The freshman Drexel experience | The Triangle

The freshman Drexel experience

Justin Roczniak


So you came to Drexel University. Maybe you came for co-op, maybe you came for the education, or maybe you came for the scenery. The oil refineries all lit up at night are beautiful, don’t you think? At any rate, you’re here, you’re a freshman and you probably have no idea what you’re doing. Questions fill the mind of the concerned freshman:

“Am I fitting in okay?”

“Are my professors going to grade hard?”

“What clubs should I join?”

“Why am I reading the college newspaper and not at an awesome college party having sex right now?”

These questions cannot be easily answered, except through experience, “The Drexel Experience,” that is.

“Is that like the Jimi Hendrix Experience?”

No, it’s not.

What is “The Drexel Experience?” Perhaps the easiest way to explain it would be to take a look at mine so far.

Move-in day came first. Well, that was always going to be a mess. Through a feat of superhuman strength and agility, my family and I managed to move me within the allotted 20 minutes without being towed. Then we had lunch, and they left. All right, what now?

Minecraft, of course.

By the second day, playing Minecraft alone in my dorm had lost some appeal for me, so I decided to go out and explore Philadelphia. I would make a simple loop through town on SEPTA. It seemed easy enough to me: take the Market-Frankford Line to 69th Street, take the Norristown High Speed Line to Norristown and then take regional rail back to the city center.

What they didn’t tell me is that that entire route runs through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Formerly beautiful 19th century townhouses were rotting to pieces from 44th Street to 60th Street. Enormous and stately civic buildings lay abandoned and in ruins. I witnessed carjackings in progress from the subway train.

North Philadelphia was worse. Abandoned and overgrown factories dotted the barren landscape. Whole blocks of houses stood boarded up and empty. Faded advertisements from the 1950s encouraged me to install asbestos in my home and to vote for Adlai Stevenson. Lost and confused Temple University freshmen wandered the otherwise vacant streets, searching in vain for someone to ask for directions back to campus. Plumes of black smoke on the horizon rose from structural fires in neighborhoods too dangerous for the fire department to enter. Roofs and facades collapsed into rubble from the vibrations caused by the train.

What is this, Detroit?

Next on the list is the dining hall. Handschumacher Dining Hall is as crowded as its name is unpronounceable. Signs encourage students to “go green” by skipping the trays. I do go green most days — not by choice, mind you, but because there are no trays left. Because I’m a freshman with no friends, the main source of entertainment during mealtime is the TVs playing strange music videos. Is that really Insane Clown Posse up there? How does mtvU work? (Probably with magnets, I guess.)

Next, it was on to the classes. I tried to pay attention in my first lecture. I really did. I even brought an ordinary notebook to write in and not a laptop so I wouldn’t get distracted. But Chem 101 can only be so interesting … and hey, that guy is playing “Angry Birds” there! The rest of the lecture was a blur. My thoughts proceeded somewhat like this:

Wow, how’d he get stuck on that level? It only took me three tries to beat it with three stars. What is he, a moron?

Wow, a lot of people in here have Apple laptops. What hipsters! (Sent from my iPad)

Hey, I can count at least 12 people in front of me on Facebook. That guy over there is on Skype, even. Doesn’t anyone here pay attention?

That was all I got out of my first lecture.

Then came the inevitable trip down to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Before that trip, I felt pretty good about the Drexel campus. Then I saw UPenn. The new buildings are newer, the old buildings are older, the dorms look like fashionable hotels from the future and they have a grocery store right on campus (underneath a dorm, for heaven’s sake). Their distinguished 120-year-old educational buildings overlook leafy quads, and ivy-covered halls of varying vintages house ancient and venerated educational programs in every field imaginable.

Meanwhile, at Drexel, we have a Taco Bell in the library.

I imagine this parallels the experience many freshmen have had in their first weeks at Drexel. “The Drexel Experience” truly is a unique one, one that cannot be taught in a class by the same name. The terror and disappointment must be seen firsthand.

I’d encourage you all to go explore the campus and greater Philadelphia yourselves, but it will only lead to nightmares. I’m currently emailing this to my editor from an unused corridor somewhere in the depths of the Main Building, because I haven’t been able to find an exit in 14 hours. Wish me luck, in case I’m still there when this is published.


Justin Roczniak is a freshman majoring in civil engineering. He can be reached at