My first day of college was expectedly terrifying. I was terrifically self-aware—aware of my tie-dye T-shirt; aware that my parents’ comforting words would get me on a plane at 5 p.m.; and aware that I knew no one in a place that was to be my future home. I entered my room to find a bunk bed, hot air, and no fan or ac. But my room was to improve when one of my neighbors asked me to lunch. The conversation we shared was forgettable, but the sheer relief of actually engaging in a conversation with someone who wasn’t my mother or father was overwhelming.
My lunch date belonged to a larger system of neighbors I learned to call my “zee group.” The zee group is made up of 12-20 freshmen and one RCA (Residential College Adviser) who all live in close proximity to one another. I must admit that my zee group had little impact on my freshman year. I’m fairly suspicious when it comes to making friends; I don’t trust social systems of the sort, preferring to instead find my own friends. However, I would learn that other zee groups bonded harder than oxygen and hydrogen.
I surprised myself when I decided to become an RCA for Mathey College. My reasoning wasn’t entirely clear—I felt an undeniable pull to the position. Looking back on it, I think I was sick of the egocentricity of college life. I wanted people to need me on some fundamental level.
Well, I’m three quarters into my first year as an RCA, and so far so good. No deaths. No injuries. Some mangled pride. I like my zee group a lot—16 kids who are extraordinarily different from each other. Throughout the year, I learned wild things about them all. One has, like, 2,200 Twitter followers, and another holds the Ugandan record for the 50m butterfly. But more important, they all treat each other with respect, and they have found solace in being a small part of a larger group. The zee group system is not for everyone, nor is it Princeton telling you whom you should befriend. Rather, it’s a support system. The zee group and RCA are a way of making sure that incoming freshman are never truly alone.