University of Nebraska at Omaha students fresh and seasoned all know how the beginning of the fall semester starts–with the promise of free food, swag and community engagement. It could be called Bill Pickett’s Brain Child, UNO’s Back to School Extravaganza, or its more apt and accurate name: Durango Days.
As a junior this year, I am appropriately halfway through my share of Durango Days (Durango Weeks? What is the plural of such an event?). I thought I’d share my experiences and tips—with the help of the Director of Student Involvement Bill Pickett—to make your first week back on campus the best and most school spirited it can be.
1. Take advantage of free food. No matter how far along you are in school, groceries are expensive. Cooking eats up time you could be spending planning ahead for the semester (if you’re that admirably productive during syllabus week), and now is probably the worst time to fall into the habit of eating out all week. I’d list out all the opportunities for you to eat for free, but that would equate to (almost) the entire schedule. So, read that here.
2. Be early. If your schedule allows, try to be early in line to all of these events—more specifically, all of the free food events. Standing in line is a necessary evil, but the less time you wait, the more time you have to actually participate in these programs. Worry not; if you can’t make it before the 11:00 a.m. lunch rush, you’ll sure be entertained in line by student organizations and new people who are equally as hangry as you.
3. That being said, don’t skip class to make it to one of these events. The first week of classes may occasionally be mundane and seemingly introductory, but you need to be there. Many professors will automatically fail you if you don’t attend the first session, and while the chicken nuggets in the Pep Bowl definitely made my first week at UNO, they aren’t worth the shame and hassle of bumping up your transcript the rest of your college career.
The good news is that some classes get out early during their first session because professors don’t plan to start lessons until later on. But, don’t quote me on that—I’m not about to get hate mail because your engineering professor assigned reading before the first day of school.
4. Go to events, even if you don’t think they’ll be fun. I, too, was once a college freshman who thought I was too cool to do a scavenger hunt for a free reusable bag, but then I did anyway and met some really cool people. (And got a reusable bag!) I also became a resident assistant my sophomore year, and any “too cool” mojo left in me quickly faded away. Embrace your college experience for what it is: kind of lame and kind of cool and kind of goofy and kind of life changing all at the same time.
5. Take this time to find your passion. While I can’t guarantee all of your life’s questions will be answered at this event, going to the Student Involvement Fair (check this) will open you up to network of student organizations, campus leaders and find opportunities that perfectly suit you. My advice? Enter as many free t-shirt contests as possible—and check out the Gateway table and apply to be a contributor.
6. Thank all of the people who present this enormous student involvement festival. The Office of Spirit Tradition is the main ringleader for this event, and we are lucky to have them. This staff definitely loves bringing joy and connection to campus, but it’s also a lot of hard work to please a bunch of Gen Z students who just dropped $500 on textbooks. Thank staff and faculty, the people who serve you food with smiles on their faces, the janitorial and maintenance workers who make UNO sustainable and clean, and of course, all the strangers who might just offer you a seat beside them at the table.
“Students are so excited the first week,” Pickett says. “It’s really fun to be a part of the excitement.”
Get pumped and view the full Durango Days schedule here.