By Terri Yablonsky Stat, mother of Madison, SAR ’21
Now that we’re fully entrenched in summer, and I get to wish my daughter a good morning in person, as opposed to via text featuring my latest Bitmoji, I thought I’d reflect on what I learned over the past year and can pass on to parents of incoming freshmen.
The summer before your new high school graduate leaves for college is an intense one, filled with celebrations, cap throwing, parties, inspirational pep talks, words of wisdom, endless trips to Bed, Bath & Beyond, list making, and family time, before life as we know it changes so drastically. We’ve all heard stories about what will happen once our kids leave the nest. I’m happy to report back that all went well and we’re looking forward to sophomore year.
As the parent of an only child, I spent her entire senior year of high school imagining every possible scenario that could happen her first year away at college a thousand miles from home. What if she got sick? Would she make friends? Would she get involved on campus? Is the T safe? How fast can mono spread through a dorm? And what about that laundry?
As I look back, I realize some of my mental gymnastics were not necessary.
This is what I wish I’d known:
- Don’t over pack them. Seriously, they wear about one half of what gets packed. Dorm rooms are pretty tiny and can get cluttered fast. Not to mention what it’s like to move out all that stuff. Limit memorabilia to photos and a few reminders of home. Remember, there’s a Target on campus. And a CVS too.
- At move in, exchange phone numbers/email address with your student’s roommate and parents. It’s nice to know you have that information if ever necessary.
- Once your child turns 18, you no longer have the right to obtain information about them in a medical emergency. This is true even if your student is covered by your health insurance and you are paying the bill. Get a HIPAA authorization and medical power of attorney. Have these documents on your cell phone for ready access. Leave a copy with your student as well.
- Encourage your student to attend Splash, the annual “activity fair” that happens the first week of class on Nickerson Field. Your student can meet reps from various student organizations and clubs. There’s music, food, games and giveaways.
- Help them acclimate by limiting your texting/calls the first few weeks. Be there if they want to talk, but don’t bombard them with questions or frequent contact. Let them take the lead in how often they want to have contact. If you don’t hear from them, that most likely means they’re busy and engaged. Maybe schedule a time each day/week when you check in.
- Encourage your student to attend floor meetings. At times they may seem unnecessary but they provide opportunities to bond with your RA, learn about upcoming events and hang out with people on your floor.
- Talk about what they’ll do if they feel homesick. Suggest they leave their dorm room door open to meet others. They can FaceTime you or a friend from home, go work out at FitRec (Have you seen that place? There’s something for everyone), or talk to their RA. Tell them it’s normal to feel uncomfortable at first. It’s part of their adjustment and felt by every student to some degree, whether they admit it or not. It means they’re growing and changing. When it hits hard, talk about what to do if they need more support.
- When returning to campus following winter break (and a month at home), your student may experience a bit of a slump, a re-entry, shall we say. Over break they see their high school friends, the family pet and the comforts of home. When they head back to school, BOOM, they regress. Tell your student about this phenomenon. If they’re aware of it, they can better manage it. It may not happen. If it does, tell them to stay busy and it will pass. When you stop hearing about it, you’ll know it’s passed.
Now go enjoy your summer, move-in day will be here before you know it!
The beginning of each school year starts with opportunities as well as challenges. When your student begins his/her freshman year, you are well aware of these transitions. Of course your first year student will be meeting new friends, living in a dorm, finding their way around campus, figuring out time management and school/life balance, as well as navigating the city of Boston.
Your awareness of these new challenges and preparedness for them, help to ease this transition period. What may take parents/guardians by surprise is that each year comes with new opportunities, challenges, transitions, and re-starts.
If you have a sophomore this year, your student may be apprehensive to begin. This time of transition is often missed and/or difficult to anticipate.
I must admit that I was unprepared for my daughter’s transition to sophomore year. I thought after being on the BU campus for eight plus months she had it all figured out. She had a group of friends, was in her second year in the College of General Studies (CGS), knew her way around campus, and was well acclimated with Boston. That said, the beginning of sophomore year wasn’t easy for my daughter. She was indeed apprehensive to begin again.
After some pressing, she confided that her freshman year friends, were friends based upon location—they all lived in the same dorm or went to the same school. They were not necessarily friends with mutual interests, values, and goals. Instead they clung to each other, happy to have someone to go to the dining hall with but yearning for more fulfilling connections. She also confessed that she hadn’t taken advantage of extracurricular activities on campus. I was surprised to learn of this aspect of her freshman year as she had always been so social in high school. Finally, she admitted that she hadn’t done as well academically as she had hoped during her first year.
She was being hard on herself, her own worst critic. I advised my daughter that this was the perfect time for a re-start. She was in a new dorm with a roommate she had selected—together they could meet many new friends, join different clubs and organizations, and create a more fulfilling social network.
She also had better understanding of the academic rigor on campus, how to balance her academic work and social activities and she was more prepared to ask for help with her academics. She had learned that resources such as academic advisors, professors, and tutors at the Education Resource Center (ERC) were at her disposal and willing and able to help her—all she needed to do was ask for help.
When I left her on campus after move-in, I too was apprehensive. As I said, I was surprised by her nervousness but having freshman experiences which did not meet my daughter’s expectations created a foundation to build upon her sophomore year, and it was exciting to follow her next chapter.
Here’s how you can support your sophomore:
• Be a good listener.
• Let your daughter/son know they should not let their freshman year define them.
• Encourage a re-start and take advantage of a new school year and new beginnings. Encourage him/her to attend events, hall meetings, to explore Boston, and to join different clubs and organizations.
• If your student feels they haven’t made the friends they envisioned then take advantage of attending some of the many events on campus, they may just meet a new friend!
• Talk with your student about taking advantage of all the academic support services BU offers through the ERC, new beginnings are a terrific time to explore what BU has to offer to set them up for success.
Each new school year is greeted with excitement and apprehensions, remember the value of a re-start, and enjoy the next chapter of the BU experience!
So what is all the fuss about Patriots’ Day?
Why is my student skipping a lovely home cooked dinner (and the chocolate bunny I bought her for Easter) to stay in Boston? I just don’t get it.
Those were my thoughts when my daughter, as a sophomore, skipped a chance to come home for the weekend because Patriots’ Day was Monday (always the third Monday in April) and she had “a lot of end-of-semester work to get done first.” Not a rookie, let’s call her a novice, on the scene that year. Turns out I was the Patriots’ Day rookie. I’ll bet there are other rookies out there, so I’ll take a minute here to get you up to speed.
Patriots’ Day is an official state holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Maine too, by the way) commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord of the American Revolutionary War. Since it is always a three day weekend, it is a great time to celebrate, right?
On April 19, 1897, it all got better as the first Boston Marathon became an official Patriots’ Day event. Marathon Monday was born and it was a game changer. The Marathon runs through 8 cities and towns, starting in Hopkinton and ending in Boston’s Copley Square right smack dab in front of the Boston Public Library. To cheer on the runners, Marathon supporters line the route, which includes a large section of Beacon Street into Commonwealth Avenue at Kenmore Square, all the way from beginning to end. The Marathon is just a few short steps from Boston University’s Charles River campus. How cool is that?
Starting times from 8:50 AM to 11:15 AM ensure that waves of runners will pass by all morning and most of the afternoon. This is the only day of the year that your students will willingly get up at dawn, heading out with all their friends to “get their spot to view the Marathon and have breakfast” (or so my daughter said).
In 1960, to add to the absolute joy and chaos of Marathon Monday, the Boston Red Sox started playing a home game at Fenway Park at 11 AM. I guess, they thought more people in Kenmore Square would be a good thing.
Despite all of the happenings, here’s the real secret of Patriots’ Day Weekend: it is our Rite of Spring. The weekend has at least a shot at being sunny . . . and sometimes even warm. It is a shorts-come-out, where-are-those-flip-flops, will-I-need-sun-screen kind of day (please remind your students to wear sunscreen). There are more sunburns on campus the day after Patriots’ Day than there are on the entire Cape on 4th of July Weekend.
Patriots’ Day is special to anyone who experiences it, which is why my daughter knew exactly what was coming in her sophomore year and chose to experience it again. Wouldn’t you?
And don’t worry about the “celebration” part (please encourage your students to be responsible and to make wise decisions). Any student knows that getting up that early, expending all that Marathon Monday morning energy, requires stamina . . . and a nap. They will all be tucked away in their beds, safely snoring, by 3 PM. Then it’s back to the business at hand on Tuesday and most of them will show up to class well rested.
Happy Patriots’ Day, everyone. Enjoy Boston’s Marathon Monday . . . wherever you are.
Photo compliments of Dean Daryl DeLuca
When President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama invite you to their winter reception—your heart skips a beat. When you realize that flying all fifteen members of your student group—The Boston University Allegrettos—is a financial impossibility, your heart drops.
This is exactly what happened to Joon Choi (CAS’17), president of the BU Allegrettos. He realized members would not be able to afford their flights to Washington, D.C., much less hotel accommodations or even spending money.
As the leader of the group, Joon put together a budget for the trip and set up a meeting with Associate Provost and Dean of Students Kenn Elmore. He was quickly reassured that Dean Elmore could help—the Allegrettos would not miss the opportunity to perform at the 2016 Obama Winter Reception!
Dean Elmore used money from the Student Life Fund to pay for the students’ airfare, to ensure that the students in need would have pocket money for the basic necessities, and paid for the ground transportation to and from the White House. Dean Elmore also used his connections to secure accommodations for the students at the home of a BU alum.
When you receive the opportunity of a lifetime, let your heart skip, the Student Life Division is committed to supporting students throughout their BU journeys, particularly to the White House.
When Associate Dean of Students Steve Singer was growing up, his Mom always told him to “treat people, like people.”
After finding a young man, sleeping on a couch in the George Sherman Union (GSU) several mornings in a row, Steve decided to take his Mom’s advice. Steve approached the young man and asked the individual, David, if he was ok.
David admitted that he was a Boston University student but not in the traditional sense—he was homeless. David earned some money working nights but when his work was finished, David found himself wandering the streets until the GSU opened at 7 a.m. It was only then, in the security of the GSU, that David got some meaningful rest for a few hours before class.
Dean Singer gathered that David had very little money for food or clothes, not to mention textbooks. Steve assured David that the Dean of Students’ Office could help him. Dean Singer used money from the Student Life Fund to pay for David’s textbooks, set up a meal plan, purchase well-needed clothing, and put down a deposit for an off-campus apartment.
The Student Life Fund, through the generosity of our donors, provided David with life’s most basic necessities. David already possessed perhaps the most important traits of a BU student: intelligence, ambition and the self-motivation to get-ahead. David successfully negotiated academic life and is now a graduate of Boston University.
Thanksgiving has passed with a flourish and all is back to normal at BU, if anything is normal during the holiday season. As a parent it is hard not to wonder what just happened. The Thanksgiving break flew by quickly and probably not as planned. I recently read a blog by the mom of a freshman who was anticipating her daughter’s return to the fold with lists of what they would do together, who they would see, and what they would eat. I hope it happened for her, but I am betting it did not—so it might be time to reflect a little.
Your BU student probably arrived home, hugged everyone, and then grabbed the car keys. Not an uncommon occurrence but certainly a little disconcerting for the parent who had waited all day for that smiling face to warm the kitchen. But time is so short and the break is so busy with family traditions and high school friends that you may not have had the opportunity to catch–up.
Instead you probably saw flashes of a new, opinionated, more grown–up son or daughter who has almost a full semester or more of college under his/her belt. Bet it made you proud. I would always marvel at the changes in my kids that I spotted during the holidays. This is why they are away at school, I would tell myself. Be happy. But different they were. (By the way, so were you and the rest of your family. Some of those changes may have come as quite the surprise to your student.)
And now they are back at BU to end the semester, and what a semester it has been. Not one of our easy, quiet ones, for sure. Added to all the typical experiences of a fall semester (classes, papers, tests, new expectations, roommates, new friends, activities, etc.) we had a very spirited national election, more news of terrorism, continued instability in the Middle East, a hoax on our own campus, and now the incident at Ohio State. The world outside of BU and the world on our campus have collided rather loudly in our students’ heads. Life has become very real here. Plus, we are coming to the most intense part of any semester, the last classes, projects, and final exams. The final push pressure is palpable. It is crunch time. Our students have disappeared into the three week storm that is December.
Now the good news . . . it will all be over soon. Your students will be home in no time, warming your kitchen with his/her smile. This vacation is longer. Now there is some real time for reacquainting yourself with the new, more grown up version of your son or daughter. Yes, there may even be enough time for a list or two. You may even want to include them in the planning. Oh, but not before their last exam. They’re busy now with getting real and may be a little hard to contact.
Happy holidays to all from the BU Parent Program.
For the first time, we are livestreaming Family and Friends Weekend events! Four events will be available for those of you who can’t make it to campus. They are:
・Let Go, but Keep in Touch – Friday, 3-4pm via Facebook Live on the Parents Program Facebook page
・Men’s Hockey vs. Sacred Heart – Friday, 7:30pm via BU Athletics
・13 Hours in Benghazi – Saturday, 10-11am via Facebook Live on the Parents Program Facebook page
・Men’s Hockey vs. Quinnipiac – Saturday, 7pm via BU Athletics.
Due to technical difficulties, the previously planned Dear Abbeys livestream will not occur. We will be livestreaming a future concert of their’s to make up for it. We apologize.
If you have any questions regarding these livestreams, please contact email@example.com. We hope you enjoy our first attempts at providing these events to you remotely, and we hope that this is just the beginning!
As a parent of two BU students and an empty-nester, I have learned a thing or two about parenting college age students. Before the academic year begins, I wanted to share with you that there will be bumps during this period of transition. My best advice, in anticipation of these bumps is to, of course, slow down but also to be prepared.
Let’s face it, during the first semester, you will inevitably get a late night phone call from your student such as:
• I need you to send me . . .
• I’ll never get along with my roommate . . .
• I’m homesick . . .
• I think I’m getting the flu . . .
You will be awake all night long worrying about your student and thinking about possible solutions to the problem at hand. It will feel great to be able to handle some of these bumps.
For example, trust the information you received during Summer Orientation.
- You’ve made copies of your student’s pertinent information in case of the loss of IDs, etc.
- You know the Office of Residence Life will help guide your student through any roommate issues that may arise.
- Homesickness is normal. Encourage your student to join a student club/organization, to volunteer with the Community Service Center, or attend an event at the Howard Thurman Center.
- Student Health Services is available to all BU students and nurse practitioners are on-call.
If you don’t have an answer for the panicked, late night phone call (note, your student will likely not even remember what the problem is/was the next morning), become familiar with the BU website, know the resources available to your student, call the Parents Program, or post a question on the Facebook page.
I’ll never forget my daughter calling me, I could sense the extreme frustration in her voice, “Mom, I’m never going to be able to get above a B grade on my papers. I’ve tried my hardest and it’s just never going to happen.”
She was very surprised when I asked her if she had contacted the Educational Resource Center to use their writing assistance services. She could not believe that I actually knew about a resource available to BU students before she did.
You should also get a better understanding of what your student is talking about or referring to—for example what does a student mean when he or she says “we are meeting friends at 100 BSR, to take the “T” from Kenmore Square to the MFA for a CAS class before a meeting with an RA in StuVi I?”
My advice to you is—learn BU’s, and Boston’s for that matter, acronyms. The Parents Program has a great guide for you and your student will be impressed with your new found lingo!
Before you know it, you are at BU, being directed to pull up curbside at the designated dorm, volunteers help unload all the items into these huge rolling carts, and your student is moving into his/her dorm room, finally! Be prepared to be scooted out of the room immediately after your help is no longer needed, after all activities are happening, friends are eager to meet each other, and are waiting for them in their new home away from home. Don’t worry—your fellow Terrier parents will be waiting for you in the BU Pub at the Parent Pit Stop, tissues provided!
Sure there will admittedly be some bumps in the road. I worried so much, and I still do sometimes but I wake-up each morning to BU Today in my Inbox. I am awed by all of the opportunities that lie ahead for my Terriers and the resources that are available to them.
Good luck! Enjoy! Slow down.
– Anonymous BU Parent, CGS’17, BU’19
Have you heard talk of moving off-campus—living in Allston or Brighton? It is helpful to know how off-campus living impacts your student. The pros we know—a house full of friends, autonomy, and independence. But what about the practicalities?
Our son called and told us he was heading off-campus sophomore year. We set our sights on finding out what questions to ask.
A great resource is Kim Santo and Off-Campus Services. Our thanks to Christy Loring at the Parents Program for pointing us in her direction.
A great way to have your student ‘test the waters’ is to suggest that he or she travels to the apartment or house—particularly on a miserable day. Our son found he was between T stops and his stop was exposed with nowhere to retreat in rain or snow. He also discovered that his route was slow with numerous stops. Getting to and from campus might be a bit of a hike. Have your student think about how to manage the extra commute time and whether it will require staying on campus all day rather than having the option to return home.
Of course you want them to think about food preparation, grocery shopping, parking, paying bills, and the location of the nearest laundromat.
The press has stories about security problems off campus. Break-ins are an issue. For on-campus housing, the BU police respond. For off-campus housing, the Boston police department is involved and can lead to formal police reports and investigations.
There is also the issue of safety. Are fire alarms and smoke detectors installed? Are there sprinklers and fire escapes? How quickly will the landlord respond to maintenance issues? Will plumbing problems be fixed or will broken appliances be replaced promptly?
For us the clincher was that once a student leaves BU housing, they are out of the system with no guarantee of being able to secure BU on-campus housing in the future. Advice we got was that it was nearly impossible to re-enter BU housing in the fall and very difficult in the spring.
But for our son not being able to roll out of bed and be in class with little effort made the decision.
We were pleased that our son made the decision he did but your student may have different priorities. Off-campus housing may be perfect for yours but it makes sense for them to consider all the issues before they decide.
by Jeanne Knox, Chairman, Parents Leadership Council
This is a question that can’t help but flutter through your mind occasionally as a BU parent, especially after a not so cheery chat with your BU student on a very grey, windy Tuesday in the middle of February. As a matter of fact, it is inevitable to think that. And, of course, as a parent we want to either make that feeling go away . . . good luck with that . . . or do something to make BU a little less lonely for them. It’s what we do. But in my experience, the “lonely” word is a little too easy to hang onto a mid-spring semester BU student. Let’s look a little deeper.
While the powers-that-be call it “spring” semester, spring does not arrive here in Boston until the semester is over and your student is safely tucked into his home bed, room in disarray, sleeping until noon and driving you crazy. Here in Boston, the endless tunnel that is winter is just getting started, and there is no light at the end. It’s cold, snowy, rainy, windy and dark, sometimes all at once. Going to class, the dining hall, the library or anywhere else is a lesson in layers (waterproof hats, gloves, boots, fleeces, Under Armour®, etc.), luggage, hot coffee (as a hand-warmer, of course) and those ever present cell phones. Backpacks become epic in size as everyone loads them up with everything needed for both the 9 am and the 4 pm. A quick trip to the dorm room on west campus between classes becomes a nightmare so students hunker down in the GSU rather than face the BU Bridge. This is winter, not loneliness.
Now let’s look at that “mid.” It’s actually early in the semester, not mid, nor spring break, just another day, another week. It is certainly not a period of high-stress (finals, major papers, or presentations) or crazy student fun. The Beanpot is over. St. Pat’s is a month away (Boston loves St. Patrick’s Day). And Red Sox games and Marathon Monday are warm thoughts over coffee with friends. This time of year is just about doing what seems to come naturally to BU students . . . studying, congregating, working, life in general. Is this life lonely? Probably not.
And those friends? BU students know tons of people. Other students, friends of other students, professors, and administrators move through their lives every day. This is really why most of them chose BU. We are big, with lots of people to meet, lots of things to do. But have they all found a BFF to replace their high school BFF (why replace them, anyway?) or the “squad” that they might take throughout the rest of their lives (as in my husband’s squad that seems to spend more and more time under my roof when they were just invited for New Year’s Eve)? Probably not? Those friendships take time. But they happen. They will find their place and their passion as they proceed deeper into their studies and their friendships. Is this loneliness? Doubt it.
And then, is there little homesickness thrown in here? For sure. And you would hate it if they didn’t miss you at all. So what can you do? Remember, you already did the biggest part of your job when you took that call and listened. Say it out loud and the feeling goes away. Thanks, mom and dad. And you could always throw in a surprise from home, a care package, with a favorite candy or some thermal earmuffs, is a welcome sight when winter boredom sets in. A simple text saying how genuinely proud you are of them (and you are, admit it) can go a long way toward making it look a little less grey outside that window. And so it goes. It’s that life thing again. Is your student’s life lonely? Maybe a little. But is your student living the life they chose? Most definitely. And, they will be better for it.