to get closer to the ones you already know. Not to mention, hitting all the different buildings is a great way to learn the campus.

3. Get mattress toppers.

These things are life. I’ll admit that I was one of those fools who stubbornly refused to spend money on one and insisted that the residence hall mattresses weren’t “that bad." I was wrong. After getting one for Christmas, I can honestly say it changed my life. Please learn from my mistakes. Mattress toppers are more valuable than your left kidney.

4. Hold onto that One Card. 

Within a week of being on campus, you'll see the Facebook page switch from roommate ads to posts about missing One Cards. Your One Card is your life; honestly, it's better to lose your driver's license. That little plastic card is what gets you into the dining halls and just about anything on campus. Please hold onto it.

via Twitter

5. Meet Gary the Pit Preacher.

Though he goes by a variety of names (i.e.: Pit Preacher Gary, Preacher Gary), he is a well-known figure on the UNC campus and you'll meet him soon enough. Gary is known for his unorthodox interpretation of the Bible and his theatrical way of preaching. He has a large repertoire of subjects (I'm particularly fond of his sermon about hellfire and rock music), and he is more than willing to argue with you if you have the time. Just remember not to take him too seriously and you'll be fine. He's a campus legend around here and we love him — he even has a Wikipedia page.

Like, we seriously love him.

6. Know "Sweet Carolina" and the fight songs. 

For those of you who are die-hard Carolina fans and have been attending games since you were two, this is worthless advice. However, for those who didn’t have this experience, learn these songs! Avoid going to your first game and having to awkwardly move your lips like you know the words to the chants. I've been there. It's not fun and the people around you totally know.

7. Fall for Fallfest.

So your parents stocked your fridge and you may not truly appreciate all the free food yet, but trust me. For upperclassmen, Fallfest is life. Food trucks from all around the Chapel Hill area will arrive and give out free food for those willing to wait in line. Also, it's a great way to get introduced to the Carolina community. Fallfest lasts all night, all the clubs will be there and there are lots of activities. So don’t be surprised or dissuaded when you show up after convocation and see literally thousands of students swarmed on Hooker. Fallfest is worth it!

8. Beware the listservs. 

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be active in college, don’t fall for the traps set at Fallfest. As freshmen, you’re vulnerable and the clubs know it. They will do anything to get your email and, before you know it, you will be in 20 clubs. Hold onto your email address like your life depends on it — unless you’re absolutely serious about joining that club.

9. Be ready for Rush Week. 

Rush Week is a strange period on campus. This is when all the sororities and fraternities begin recruiting new members into their respective houses. It involves a variety of different events where the recruits are "interviewed," for lack of a better word, to see if they would be a good fit. From there, people are invited to pledge to the house and will go through a different process to join. It's confusing, it's annoying and it's the talk of the campus. But at least it only lasts a week.

10. Don’t like basketball? Too bad. 

Full disclosure — I hate basketball and I’m seriously still fuzzy on the rules. I know that's blasphemy but I never said I was a good Tar Heel. So strive to be better than me (not like that’s hard) and at least learn to fake it. If nothing else, just be sure to catch the Duke games and attend watch parties — even I can enjoy those!

11. Carolina isn’t as big as it seems.

For those of you who have toured campus will know that Hinton James (Hojo) is as south as south campus gets. So as a current Hojo resident, trust me when I say the walks aren’t as bad as they originally seem, and you won’t get lost. By the second week, you’ll be maneuvering your way to the Pit like a pro. And even if you do get lost, there’s that handy CarolinaGo app (which you should totally download right now) to help you out.

12. Don’t party every night. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love frat parties as much as the next girl and they’re definitely part of that elusive “college experience." However, you’ll quickly learn that Carolina really isn’t a party school. The frats cater almost exclusively to freshmen because the rest of the campus is just too busy to be bothered. So please don’t be fooled into thinking you’re exclusive for getting wristbands and so forth — they're playing you.

13. Don't miss out on Rushing Franklin. 

Rushing Franklin is a true Carolina tradition that no student should miss, regardless of your class year. The tradition goes as follows: in moments of great triumph (note: the UNC victory over Duke in 2014), UNC students will storm Franklin in celebration. Having rushed Franklin myself this year, I can confirm nearly every story you may hear. Yes, couches and other furniture will be burned. People will jump through flames, climb light posts and jump on stranger's shoulders. Basically, it's a free-for-all and anything goes. Thankfully, local law enforcement is always aware of potential rush nights and stations officers accordingly. All that being said, even false rushing alarms can be a real treat for students.

14. Try Summer Bridge.

If this is something you’re interested in, then don’t let me stop you. I've heard that it's a great opportunity to meet people and learn the campus prior to actual classes. Just don’t feel obligated to do Summer Bridge. You’ll have plenty of time to make friends and learn the campus without it.

via Twitter

15. Bikes are a must. 

You may hear some upperclassmen warn you that UNC is not a good school for biking and that you should just leave your bike at home. They can fight me over that. Besides, I’m convinced they simply like to watch the freshmen suffer. Bringing my bike to school was the best decision I ever made in college. Trust me — when you oversleep and only have 11 minutes to make the 30-minute walk to north campus, you’ll thank me.

16. Drink from the Old Well. 

It’s a timeless Carolina tradition that drinking from the Old Well on the first day of class will give you a perfect 4.0 GPA. As someone who blew this (and the unbelievably long line) off, I can’t know for certain if this is true. However, I will say that after NOT drinking from the well, I had the first C- of my life and the lowest GPA to date — take what you will from that. All I know is that when you see me in that line next FDOC, be sure to say hi. 

17. Be adventurous.

You may not realize it yet, but you are so lucky to be at a school this big. There is so much to do on campus from joining clubs, intramural teams, the restaurants on Franklin, the nightlife in Carrboro to all the other spontaneous campus events. Don't be afraid to come out of your shell and try new things. After all, who knows — you may be the next Quidditch pro or kazoo maestro.

18. Don't take 8 AM classes.

I know what you're thinking and I'm going to stop you now — "I managed it in high school and it wasn't that bad. Besides, then I can have the rest of the day off." Absolutely not. You will hate yourself for it. If anything, classes before 10 AM shouldn't even be allowed to exist. So do yourself a favor and sleep for as long as you can. 

19. "Are you registered to vote at your current address?"

While I know the "Rock the Vote" people were doing us a favor and helped probable thousands of students out, it's hard to be forgiving when they harass you for weeks. Seriously, they're on every corner and they'll call you out no matter what. Many students get headphones and pretend to listen to music just to be left alone. And I know some of you are rolling your eyes and calling me melodramatic. I can't wait for the next election cycle. Then you'll understand.

Note: Yes, people steal bricks and no, I'm not going to explain it here. Message me if you're that concerned.

20. There's no shame in eating alone.

This isn't high school. No one has certain tables and there are no "groups." It's a mad free-for-all during lunch hours and eating alone is honestly an asset. No one will give you funny looks or judge you for eating by yourself. After all, most of us eat alone, too and if we are giving you dirty glances, it's only because we're envious that you got a table.

21. Remember that we’re glad to have you!

College is an unbelievably huge transition and freshman year certainly has its ups and downs (so many downs to be honest). There’s so much pressure to meet new people, have a social life, join clubs and still maintain your grades that it's a wonder how we all manage to maintain our sanity. I’m not going to lie — it can be really hard and there’s no shame in losing a few (or a lot) of tears over it. It happens.

Just remember that everyone around you (and I mean everyone) is either going through the exact same thing as you or has in the past. You’re never as alone as you think and you will adjust eventually. Just give yourself some time and breathe. Remember, Carolina is an amazing school and you worked hard to get here. You deserve to be here and we’re so glad you made it.

Welcome Tar Heels!

Lead Image Credit: Anna DiGiacomo

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Anna DiGiacomo - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Anna is a freshman Strategic Communications major at UNC Chapel Hill. She played varsity soccer in high school and besieged the student body with libertarianism. She now spends her time annoying her roommate, catching Bruce Springsteen concerts and getting lost while pretending to camp. Follow her on Instagram @digiacomoa

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