Welcome Back: Syllabus week: Leave the F.O.M.O behind and get out of Oakland

By Channing Kaiser / Columnist

Syllabus week — the first week of classes during which syllabi are disseminated and discussed — is generally the least stressful week of the semester. Going over the syllabus can take up the majority of class, meaning that professors can’t get into full lecture mode until later in the week and, by then, the weekend is already within sight. Stress levels are manageable.

Seeing that little course material is covered, syllabus week is often synonymous with “I have little to no homework” week. Reading is always assigned but it’s too early for presentations, papers or labs to be due — so no one reads.

Limited homework means different things to different people. For the academically focused, it means color coding notebooks and penciling due dates into planners — certain pens for certain classes, obviously. For those more socially inclined, the combination of little work and a new semester means gigantic parties. All your friends are back in Pittsburgh and there are no excuses for not going out, so what better way to welcome a new semester?

I recommend a third option: Leave. 

Get out of Oakland. Skip the beer-funnel parties and midnight notebook labeling while rewatching “Game of Thrones” and go somewhere else.

Catch an indie flick at the Manor Theatre on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Try s’mores pancakes at 3 a.m. at Ritters Diner. Play in the fountain at Point State Park. Compare fettucini dishes in Little Italy in Bloomfield. 

As the semester progresses, you’ll find it harder and harder to escape the streets of South Oakland. Antoon’s pizza will constitute a new food group. Pabst Blue Ribbon cans will become your lawn ornaments. The bottoms of your shoes will grow stickier with every passing weekend to the point that you can’t walk down Forbes Avenue without gum wrappers and abandoned receipts sticking to your feet.

When I tell you to leave Oakland, your first response may be along the lines of, “But all my friends are partying on Dithridge.”

That’s a classic case of F.O.M.O., or the Fear Of Missing Out. It’s hard to go your own way — you don’t want to be the only one to miss Wolf Shirt’s karaoke performance of “My Heart Will Go On” at Hem’s — but your independence will pay off. One day, perhaps next week or several years from now, you and your friends will be scrounging for something to do outside of the Oakland bubble. And since you happened to be brave one syllabus weekend and ventured off to a less-explored frontier, you’ll have something to suggest.

As for the academically minded, planners can wait. Avalanches of homework will bury you soon enough — probably that following Monday — so no need to construct your studying bed-nest ahead of time. The unyielding Cathedral chairs will flatten your butt within a week. Don’t start early.

I’m giving you this advice from personal experience. As an incoming senior, I’m embarrassed to count the Pittsburgh neighborhoods I have yet to explore, such as Lawrenceville or Point Breeze. The bus routes I know are very limited and I struggle to get places without using GPS and maps on my phone. I wish I’d taken advantage of the times I wasn’t busy and explored other places. Some districts may not have much to do, but at least then I would know.

I am both the weekend studier and partier, as I’m sure many other people are, too. Staying in and watching “Gilmore Girls” while reviewing syllabi is a guaranteed good time and going out with friends always makes for fun stories. Venturing outside of Oakland is risky. You may find nothing. You may get off at the wrong bus stop, freak out and then immediately get on the next bus back to campus.

I’m not promising that you’ll have the best weekend of your undergraduate career. I’m not promising that you’ll find a cool, hip bar with equal parts hot guys and good music. What I am promising you is a small slice of adventure, a change from the darkened, loud South Oakland.

Get out of your comfort zone and take advantage of the freedom that syllabus weekend has to offer. Little homework is a rarity in college. Make the most of it.

Your planner can wait. Besides, professors sometimes push around due dates, so your color coordination will get all messed up anyway. Better wait until next weekend.

Write to  Channing at [email protected]