hello i was really inspired by elsewhere university so i wrote what could be considered a first person account of a freshman? i hope you like it!!!
You apply to college because you know you’re supposed to. You’re not sure if you’re ready for it, though. In the past, your grades have fluctuated because you have executive dysfunction and also you never learned how to study. Smart kid problems, your dad always said.
You only apply to one college. If you don’t get in, you’re going to take a year off from school. You don’t really know what you’ll do, but you’ll figure it out. You apply to one of the most prestigious schools in the world: Elsewhere University.
Elsewhere University is a lot like any other university, from what you understand. You did your research. There’s weird rules, and there’s a whole blog dedicated to the culture surrounding that particular school. There’s something in each post that makes you think that there’s something the authors aren’t saying, but you never get a response when you ask in the comments or by emailing. One woman replied, but all she said was, “Be careful, but it’s a good school. I highly recommend it.”
You tried to find pass/fail rates of the school, but you can’t find anything. Apparently nobody fails out of Elsewhere university, only drops out or disappears. In fact, there’s a strangely high amount of disappearances from Elsewhere University that nobody seems to be making a fuss about. You almost regret applying when you learn about that.
Your best friend’s sister’s girlfriend graduated from Elsewhere U, so you ask your best friend to put you in contact with her. She does. Her sister’s girlfriend gives you a load of advice, and also highly recommends the school. She tells you that it’s an actual fact that nobody fails out of Elsewhere University, but that lots drop out or vanish. She says “vanish” a little wistfully, and you remember that time about five years ago when she’d vanished for a week, but then showed back up weirdly wiser and cleverer. You don’t ask about it.
Her advice consists of weird superstitions that she swears by: keep a bit of iron tucked away, carry some salt with you, and to carry candy and sweets with you. She doesn’t explain why, but you pack an old horseshoe, a container of salt, and your entire stash of candy.
She also gives you a list of rules.
- Don’t eat anything they give you.
- Be polite to them.
- Don’t break any promises to them.
- Be careful making deals with them.
- Don’t say “I’m sorry,” say “Pardon me.” Also, don’t say “Thank you,” say “I appreciate it”
- Be nice to plants and animals.
- Feed the crows.
You have no idea what any of that means, but you know that you will soon. You thank her for her advice. It’s an easy job to type up the list of rules she gave you and turn it into your new background. You have trouble with social stuff, so having a list of rules is a godsend.
Your grandpa takes you down to your school. You don’t really know where it is, but his GPS knows where to go apparently. You have no idea how long the ride is. It feels like forever, and you start to worry about your fish. The GPS says you’ll be there in an hour. The GPS said you’d be there in an hour, an hour ago. You hope your betta fish will be okay. He’s been in his travel container for what feels like too long.
When you arrive, there’s a group of volunteers helping people like you move in. A team of three grabs up all of your stuff. You carry your fish and your newly acquired keys. The volunteer who signs you in warns you to keep track of your keys, that They can beep into the dorms and will raid your room for shiny stuff. You ask what she means. She shakes her head and calls you a freshie. You don’t ask again.
The three who help you take your stuff to your room give you advice. The girl tells you to stay away from the library and the dining hall at 3am. The boy tells you not to make deals at the point where two crosswalks create a crossroads in front of the Briggs building.
The person of indeterminate gender asks you what your major is, and when you tell them you’re thinking about creative writing, they tell you to be extremely careful and to never accept food from strangers under any circumstances and to be careful in even the dining hall and that if you can’t be absolutely sure that whoever is giving you food is human and to politely reject it otherwise and also don’t let the Fair Folk critique your stories because they’ll consider that a favor and you don’t want to owe them a favor and-
The girl hisses at them to shut up, that they’re scaring you. She’s not wrong. You want to hear more, though, so the person of indeterminate gender who tells you to call them Jules. You have a feeling that Jules isn’t their birth name. You tell them to call you by the nickname your friend gave you. They grin at you and say you’re already learning.
The trio leaves you in your room, alone. Your roommate isn’t here yet. You take the side of the room with the comfy chair, but leave them the good wardrobe. You feel like that’s a fair trade. It doesn’t take you long to unpack, and by the time your roommate shows up, all you’re doing is putting up your last poster (a Captain America “propaganda” poster).
She gives your poster a disgusted look. You say hello. She says hello back. She doesn’t thank the volunteers when they leave. She sets up her side of the room quickly, and complains about her wardrobe being slightly tilted. You point out that yours doesn’t close all the way. She scoffs, but quits complaining.
You never really get to like your roommate. She’s out all the time, she joins a sorority, and when she is in the room, her boyfriend is with her. Having him in the room makes you itch. He’s a nice guy, but something about him makes you dislike him instantly.
You stay polite, but when she vanishes, you aren’t really concerned. She’s often gone for a night or two. It’s only on the third night that you think you should probably report that she’s gone.
You knock on the RA’s door before your first class. She’s half asleep and tells you she’ll look into it, but that if your roommate shows up on her own to tell her. Oh and, she adds, if she comes back weird, be careful, Freshie.
Your roommate never comes back. Your RA shows up at your door after two weeks with a teary-eyed middle aged couple to pack her stuff up. You leave for the library with a thin excuse. You try to avoid the library, but it’s a good place to go when it’s nine at night and nothing is open except the student union. You already ate tonight, and going to the student union always makes you hungry, even when you’ve just eaten. The library is safer on your wallet.
You linger for an hour and a half. Half of your homework is done, including that essay you were sure would take you days to finish. You think you might come to the library more often after this.
When you return to your dorm, you pass by your RA’s open door. She said to leave the half of the room that isn’t yours empty, that you’d be getting a new roommate soon. You agree easily. You hope this next roommate is nicer than the last one. One of your classmates, who only goes by Elly, says that her roommate was replaced by something that looked just like them, but acted wrong. A junior hushed her, but it was enough to leave you thankful that your roommate had just vanished.
The next morning, you give one of the campus crows a slice of ham from your sandwich. It bows its head in thanks. It flies away after that. You decide to keep feeding the crows. You’ve always been superstitious, and it’s always good to have crows on your side, right? Your best friend’s sister’s girlfriend even said to feed the crows. Even if it’s just mumbo-jumbo, it can’t hurt, right?
You feed the crows. You go to class. You eat dinner in the dining hall, and only take food that’s being served by the workers who are clearly human. You don’t look at the shadowy figures when you go to your night class. You don’t speak to the cloaked figures you see at all times of the day, but you nod politely in passing. You never say thank you, or I’m sorry. You follow the rules, and when time comes that someone who doesn’t look quite right stops you at the crossed sidewalk in front of the O’Brien building, you carefully only offer a handful of candy in exchange for the study guide the stranger offers you. They happily accept the candy, and you happily go over your new guide.
You like Elsewhere University. Your classes are going great, you have a few friends, and you’re starting to understand what’s going on around campus.
You feel like you’re going to do just fine here.