Yell at Me if I’m Walking into Something
Seeking refuge from the humid North Carolinian summer furnace under shade cast by the abundant Magnolia trees dotting South Campus, I tell a pack of SAT-prepping juniors and application-bound seniors that they should apply to my university for its unique blend of liberal arts curriculum and ACC athletics. Pointing to the nearby pole topped with a non-stop blue flickering light and encasing a small metallic speaker system labelled “Call Box,” I explain to their parents that I’ve never felt unsafe on this campus. I glance around the wide-eyed faces of their sons and daughters, offering, with half-feigned excitement, that our main library houses 1.8 million volumes. I tell them that 58% of the undergraduate students who populate our campus will earn credit for some form of faculty-advised research. For every one of us students, there are eleven faculty. For every ten of us, six and a quarter will study abroad for at least one semester. One backward step at a time, I continue the tour, body facing the group in front, pleading that they yell at me if I’m walking into something. Without fail, a few people from each tour group thankfully always yell out that I’m half-a-step from hitting a tree or a sidewalk curb. At the end of my tours, I try to repay them for their generosity by telling them that they, too, are probably walking into something they can’t see.
In high school, I had this notion of what college would be like. I would argue that everyone does. Some of what I imagined proved true, and others, not so much. College embodies the prime time of young lives, the epitome of those horrible, yet salvageable, decisions that we futilely promise ourselves we’ll never make again. Dorm life is portrayed through stories of big brothers and older friends and Project X and Bad Neighbors to be filled with relentless joy and replete with amazing people around us at all times. I imagined everyone else reveling in this idyllic fantasy of college life insofar as it didn’t make sense to me, freshman year, why I wasn’t having a great time myself. I wasn’t necessarily having a bad time; it was just that I assumed everyone else was experiencing the time of their lives. Thinking that almost everyone around me was having a ball, at my university as well as others, made me feel inexplicably worse. Fast forward a couple years, and it’s pretty clear that not everyone enjoys college the same way, especially freshman year.
Since I would come back from every tour with scraped knees and a heavy embarrassment without those one or two students and parents yelling out that I’m running into something, telling them that they shouldn’t feel pressured to enjoy college is my way of repaying them. Aside from all the statistics I’ve memorized and handicap-accessible routes I’ve been accustomed to taking this summer, I hope that explaining my experiences to my tour groups relieves some of the pressure hinging on finding that famed ecstasy of collegiate life. College is pretty ridiculous and insanely eye-opening, but it takes time to find your niche regardless of where you go to school. Eventually, almost everyone finds people who point out those potholes and sidewalk curbs that we’re all about to stumble on.