Most college students have had sex. Most drink. Many, at times, feel overwhelmed or depressed.

And, with rare exception, no one talks about it.

“We don’t really want to hear it,” said Robert Dana, dean of students at the University of Maine. Through years of research, he’s built a reputation as a college lifestyle guru. “Any real adult issue, we don’t really like to talk about. People have their eyes closed in the dark — maybe in this person’s backyard, but not mine.”

Sex, drugs, alcohol, depression and peer pressure are part of the college experience left off any syllabus or admissions’ brochure, given a certain unknown, unasked mystique.

So we asked.

As part of Following the Freshmen, a Sun Journal project that’s chronicling 15 western and central Maine students in their first year of college, we asked:

How easy is it to find alcohol?

How common are one-night stands?

Are some students depressed?

Nine students gave candid assessments.

It’s an invaluable glimpse into the teenage mind, and into what happens on campus when class is out and no one is looking. And into those first steps toward adulthood and maturity.

Or not.

College is about finding balance between work and recreation, about developing a unique identity, about deciding who you are and what you like, counsels Dana.

“A vast majority succeed and do very well. Some stumble, fall down and get up. Some fall down and are helped up,” he said. “You can’t be a passive bystander here, because college will knock you off your stoop.”

For their experiences, in their own words, read on. (Questions and answers were edited for space.)

It’s Saturday night. If you had the urge to go to a party with alcohol, would you know where to go? What if you wanted alcohol bought for you?

“If one wants it, they can find it. There are at least three big keggers every weekend in the dorm common rooms. And if you want anything other than keg beer, you just ask an upper classman boy. They’ll do what they can for freshmen girls.” Elizabeth Mitchell, Connecticut College

“There are two people on our floor that are 21 (my roommate included) and they are both pretty friendly, so I guess they would be the people I would ask. Not that I do, but that’s how most of the alcohol my friends drink gets into their hands. The first weekend back (from winter break), one of the 21-year-olds bought $360 worth of beer and liquor for himself and for floormates!” Brian Erickson, University of Maine, Orono

“Many places don’t card, but even then, most people have fake IDs. I have a lot of friends from other countries who can drink when they’re 18 at home, and they all have fake IDs. They get their parents’ IDs or their siblings’ or whatever. Anything works really, unless it’s really, really obvious.” Sasha Campbell, Long Island University

“At a lot of the parties sponsored by social houses there are kegs, and nearly everyone has a red Solo cup in their hands. But, you know, that’s college I suppose. … There are alternatives to drinking – not many, but there are some. Most of the time, I just hang out with my friends and watch movies or go to sporting events. (College) policy is that there is absolutely no alcohol allowed in freshman dorms, and no hard liquor allowed on campus. Both of these policies are pretty lax.” Alison Coleman, Bowdoin College

“In a word, my campus is just like any other campus, except there’s not as much partying on campus because people like to go into the city with fake IDs and live it up that way. Some people, like me, like to go into the cities and not do that. They instead see a show or go to a restaurant or go rock climbing. Tonight I’m going to the Dakota, a jazz club. I hear it’s hip.” Tyson Morgan, Macalester College

“I actually have not been to a party since I was in high school. If I wanted something bought for me, I could get anything very easily, just as easily as I could have in high school.” Amanda Johnson, University of Southern Maine

Any experiences with seeing someone obviously drunk on campus? Is there any stigma attached to drinking or choosing not to?

“You can’t go a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night without seeing someone blatantly drunk. Sometimes they get in trouble for it, but mostly our RAs (resident advisers) just want to make sure they’re safe. The lack of an alcohol education program at UMF is going to cause a serious accident sooner rather than later.” Ryan Reed, University of Maine at Farmington

“There is drinking and driving, but the people I know are, sad to say, used to it. I haven’t personally had experience with anyone who drives any worse when they are drunk or high.” Amanda

“I have had a lot of experience with seeing people obviously drunk. It is actually at any given moment from Thursday through Saturday after 11 p.m. until 4 a.m. It always makes a good story to tell, that’s for sure. If you really have a hankering to get drunk … shots would do the trick. But most of the time we just play beer pong. That is definitely the game of choice.” Name withheld

“Some people are just annoying, belligerent drunks, while others just do their thing. For the people who don’t drink, there are the crusaders against it, which are sort of frowned upon by the majority that do drink. And then there are people who are just sort of neutral.” Brian

“There were about three ambulances on campus on Saturday night. So, yes, lots of kids drink to excess. One of my friends has had alcohol poisoning twice, and been to the hospital once.” Name withheld

“There was a time when my roommate’s boyfriend’s friends were over from Scotland and they were all drinking in their room. We were hanging out down there, just talking and stuff, getting to know them, and I wasn’t drinking. One of the guys was like, ‘Grab a beer. Grab a beer!’ And I said my usual, ‘That stuff smells so nasty’ and all that, but he was really annoying. All of a sudden my roommate’s boyfriend said, ‘Hey man, each to their own, each to their own!’ It was really cool. It was the first time I had experienced someone being openly OK with people hanging out and not drinking.” Sasha

How hard are drugs to come by?

“THE drug dealer of our campus lives on my floor, is very amiable, and will probably get you what you need if that’s your thing.” Tyson

“Like everything else in college, if you wanted it, you could find a guy, who has a friend, whose cousin sells it. However, being caught doing the drugs in the dorms gets you immediately kicked out of housing, and it happens to people all the time.”Ryan

“Most kiddos go to the woods, or keep pretty low key in their rooms, but just yesterday we were walking past a few kids uncovering their bong and setting it up in a nice grassy place behind the library. Not the most discreet.” Elizabeth

“One of my roommates comes in high sometimes. I spray her with air freshener and tell her she smells bad. I think that pot/weed is the drug of choice. Cigarettes and alcohol too, of course. There are actually a lot of people I’ve heard of that are doing coke. This I was surprised about. The rest I was expecting, yeah, but coke?” Sasha

Did you date at all your first semester? What’s that scene like?

“I have heard quite a lot of stories about people getting drunk and then ‘hooking up,’ and I think that actually happens quite often.” Alison

“The dating scene is not much different than high school, and only in our wildest dreams is a night at UMF like ‘Girls Gone Wild.’” Ryan

“I had a boyfriend in high school for three years who I thought I would be with forever, but I fell in love with someone else over the summer and I have now been with him for 6 months. Leaving high school and going off to college definitely changes people.” Amanda

“I learned from the older kids I know who had girlfriends going into college — it ended bad and just didn’t work. So I started school single and I really couldn’t have it a better way. It was perfect just to get to know other people … see what’s out there really! But I do have a girlfriend now and couldn’t be happier. I met her through my group of friends.” Dan Magoon, University of Maine

“On the first day of school we were warned about the guys. My RA said that the guys will walk out of one girl’s room and walk down the hall into another girl’s room. That’s the stuff that they see that we don’t. Not interested AT ALL thanks.” Sasha

“I am dating a guy from home who I have been with for three-and-a-half years. We got engaged in August before I came to school. I have never not done something because I am in a relationship. I go out to the club sometimes, go to movies or out to dinner, and all sorts of other things.” Jennifer Dowling, Cedar Crest College

“For the most part people practice safe sex. Some people use condoms, others use birth control and some use both. One of my friends has had an ‘oops,’ but since Planned Parenthood is off the backside of campus, she was able to just go over there.” Name withheld

Have you heard of friends battling with depression or going to a campus center for counseling?

“I went to the dean of students (and said), ‘I’m concerned about my roommates. Neither of them leave the room.’ She’s amazing. She said, ‘I’ll talk with your roommates, we’ll work things out.’ Things are definitely better.” Name withheld

“I know I am definitely dealing with some sort of depression with all the many changes my life has made. And college is extremely overwhelming — not necessarily the school work, but college in general. The overall experience is just so different. I do not feel that my school ‘outreaches’ to students. I am not aware of who I can talk to at all. In high school, I was so close to my teachers and had a lot more friends. I have not made any new friends, and my teachers are strictly there to teach. They do not seem to care about me individually and do not seem interested in forming any type of relationship with me. It’s hard.” Name withheld

“Something I have noticed in talking to some of my high school friends is that there are quite a few freshmen who commit suicide during the first semester. One kid that my roommate went to high school with did, among others.” Jennifer

“One person on the floor dropped out around Thanksgiving, I think largely because their ratio of fun-to-learning was way too high.” Brian


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