By the end of freshman year most students have come to love East Campus. Frankly, I still miss East in a lot of ways. I miss knowing that almost everyone on the quad was a member of my class. I wish that I could still count on the fact that it was more likely than not that I would run into someone I knew when getting breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I will always think that Brodeie is way better than Wilson, and I will feel a stronger affiliation to Southgate than any other place I’ve lived on campus. For me, East Campus means community. There is an overwhelming sense that the people you are living with get you. Everyone comes into freshman year vulnerable, and looking for a sense of belonging. The East Campus community was deliberately designed to foster that very sense of belonging, and was directly tied to where you live. As a freshman, I had so much pride in my dorm, and was quick to claim that it was far superior to any other. I loved that I was really close with the people in my hall, and that the norm was to keep your door open instead of closed. All of these things in some small way, helped me to find a sense of place at Duke.
But, what happens when you leave? Objectively, West Campus is a different world. Suddenly, you can’t be sure whether the person in line with you at The Loop is a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior. You don’t know whether the people in your common room actually live in your dorm, or are just passing through. Many times you won’t know everyone in your hall, and the doors seem to be closed more often than they are open. West Campus is an adjustment, and a lot of times I felt like a small fish in a big pond. It’s hard when all of your friends don’t live in the same place that you do, and it can feel lonely at times. I always thought it was interesting that something so small, like a shift in campuses, can have such an impact on the sense of community that students feel. It makes sense. It’s hard when your friends don’t live right down the hall, and making plans changes from knocking on someone’s door to scheduling time to meet up.
I guess what I’m getting at, is that sophomore slump is real, and its okay to feel lonely. I know tons of students who have said that sophomore year was a rude awakening. I think that these feelings of disenchantment are tied to two things, a lack of community (attributed to leaving East Campus), and increased academic expectations. Sophomore year comes with a whole new set of challenges. Leaving the insecurities of freshman year behind, students are confronted with harder classes, greater extracurricular involvement, and a new environment. I think that all of these things together make it harder for students to feel the sense of community that they had as a freshman. But, sophomore year has its advantages too, and West Campus has its own sense of community though different.
I had a serious bout of sophomore slump. I felt alone a lot of the time, and it bothered me that all of my closest friends were spread out all over campus. My classes were hard, and I had to completely rethink the way that I studied and prepared. I spent a lot of time wishing that I could go back to freshman year, to my small Southgate bubble, to the comforts of introductory classes, and the reliability of Market Place brunches. But, sophomore year was also a time of growth. I learned to look at some of my stressors as opportunities. Even though it frustrated me that I didn’t feel the same sense of community on West Campus, it forced me to be proactive about seeking it out. My sophomore slump helped me to make a concerted effort to seek friends out. Closed doors in my hall, allowed me to make conversation with people in the common room. Hard classes helped me to build a broader network, and to meet with professors on a regular basis. Don’t let the slump get you down! It may no be freshman year, but sophomore year can be just as amazing. It’s all about perspective.