Well, its August and that means that it's almost back to school time for college students.... oh, there are probably two or three weeks before they have to actually be there, but it's getting there.... and writing about Arlyn at the beginning of yesterday's post and then talking to one of the guys on my block who's about to go off to college for the first time has made me think back to my 4 years in college....no, don't worry, this won't be a post about why Florida State is THE best university in the nation....nay, the world, but rather, my reflections on the college experience and what it meant to me.
I have three young friends who I'm as close to as people can be when you're friends with their mothers....that is to say, not very close, but I've watched them grow up and become the kind of people you hope we all can be....each of them were just graduated by the same high school and in a few weeks will be heading off for 3 very different universities....one in the Big City, one in a Smaller Town, and one Local (but he'll be living at the university)....
Now, for a little bit of backtracking.... as an Army Brat (ret), when I'm asked where I'm from, sometimes I make it up. I'll say, "Ft. Benning, GA." (Saves me a lot of explaining later about the moving), or I'll say "Colonial Heights, VA" (because I went to HS there and my parents still live there). Sometimes, though, I'll say "Tallahassee, Fla," partially because I went to college there (and, until I moved up here, it was the longest I'd ever lived in one city...4 years, that was a new record for me!), but partially because college is where I did a lot of growing up.
For the first time in my life, I had to make sure I got myself up, dressed, fed and off to class. There was no Mom there to holler at me if I overslept. That first semester was weird... no one cared what I did between classes.... I didn't have to have 5 classes back to back to back, etc.... if my first class was at 10 am, I didn't have to worry about someone fussing because I was still in the dorms at 7:15.... it took that first semester for me to realize that I didn't have to keep to a grade school schedule. I did learn that I did better if I kept my classes scheduled between 9 am and 2 pm.
I was lucky enough that Mom and Dad could pay for my classes, books, rent (I moved off campus my sophomore year) and I could concentrate on my classes, but I still had to make sure that the bills were paid on time. I had a credit card, but I could only use it for tuition, textbooks and air fare home at Christmas. The expectation was that I would study and make the best grades I could (any semester I had math, it was understood that those grades wouldn't be like all the other grades.) I earned mostly B's....maybe with a little more work I could've had A's, but there you go....and there was one semester that my social life overwhelmed my academic life, but my grades were still decent.
College was great. I'd been wanting to go to FSU since I was 5. Never any doubt as to where I was going. So, of course, my first semester was a little rocky. It was the first time I'd been so far from my parents, and there were so many people at FSU. I thought of transferring to James Madison University (because a lot of my HS friends went there), but Mom told me to stick out for the full year, and if I was still homesick, I could look into transferring. At Spring Break, she called to see if we needed to get the transfer papers. I stared at the phone in shock and said, "What, and leave FSU? I'm having a great time here! Why would I want to transfer?" So, give it a full year if you find yourself homesick and lonely. You might surprise yourself. If it's not any better, then transfer. The schools we think we want to go to are not always the schools we should be going to.
If you're not having to work full time, or be a commuter student, it's the time when you're not a kid, but you're not fully an adult. You can still make mistakes and not have it be irrevocable (well, unless it's a really big crime kind of mistake). You hang out on campus and you're exposed to Ideas. You can try them out and see if they're the Ideas you can live your life by. You'll debate things that you'll almost never talk about again...some of it will be Deep and some of it will be of the "which pizza is really better?"... but you'll bring in Ideas from your classes to figure it out. You'll get to see a little deeper behind the Truths you were taught in grade school... and discover that the Reality had nothing to do with the Truth you were taught. You may have a Crisis of Faith (and this case, I don't necessarily mean Religious Faith). You'll have a chance to Think and Grow. Maybe you'll discover that you aren't the person you thought you were. Maybe you'll discover that you are exactly the person you thought you were.
I recommend to all my young friends to take a class or two outside of your major. One of the best classes I took was not for credit. It was called "The University Experience." We went to see plays and operas, broke into small groups to discuss books and how we were adjusting to university life. If your school offers a class like that, I recommend it. I took a class in the Pascal programming language, not because I was interested in switching majors, but because I was curious about how programs are written. If your universities are like mine, there will probably be some sort of extension courses offered....hobby classes, if you will. Fencing, Chinese calligraphy, Feng Shui, things like that. Take a few. You'll meet different people. Even if you don't really like sports, go to some of the games and get caught up in the excitement. Believe it or not, before I went to FSU, I wasn't into football. My mom bought me season tickets because she wanted to make sure I got out of the dorm at least one night a week. I took a book and read during the game and yelled at people to sit down during Half-time so I could watch the band. By the end of football season of my sophomore year, I had been Converted. I still think the worst thing television did was stop showing the Half-time Shows. I miss watching the Marching Chiefs.
Enjoy the next four years, my friends. I wish I could go with you.
Well, time to go aMuse myself....