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This story is part of a two-part series discussing College Park nightlife. To read about nightlife fashion, click here.
On Oct. 9, I set out to answer the question: “What is College Park nightlife like?” From 10:30 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m., diversions writer Monica Godnick, photo editor Julia Nikhinson and I wandered the streets of Old Town in an attempt to answer that question.
The night began outside Landmark Apartments. While we could’ve started the night anywhere, we chose Landmark due to its unofficial association with the University of Maryland Greek life community on campus. It’s not uncommon to see members of different fraternities and sororities living there due to its proximity to chapter and satellite houses.
As we began our adventure to the belly of the beast — the beast being the potential rowdy behavior we were about to witness — the night was still calm. People were slowly trickling out to the streets dressed in their finest going out regalia.
Slowly, more people made their way to the streets with a shared goal in mind: having a good time.
Where they were going to find that good time, they couldn’t always answer. Junior civil engineering major Austin Mitchell had no particular plan in mind. We caught him skateboarding through the streets of Old Town with his good friend who was visiting for the weekend.
“You never know how the night’s really going to go,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell’s sentiment perfectly described our night. We had no clue what we were going to see, but we pressed on.
We were nearing 11 p.m., and the streets were filling with more and more people. Some were dressed in themes — luau and white lie T-shirts, specifically — while others were dressed in typical college nightlife garb.
Not everyone was heading to a party, though. Some were taking a step away from the hustle and bustle of being out.
Sophomore psychology major Kerri Shaw was taking a break to blow off some steam after being stuck in the middle of a conflict with friends.
“A lot of my friends … we just have little power walks to recharge because you just need that sometimes,” she said.
One particularly interesting point Shaw mentioned was that she was, in fact, alone in the streets of Old Town.
“I probably shouldn’t [be alone] as a woman at night, but so many people are walking around and I’m not as worried,” she said.
Shaw further discussed the differences between going out as a man and a woman.
“It’s hard to be social if you are a man, if that makes sense,” she said. “If you’re not in Greek life, it feels like you have nowhere to go and let’s say you’re somebody who doesn’t want to be in Greek life but wants to have that party aspect in college. It’s very difficult.”
After hearing that perspective, we headed deeper into the collegiate jungle. It was nearing 11:30 p.m. As large groups were passing by us, we heard all sorts of wild conversations from people quoting TikToks (the best I heard was a group of girls saying “Oh no our table! It’s broken”) to a group of girls calling their guy friend degrading names.
We then met Kayleigh Taylor, a senior computer engineering major, with her friends on their way to a social themed “Wild Wild West.”
Our conversation quickly turned to safety, and after speaking with Shaw, I wanted to hear another perspective.
“A lot of people didn’t have necessarily their freshman year experience or their sophomore year experience where they’re able to actually go out and see what it’s like at the bars,” Taylor said. “They don’t realize that they haven’t had the experiences that other people may have had before COVID that would tell them this is wrong.”
Taylor’s comment truly made me take a step back and think about how isolation has affected the way many of us act socially. Some students were able to experience some of what nightlife in College Park is typically like, but others are mostly new to the true nightlife experience.
At about 11:45 p.m., we decided to shift gears. Lining the streets of Old Town were a series of houses blasting music so loud you were guaranteed to hear a different muffled song at every street corner. Many of these houses, with cleverly covered windows, are the satellite houses used by members of various university Interfraternity Council chapters. These houses are not only home to a series of members of each chapter but also facilitate the infamous frat parties.
As we approached a house blasting Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch,” we announced we were coming in peace and did not know any brothers in an attempt to enter the party.
Shortly after announcing our presence, I was introduced to junior math major Nick Baranello. Baranello is the risk manager for his fraternity and is responsible for ensuring safety during social events.
“It’s tricky when you get involved with Greek life because there’s so much stigma surrounding it,” he said. “The goal is to make it so that everybody enjoys themselves in the way they want to. And my goal, at least as risk chair, is to make sure that they have that; they come here and they want to come back.”
Baranello’s favorite part of the social scene is being able to interact with people of all different backgrounds and connect with new and interesting people.
Baranello and I then had a very open conversation about certain groups feeling ostracized and unwelcome by the Greek life community.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I expressed to him how I felt as if entering Greek life would put me in an unsafe and unwelcoming environment. Our conversation was not recorded, but regardless, I left with a more open mindset.
The clock struck midnight, and that meant one thing: postgames. After sororities and fraternities are done socialing — a word to best describe what happens at these exclusive parties — the events become open to those not involved in the original socials.
The streets were once again flooded with college students looking for a good time. We passed large groups singing hit songs such as Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” and Olivia O’Brien’s “Josslyn.”
We got dragged into a birthday celebration. I’m still unaware whose birthday it was, but I can only imagine how mortified they felt with four street corners singing to them.
I ended up meeting sophomore hearing and speech sciences major Sierra Hall. This was Hall’s first semester on campus after spending a year online at home. Hall had a series of expectations walking into her sophomore year and was certainly shocked when faced with her reality.
“I had this expectation that I would be best friends with people I live with and then they would take me out to the nightlife and they would show me what’s around,” she said.
Hall said that didn’t happen, so she became more introverted.
“I was very shy and I found it hard to really meet people, especially as a sophomore because people already knew each other,” she said.
Hall mended this by joining clubs and developing her own friendships outside of her roommates.
“I’m typically a very outgoing person, it’s just that COVID has made me very introverted so I’m starting to get back out there,” Hall said.
Similar to Hall was freshman environmental science and policy major Olivia Hill.
Hill has only been traversing the College Park social scene for about a month now and already knows the ropes.
When applying to schools, she said, she considered what the social scene was like.
“It’s college, people want to have fun. They don’t want to go somewhere boring,” she said.
At this point in the night, we were all decently drained and took a pit stop at our editor’s house to recharge. At 1 a.m., we went back to the streets of Old Town to start attempting to escape the alternate dimension it felt like we were in.
On our way out, we stumbled upon a man dressed as Wayne from Wayne’s World, which was surprisingly not the oddest thing we saw that night.
We finally made it out at about 1:45 a.m — yet our journey was still far from over.
Outside of Route 1’s Pizza Kingdom was another ball game of social life.
We stumbled upon senior community health major Gianna Brown, dressed for the white lies social theme, whose philosophy seemed to be that there’s no better way to end a night out than with a jumbo slice.
“There’s nothing typical that you can expect to see; I feel like every night it’s exciting and something new,” Brown said.
That’s what makes a night in College Park so fabulous. Nothing could have prepared me for who or what I was going to see that Saturday.
Regardless of what you experience on a night out, what brings it all together is the sense of community an outing creates. The one common thread amongst everyone I spoke to was that they were out to have fun. No matter if you’re going to a bar, a social, skating around the streets, staying in and watching Netflix or anything else, nightlife in College Park is a staple of our community.