By Arthur O’Sullivan
Hi Freshmen. Are you sick of the generic “Advice for Freshmen” that everyone and their grandma vomits everywhere you turn? The advice that goes like “stay hydrated ;)!” and “don’t overwhelm yourself :3” and “be nice to your roommates :::::::::)))))))))))),” et cetera et cetera? Would you sooner eat a lick your communal bathroom’s floor than listen to another “Study tips you NEED to know to succeed”?
Well first of all, stop whining. They’re only trying to help. Stupid as some of the advice is, you may not realize just how stupid some of your peers are. The fact that you’ve read this far without turning on the ‘TikTok Subway Surfers stim-a-tron 3000’ tells me that you’re already smarter than three-quarters of the Binghamton undergrad population.
Second of all, I feel your pain (I don’t). I just hope that this article tells you all the things you don’t need to know, but are nice to know, for your life in college. I developed this advice over my four years in college through trial and (occasionally painful) error. As such, I feel that I have earned the right to pontificate over today’s youngsters, dispensing sagacious advice to all those who didn’t ask for it. You need not be a freshman to suckle from the knowledge-teat that is this article. Hell, anyone could benefit from this article, if they’re creative enough. Just sit back and read my (only partially ironic) advice.
Basic Binghamton Geography
As you’ve learned from your parents, grandparents, great-uncles-thrice-removed-from- Lincoln etc all asking you for your mailing address, Binghamton University is in Vestal, not the City of Binghamton. Be prepared to repeat that factoid in every conversation in the next four years. Vestal is a quite pretty town, especially in fall. Its sprawling parkway is balanced out by irenic suburbs. You can walk to places like U Club, the Innovative Technologies Complex, and the various houses of worship along Murray Hill Road with relative ease. If you need to go further out (or you’re just a wimp), buses cover a lot of the major spots. The county buses are colored white, climate controlled, easy to figure out on Google Maps, and consistently run five minutes late—if they show up at all. The university buses are colored blue, have no A/C, and open the windows in winter for some reason. They’re also tricky to figure out without the constantly-changing website PDFs, a pre-existing knowledge of Binghamton’s geography, and a crack pipe. I would explain it further—that would make this article actually useful—but it only really makes sense when you do it every day. Expect this philosophy in many of your classes.
The university itself is divided with two anatomical terms: “The Brain,” and “The Spine.”
The “Brain” is one road with three names. Yet whereas “West Drive” and “East Drive” are self-explanatory, “Glenn G. Bartle Drive” is not. You take Glenn G. Bartle Drive to campus from Vestal Parkway. Ok fair enough. You go east (left, since you’re going South—because everything in Binghamton is upside-down), and it becomes East drive, right? Right?! NO! It’s still Glenn G. Bartle Drive because he’s JUST THAT IMPORTANT! First of all, who in the name of CRUMB CAKE is Glenn G. Bartle? I’ve been here for three damnable years! I’ve spent more hours in the Glenn G. Bartle library than I have on the toilet! I sleep in Glenn G. Bartle-themed pajamas and bedsheets, and I STILL DON’T KNOW WHO HE IS! I could easily Google him, but I like feeling self-righteous in my pathetic ignorance. (Expect this philosophy a lot among your peers.) If YOU know who he is, good for you! Put that on your resume! Send a 12,000 word biography to email@example.com! I’ll definitely read it! But to whomever decided that this here college just NEEDED to have “one more thing” a la Columbo named after good old Glenn… make like a shrimp and KRILL YOURSELF! “The Brain” is called that because it’s shaped like a brain.
You’ll find dorms, dining halls, and facilities on the outside of “The Brain.” You’ll find everything else besides the nature preserve on the inside of “The Brain,” including “The Spine.” I still don’t know what “The Spine” is. If you know, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m serious this time. I really should know this; I hear it all the time, but I don’t know where it starts and ends.
The nature preserve is really cool and pretty in fall, and awful and muddy most other times. You can find entrances on West Access Road, just outside Mountainview (take three guesses for why it’s called that). It took me two years to figure out that there’s a higher level (higher up, go figure) and a lower level of the nature preserve. I was just walking around the pond like a chump.
But now let us look to the east, to Binghamton. The City of Binghamton is, like Gaul, divided into three parts. Two rivers do the dividing: the Susquehanna, which runs east-west, and the Chenango, which runs north-south. West of the Susquehanna lies the West Side. Lots of student housing and buses, and plenty of professors live here too. South of the Chenango lies the South Side. East of the Susquehanna lies the East Side. SIKE! It’s Downtown. (That sounded funnier in my head.) Downtown is where all the cool kids go on weekends to drink absinthe and smoke crack or whatever they do at bars. I’m too busy arguing on the internet for things like that. I used to think that there wasn’t a North Side or an East Side in Binghamton, but Google says there is. Apparently they’re north and east of Downtown respectively. North of the West Side is called “First Ward,” for some reason. The South Side is also divided into “Southside East” and “Southside West,” but I’m falling asleep as I type this. So if you don’t mind, I’m gonna overdiagnosed-ADHD-shift my way to another subject.
Flush the Toilets/Urinals After You Finish
Join as Many Clubs as Humanly Possible
Uh-oh, this advice is starting to sound common. Let me clarify: when I say “Join as Many Clubs as Humanly Possible,” I do not mean “join a lot of clubs.” I mean to say “Join as many clubs as you can pack into your tight schedul-ussy, freshie.”
I’m serious. Disgusting abuses of the English language aside, there really is no rule against showing up for the General Interest Meeting (that’s “GIM” for all the cool kids here) and never coming back. Nobody will resent you for it. They’ll just be happy that anyone showed up at all. By showing up to EVERYTHING in the first few weeks, you’ll quickly learn where you fit in, who cramps your style, which clubs are weird psy-ops (looking at you, Cheese Club), and what your $100 “Undergraduate Activity Fee” grievously overfunds.
After showing up and joining the GroupMe (DO NOT JOIN ANY DISCORDS), you can ease off for a while. Go to class, hang out with your new friends, play video games, whatever goons your micropenis. But if you’re ever feeling lonely, or need some oddly specific advice, you now have a myriad of clubs that you can show up to or consult with. Club presidents (those nerds) really love that stuff, so take advantage of it while you can.
Did I mention that Binghamton Review is looking for new members? Well, whether you’re persuaded or put-off by my attempts at humor, I sincerely believe that everyone can profit from this final piece of advice. Everything before this was at least a little facetious, but on the following subject, I’m dead serious.
“No Patrick, the system isn’t ‘rigged’ against you.”
Seriously, I could dedicate a whole article to this awful, paranoid, and whiny worldview. I’ll be writing about college, but this could be applied almost anywhere besides North Korea. From your roommate who sleeps from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. complaining “my professor [who he hasn’t met] fucking sucks, dude,” to a former president complaining about “THE RIGGERS,” the idea that “the whole system’s fucked” is as pervasive as it is a masturbatory exercise in abdicating responsibility. In other, simpler words: It’s cope.
If you’re struggling in college, that’s fine. You’re lonely. Your roommates are annoying. Your classes are hard. Your grades are dipping. Your room is a mess. And these are the easier things you’re dealing with? I’ve been there. Most everyone’s “been there,” some before college; some during; some after. Some poor souls have to deal with it all their life. But that’s just the thing: they deal with it.
I’m not trying to be flippant or dismissive when I say that whatever you’re facing has been faced before, by billions of other people. You’re paying at least $10k annually to attend an institution that provides internet and several sprawling libraries. You can find someone, in your life, in history, or in literature, that has experienced your situation. Learn from them. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Find out how some people drag themselves out of Hell, and others dig themselves deeper. Copy the former—you’re allowed to, there’s no plagiarism checker for life—and avoid the latter’s mistakes. Above all, never say that you can’t get better because “they” won’t let you. Administrators don’t want you to fail. Professors really don’t want you to fail. Republicans don’t want you to fail. God, if He exists, doesn’t want you to fail.
There’s a famous monologue from T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party that I saw quoted in some Jordan Peterson compilation or those ‘motivational’ videos that come a dime-a-dozen on YouTube. Stupid as those videos can be sometimes, the play itself is beautiful. (There’s a great recording on YouTube starring Alec Guiness). The quote I’m thinking of appears in a dialogue between Celia Coplestone, a former homewrecker who struggles with the “unreality” of other people, and her psychiatrist. The end of her previous affair has left her struggling with existential angst, whereupon she says one of the most humble, yet also inspiring lines in 20th century literature:
Well, there are two things I can’t understand,
Which you might consider symptoms. But first I must tell you
That I should really like to think there’s something wrong with me—
Because, if there isn’t, then there’s something wrong,
Or at least, very different from what it seemed to be,
With the world itself—and that’s much more frightening!
That would be terrible. So I’d rather believe
There is something wrong with me, that could be put right.
I’d do anything you told me, to get back to normality.
Celia goes on to become a martyr, murdered in a humanitarian mission to the fictitious island of Kinkanja. Yet her death was triumphant and saintlike, as she finally understood, and was understood by, humanity. You don’t need to do all that. It sounds like a whole thing. Yet you should understand that whatever angst you’re facing is your own to fix, and nobody else’s. For all the troubles in the world—war, racism, snow in May, biochemistry—your whining and learned helplessness will only add to them. So go out and fix them with a smile, or at least without a sigh.