Jacob Lawrence writes from Amherst

Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst, majoring in communications. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communications major with a minor in Spanish.

Jacob Lawrence, 19, grew up in West Tisbury and is 2013 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Off to college

You’ve done it. You’re a college boy. All that hard work in high school has officially paid off. You said goodbye to your friends and family, packed up the car, drove to school and unpacked into your dorm room, which in my case was a 15×15 room with nothing in it but two beds that would leave my 11-year-old cousin’s feet hanging off the edge, one window, and cinderblock walls painted white. It would have reminded me of a jail cell if it weren’t for the two desks and closets.

Your mom leaves and suddenly you are alone in your new space. You look out the window at the beautiful mountains and think of all the great times ahead.

Three months later

I am still asking myself the same question that I asked myself the minute I watched my parents drive away one family member short: What do I do now? What do I do with the rest of my day? What do I do with my future? And probably the most pressing matter on my mind: What do I do for my next meal?

I would have to say that the second biggest difference between high school and college, second only to being completely on your own, is that you are given an unbelievable amount of free time. Even though I was told, by literally everybody, that I will have more time than I’ll know what to do with, I realize now that I was definitely not prepared for this amount of free time. I believe that in the first month or so of school I was feeling the same way that newly retired people feel during their first month of freedom.

A college school week turned my daily routines and sleep schedule upside down. I would wake up, shower, go to Spanish, get food, go to music class, go to the gym and then be back at my dorm; all before my friends in high school finished lunch! And on the days where I had late classes (my Tuesdays and Thursdays I only had one class, at 4 pm), I wouldn’t even wake up until about two o’clock. The amount of free time actually scared me a little bit. I had so much free time that I actually ran out of fun things to do.

The school week is great, but there is nothing like a weekend in college. The college school week may have turned my schedule upside down, but the weekend threw that schedule out the window.

It all starts on Friday. I would get back to the dorm anywhere between noon and three o’clock and from there I would look at my clock and time out the rest of my night. Alright, I have about three or four hours to take a nap and shower before heading to the hockey/basketball game, then I’ll come back to the dorm and get ready to go out to a party at around 10 or 11.

However, a major problem that I had in the beginning of school was that I had zero idea of where I was going at 10 or 11. In the beginning, I barely knew the kids in my dorm, let alone the upperclassmen who lived off campus and threw parties. At the beginning of the year getting into upperclassmen parties was an ordeal. Maybe a friend, whose rugby teammate’s older brother’s friend lived in the house, could let us in, or maybe we attempted to lie. (The lying happened far more often and nine times out of ten it didn’t work.) Then one day I got sick of the lies and I just approached the dude at the door and told him the truth: “I’m a freshman just trying to have a good time.” Not only did he let me in, but he gave me his cell phone number and to this day whenever he has a party he sends me an invite!

Also, I would like to go on record as saying that doing laundry in a dorm which houses over 400 people is the worst experience of my life! I have to walk down to the basement, sit down there and wait for an hour for the person’s clothes which are in the washer to finish, then wait another hour (per load of laundry I need to wash) for my clothes to wash, then another 45 minutes for a free dryer, then wait another 45 minutes per load for my clothes to finish then fold them up and bring everything back upstairs to my room. If I have done my math correctly two loads of laundry which should take maybe 90-100 minutes at the most, takes me up to three hours. And my clothes are still never fully dry! And don’t even get me started on having to pay for laundry!

Nevertheless here I am, a full semester of higher education under my belt. And as I sit in my room at home on winter break, recollecting my first semester at college, all I can think about is how awesome it was. Sure there were some things I would change or wish that I did differently, but I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences for the world.

Second semester, at least for me, is going to be an even bigger adventure as I hope to join the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club, start to plan for the spring concerts with the University’s Programming Council (UPC) and even hope to rush a fraternity! But for now I am home. And it’s time to sleep late, visit teachers, catch-up with high school friends, and, the hardest thing of all, try not to kill the next person who asks me “How is college/school?”

To all my parents/siblings/relatives reading this: obviously no two people are the same and my experiences could be completely different from other kids, however the common denominator we all share is that we have all been through a lot in the last 4-6 months. You should be very proud of us. We have worked very hard to create and keep a social life, join some clubs and, most importantly, make the grade. So let us sleep a little later than we used to in high school. Your child/relative/sibling will thank you. And above all else: avoid asking about school unless we bring it up. You will get the college stories, GPA report, and other information you are looking for. But you’ll get it when we are ready to talk about it and/or finish hiding the evidence of bad grades.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from Jacob and other 2013 graduates.