Before coming to RIT, I only briefly walked through parts of the campus once. My college decision was pretty last minute, so I didn’t even go to accepted students day (if you have the opportunity to go, don’t pass it up!). This made my first week nerve-racking. I barely knew any of the building or dorm names, let alone remembered how to walk to them. When my parents left after moving me into my first-year dorm, I was confident that I’d be able to navigate my way around. I figured it couldn’t be too hard. I was mistaken.
The first day after orientation, I walked from Global Village to reach my dorm room. I was familiar with the quarter mile and knew that path would lead me to dormside. When I reached the residential halls, I walked outside from sign to sign to sign trying to find the one that read “Gibson Hall.” It felt like I was walking for hours. Eventually, I called my mom crying, explaining how lost and panicked I was. She told me to take a few deep breaths and ask someone around me if they knew where my dorm was. I told her that was the most horrific, embarrassing, and terrible idea I had ever heard. I was too nervous to talk to anyone, especially after crying. I stayed on the phone with her and wandered around for a few more minutes until I finally found my hall. I’ve since concluded that I was overtired and stressed with all the nerve-racking feelings that come with being away from home for the first time.
The campus certainly isn't a maze, there are signs all around, and other students are more than happy to help you without judgment. Nonetheless, I know the stress that comes with starting college, even if you aren’t expecting it, so here are my best tips that helped me navigate my first week without a second crying phone call to my mom:
1. Use a Maps App
This would have solved the lost dorm problem on my first day. Surprisingly, you can type in any building to Apple Maps and it will accurately give you walking directions from your current location to your destination. The Google Maps app works in the same way and is a great alternative for Android users. I used this frequently and would check my phone occasionally while walking to be sure I was headed to the right area.
2. Study RIT's Campus Map
If you’re not the biggest fan of Apple or Google Maps, RIT has its own campus map. It gives categories to find dining, study areas, parking, and buildings. I added it right to my phone’s home screen for easy access.
3. Ask Someone for Help
Yes, this may be biased, but RIT truly has such kind and friendly students and professors. There were times I felt embarrassed to ask where a classroom or building was, like it would target me as a first-year, but every time I was proven wrong by a warm stranger who led me in the right direction without a second of judgment.
4. Take a Walk on Campus Before Classes Start
Your orientation leader will offer to meet the group for an optional building walkthrough during your first week. Take advantage of this! My leader, Ben, showed me every single building on my schedule and explained the fastest path to my next class. It was super helpful and definitely put my mind at ease the night before my first day as a college student. I was also able to ask any remaining questions I had about RIT during this time, making it even more beneficial.
5. Just Keep Walking
I used this method mainly to find lectures or classrooms within a building. The first number of the room is always the floor number. If the room was 206, I walked around the second floor until I could find it. I suggest leaving your dorm a bit earlier in the morning to have time to wander. After the first day of a class, you’ll remember its location for next time.
Even though RIT’s campus is a large one, it’s more contained than other spread-out city campuses. This is one of my favorite things about it. Sure, you can get lost, but not too lost. It creates a sense of community, like RIT is its own town inside of Rochester. I’ve walked back to my dorm from other residential halls and from the library at very late hours, but I’ve never felt unsafe. Because it’s more enclosed, the campus feels homier than I ever would have expected. The first days can be intimidating, but follow these steps and you’ll confidently know your way around within a week.