Timberlake: Return of the red backpacks: Advice for freshmen students

Ian Timberlake

Freshman, listen. I’m going to tell you things you might not have heard from your Destination Iowa State leaders. Returning students, please give this to any incoming students who may not know about the Daily.

First of all, if you want to be a part of the ever-awesome campus culture of Iowa State, ditch your red shoestring backpack and use it only for going to the gym. Returning students use “the red backpack” as a freshman designator. Yes, this includes the lanyards.

While there is nothing wrong with being a freshman — we’ve all been there — you don’t want to unknowingly ostracize yourself from the broader community. My column will give you a few words of wisdom I’ve accumulated during the past five years that I wish someone would have told me before I stepped foot out of my dorm… where you’re told you have the right of way at the crosswalk (which is true) and think that warrants blind entry into the roadway. Vehicles will still kill you.

Dorm living is interesting. It’s an experience I think everyone should go through at least once, but it’s definitely something that you might be glad to move on from a year or two down the road. It’s almost a rite of passage. The people you live with will either be people you stay friends with for many years to come, or they will be people you make every effort to exclude yourself from.

I suggest you make an effort to at least get to know your floormates and participate in extracurriculars with them at least once. At the very minimum: steal someone’s towel, write “gullible” on the ceiling, and get your water fountain signed by Shawn Johnson (true story).

Move out of the dorms after no more than two years. For me, I should’ve moved out after the first year but ended up staying through my second year. Hindsight is 20/20. Off-campus living is far less expensive, and you have far better amenities, such as more space and independence, not to mention you pay out the butt for meal plans. Trust me, it’s far too much money per meal. With that said, just because your meals are essentially buffet-style doesn’t mean you should consume yourself to death.

Another thing: Don’t drink yourself to death. Drink smart. We all know that you come to college with parties on your mind. There’s nothing wrong with going out and having fun; on my second night at Iowa State, the police stopped me for swimming in the Memorial Union fountain. Remember why you’re here and how much money you/someone is paying for your education. Alcohol is a quick road to disaster if you don’t keep yourself in friendly company. Drinking friends aren’t real friends. Also, don’t drink bad alcohol and don’t get sloshed more often than you call your grandmother.

Rape is a real thing in college towns and alcohol makes it too easy. All of you, especially the ladies, should program 29-ALERT in your phone for anonymous sexual assault support 24 hours a day. Go out and get yourself some pepper spray with the ultraviolet dye as a just-in-case. I have more than one friend, including men, who has been sexually assaulted in their time at Iowa State. If you’re on campus and need any kind of help, call the Help Van and Safety Escort at 515-294-4444.

There are plenty of people on campus willing to help you, including your advisers. But take their advice with a grain of salt. Your advisers will often be some of your favorite people to talk to, and a lot of them are great at their jobs, but (with rarity) what they say can be all hat and no cattle, so always double-check what your advisers tell you so you never have to retake a class or drop a class when you don’t actually need to. This can be so subtle, but so impacting that you have to tag on an unnecessary semester to college.

Lastly, respect your roommates. It’s not OK to use their stuff without permission. It’s not OK to blast music without their permission. It’s not OK to lock them out while you have sex. It’s not OK to have sex with someone while they are currently in the room. It’s not OK to not shower for days without their permission. It’s not OK to be passive-aggressive, ever. Nobody wants that.

Enjoy your time at Iowa State. There’s a reason why your parents say college was the best time of their life. You’ll change in ways you never thought possible. You will learn things you never dreamed of. You will experience things you’ll take to your deathbed. If you take anything from this, know that your professors don’t teach you what to learn, they teach you how to learn. It’s all on you.