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Listen up, freshmen

BY MICHAEL DALE-STEIN | AUGUST 21, 2009 7:07 AM

The sun is shining, the line to buy parking spots at Apartments Downtown is around the block, and freshmen will soon be seen scratching their heads in the T. Anne Cleary Walkway, class schedule printout in hand.

Three years have passed since I stepped onto the UI campus, and, to compare it to a 2 a.m. Gumby’s gorge, eight words sum it up: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

Now that I’m a senior in college, I think back to when I was a senior in high school — so much and so little has changed. Life is still full of drama, bodily humor, and immature antics — yet I’m emerging from my cocoon. A world of MidAmerican energy bills, FAFSAs, and 1040EZs isn’t as easy (no pun intended) when your parents won’t take care of it all.

Still, I’ve learned enough during my college years (and undeniably more about reality than academia). Next summer, when thousands drive away from this campus with 120 credits under their belts, they won’t ruminate about terms from Elementary Psych or Classical Mythology — I know I won’t. But what will be remembered are the friends, the experiences, and the good, bad, and ugly.

Without further ado, here’s a tad of what I have learned in my time at Iowa:

• Keep an umbrella in your backpack.

“Nobody uses them, dude,” my friend said when I asked to borrow an umbrella. “You’ll look like an idiot if you do.”

It was the second day of freshman year, and 15 minutes after the aforementioned conversation, my ignorance sloshed into Macbride Auditorium, soaking wet and sweaty. If anything is worse than trudging through a downpour, it’s walking to class in the rain during a humid, 90-degree day.

Sweaty, sopping, and angry is no way to go through life.

• Smoke-free campus does not mean smoke-free campus.

In 2006, my virgin lungs recoiled at the smoggy musk of carcinogen-permeating bars, the Ped Mall, and sidewalks. Not much has changed.

When Iowa’s Smoke-Free Air Act took effect in July 2008, only the bars followed suit. The rest of the campus merely went through the motions. Signs put up in various locations announced, “Smoke-Free Campus.”

But if clear health risks won’t stop people from smoking, how will a sign help? The slew of citations issued for smoking in prohibited areas over the past year haven’t exactly scared anybody straight.

• Face the conclusion that you’ll never find free parking spots. Anywhere. Ever.

Parking signs in Iowa City might as well be written in Wingdings (how lame is a Microsoft Word joke?). They’re nonsensical and contain more stipulations than Michael Jackson’s will. Manage to unearth that elusive downtown spot (El Dorado, as I call it)? Don’t celebrate yet, the meter will be covered by an orange, “No Parking,” prison-like jacket. Have fun with a $15 ticket flapping under your wipers.

• When you come back from the bars, never Facebook request someone you met that night.

I did this once. It’s a good way to never speak to someone again. I think she’s still saved in my phone as “BLONDE UPSTAIRS SUMMIT.” Soon after, I introduced the word “creep show” to my vocabulary.

• The thousands of students from Illinois apparently are all from “Chicago” or “Chicagoland.”

Time to brace myself for hate mail and constant harassment from my roommates. Illinois suburbs are not “Chicago,” “Chicagoland,” or “Chi-town.” Furthermore — and contrary to popular belief every April — the Cubs will not go 162-0 and win the World Series. But I’ll take the 10-to-1 ratio of Cub fans to White Sox fans any day.

• Hy-Vee Chinese on a Saturday morning is a cure-all.

Enough said.

• Finally, IT’S SUNDRESS DAY!

If you know what Sundress Day is, then you’re already gone.


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