The first year experience: a still hard-hitting, less undercover profile of year one

By Melanie Biles '18
Staff Writer

If I worked in Admissions, I would make a pamphlet about all of the most helpful things one should know before coming to Scripps. None of it would be logistical or concerned with academics or dorm life — there’s already plenty of information out there about all of that. No, instead, my pamphlet would include the most relevant advice like, “It is totally normal for the squirrels to lunge at you like that,” and, “Make friends in air-conditioned places,” and, “Do not — under any circumstances — go to lunch right at noon on days when first years have Core.”
Actually, there would probably be a lot of advice about Core. No Scripps experience is complete without the adventure that is the Core Curriculum, and yet there is little actual information out there ahead of time about what Core is. So far, it seems to just be a lot of having no idea whatsoever about what is happening.
If I had to summarize Core in one sentence, that sentence would probably be the length of Michel Foucault’s Discipline & Punish. It would also be just as complex as Michel Foucault’s Discipline & Punish. Core, I’ve learned, is an academic experiment in how much arbitrarily confounding material can be fit into the average eighteen-year-old girl’s head before she actually explodes. “Confounding material,” of course, does not just refer to theoretically-complicated books like Foucault’s but also to narratives like Jean Genet’s “The Thief’s Journal,” in which there are as many euphemisms for men sleeping with other men as there are aggressive squirrels at Scripps.
The Core theme this year is “Histories of the Present” with a specific focus on violence. While you, like me, may be wondering how the naked men in “The Thief’s Journal” relate to anything violent whatsoever, rest assured that after reading Foucault, it is impossible not to see violence everywhere. The coffee in your hand? Violence towards the barista. The textbook you are reading? Violence on the part of the professor. The fact that I had a deadline for this article? Definitely violence. Pretty much every part of life is a violent act intended to discipline everyone until individuality ceases to exist and we are all just part of one faceless society operating seamlessly to further the greater good. Or something.
In some ways, Core is a lot like the freshman experience in general. I am a fan of metaphors, and I think this is a good one (maybe not as good as Taylor Swift equating her fame to a guy walking around with a cat on his head but good nonetheless). In Core, and as a first year, you learn a lot of lessons that you never knew you needed but that end up being incredibly worthwhile. You are lost. You are confused. You interpret things incorrectly almost constantly. There is “no right answer,” but everyone else seems to know what it is. You have to be prepared to be really, really uncomfortable. Most of all, you have to remember that it will all be worth it in the end.