Welcome to RPI, Class of 2013! As you go through orientation, you will get lots of advice on how to go about your four (or five, or six, or seven …) years here. You will hear both the cliché and the useful, but I would like to offer a few bits of knowledge from my experiences so far.
Scenario One: You are walking down the hallway of your residence hall and hear some music you like playing through someone’s open door or hear the theme song to a favorite TV show or hear the whirring chainsaws of your favorite video game.
Advice: Stop in and say hello. Strike up a conversation about the music/show/game and be social. I know that, as RPI students, we use the stereotype of a nerd as an excuse for not socializing from time to time; however, trust me, you’ll regret it later.
Scenario Two: You woke up at 9 am on a weekend and you’re bored.
Advice: Take advantage of the surrounding area. I know the Capital District doesn’t offer everything that NYC offers, but there are some hidden gems if you look. Colonie Center and Crossgates Mall (forty minutes and an hour away via bus, respectively) are the default trips to take, but there are more creative things too—and closer at that! Troy isn’t as scary as it looks at first glance—it is a small city, but it has the atmosphere of a much closer community.
Take advantage of the year-round Troy Farmers Market downtown on Saturday mornings and wander around the surrounding streets afterward. There are lots of things to do downtown, from the Antique District to Little Italy (which is home to an amazing little gelato shop and the delicious DeFazzio’s pizza) to the many random shops—you’ll find a new one each time you walk around. Try the numerous cafés—bring some homework or reading to do, and enjoy some coffee or a latte for an hour away from campus. Take a walk to the Poestenkill Gorge, which is only about 15 minutes from campus off Linden Avenue, or visit Prospect Park on Congress Street, which has an amazing view of downtown and is also just a short walk from campus. Visit downtown Albany with a ride on the 22 CDTA bus (all buses that stop in Troy are free with your student ID); Lark Street is another cool spot to explore (LarkFest in September can be pretty epic). Visit the Peeble’s Island State Park with a ride to Lansingburgh on the 85 bus. See what’s going on at the Experimental and Performing Arts Center or take a look at our “What’s Happening” page to see what’s going on with clubs on campus or at local venues that weekend. There’s lots to do, so avoid complaining about boredom!
Scenario Three: You aren’t happy with your major.
Advice: Don’t wait and hope it just gets better. Talk to your advisors or professors in the department to see what other classes you’ll be taking and see if you think you will enjoy those. If not, change your major as soon as possible to something you will enjoy. I know people frown on this advice, but it’s far worse to end up realizing senior year that you should have switched from major X to major Y. Four years is a long time if you’re not doing something you like.
Say you realize you won’t be in any lab classes for most of your time at RPI (or you just want more experience). Then, find an undergraduate research position. The education at RPI is what you actively make of it; if you don’t try to get involved, opportunities won’t present themselves. Remember that you’re also paying $38,100 for tuition, so take advantage of office hours, supplemental instruction, and electives!
In short, RPI is what you make of it. It took me three years to figure this out, so I’m giving you guys a heads up from my experiences (and experiences I’ve seen from friends)! Break stereotypes, try something out-of-the-box, get involved, don’t shut yourself away in your room playing WoW. Most importantly, however, keep an open mind and take advantage of everything that the ’Tute can offer!