I’ve had some important revelations lately.
- My first year of college would have been hard no matter where I went to school*, because I was sheltered and needed to learn to live on my own. It just so happens that freshman year was at Roanoke, so bad associations were built from the beginning.
- I have grown and developed a lot in the last two years, and – get this – I AM STOKED TO RETURN TO ROANOKE!!! Can we just get a few really passionate hoorays over that, because it is a miracle in itself.
How did all of this come about? A few weeks ago, I headed down to the University of Richmond for the weekend and reunited with Abby, my roommate and soul sister from Italy last semester. Our Sunday afternoon together was one of those unbelievably perfect spring days – not an ounce of humidity, the perfect dose of sunshine, and the fancy free feeling that only a trashed to-do list brings. Throwing the Frisbee, an a capella group practicing fifty yards away, the whole scene felt fake. But real it was; the stereotypical college brochures of pristine campuses and a group of diverse, smiling students that flooded my mailbox toward the end of high school came to life before me.
After a few months of my “grown-up” life in DC, with grocery shopping and cooking and commuting and eight hours in front of sedentary computer use, my outlook on college began to shift on U of R’s back quad. I hadn’t been on a campus in nearly a year, and I realized what a privilege it is to be in college, particularly at a small, liberal arts school like Richmond or Roanoke. Returning the Frisbee to Abby, it was like I relinquished the negative feelings I’ve held against Roanoke for the past two years – the stress of piling on classes and striving for As, of hundreds of pages of reading and long nights cranking out papers, the deep loneliness of friends two states away. It wasn’t all bad, but something isn’t right when you dread returning to school after every break.
Throwing that Frisbee without any lingering papers or deadlines, though, I realized just how awesome and easy a college student’s life is. Not only do I have three delicious meals provided for me every day, but it’s my job to learn. Sure, it can be stressful and challenging. It certainly stretches one’s abilities, but that’s far better than mindless monotony. I get to go to class. I’m required to dig into questions through deeper research. I have countless professors who know me personally and care for me. Everything is in one spot. We’re showered with opportunities to attend lectures and participate in fun, free weekend activities. I’m encouraged to join clubs I like and spend time with friends. What a life!
The night before, we stopped by a frat party for a few minutes*. I’m comfortable enough in these environments now, but I certainly wasn’t comfortable with sticky, beer-spilled floors and hammered people as an impressionable 18-year-old. I steered far clear and never even went to one party freshman year. Inevitably, a divide developed between my classmates and me freshman year, and I was labelled the goody-good, albeit silently and without hostility. I’m still good, but I’m also 21, and alcohol and Greek life don’t scare me like they used to.
Nor do Yankees. While we’re at it, let’s just lay it all out on the table. Richmond and Roanoke’s student body both have a strong draw from New England. Few people say “y’all” and even fewer hold the door. I have amazing friends at home, and I had a tough time connecting with people who held different values and came from a variety of backgrounds freshman year. After my time in Cambodia and Italy, anyone who is American seems like me. The differences just aren’t that significant anymore.
After a few weeks to digest the realizations I had in Richmond, I made it down to Roanoke this past weekend, primarily to visit my best friend Kayla. Sadly, Kayla is a senior and I won’t have her around next year, but I’m still looking forward to returning for one more year of learning. My visit was kind of a litmus test to prove if the lessons from Richmond held true, and indeed they did. I have never been more excited to eat the prepared endless supplies of food brunch offered in Commons – Omelettes! Bagels! Waffles! A salad bar!!
There was also a folk duo playing that evening (one of hundreds of events sponsored by the school), and Saturday night I danced for hours downtown at a live performance of Folk Soul Revival. Top that off with a long hike, and I was reminded of one of the main reasons I chose Roanoke to begin with – it has the rare combination of a thriving city and the backwoods draw of Appalachian Mountain culture and adventure. Next year I will be setting aside the homework for the festivals and trails. I want to be Contra dancing, flat footing and enjoying bluegrass folk at its finest, and also mountain biking, white water rafting, skiing, backpacking, and rock climbing every chance I get.
Even though Kayla won’t be around, I still have plenty of community at Roanoke. I saw loads of friends, worshiped at Restoration, and hung out with my favorite adopted family, the Yertons.
By the grace of God and a lot of growing experiences, I will be returning to Roanoke as a transformed individual this fall. I am so thankful for my professional DC experience, and I’m thankful it’s not over yet, but I have the rest of my life to be a grown up. I have one more year to be in college, and nothing – not a heavy class load, not an Honor’s thesis, not the loss of a best friend’s presence – is going to stop me from appreciating every moment.
*With the exception of perhaps Clemson, where I likely would’ve stayed in a comfortable bubble
**Disclaimer: I write this to be honest and also prove a point, but I’d like to throw out that this was officially only the second frat party I’ve been to in my three years as a college student. I’ve decided this is a good thing. If you are a senior in high school, I strongly recommend that you check it out from the very beginning of college, realize that your time is likely better spent elsewhere, and revert to movies and slumber parties on a calm Saturday night, confident in your weekend choices.
|That’s a lot of class time and a LOT of papers. But I get to be a student.|
|Folk Duo Friday night|
|Look at all those things happening at Roanoke!|
|Kayla, one of the best gals around|
|WHAT?!! Tinker Cliffs and the Shenandoah Valley|
St. Patty’s Day festivities
|Meet Eric the bagpipe player. One of our goals was to take a picture with a man wearing a kilt. Success!|
|Folk Soul Revival|
|Love this church|
|Tessa Yerton is the cutest. Nothing like a family away from home.|