Thursday, September 1, 2011

We've been busy lately.

New jobs, new cities, new projects.

And now summer's coming to an end and classes start up again. Living in close proximity to college students, September always makes me think about change and my first weeks at college. Even though I tend to remember happy memories over anxieties and complications, in this case, I don't remember being excited, but I do remember being apprehensive. In fact, when I see the freshmen and their parents unloading their cars, the ghostly shadow of that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach returns. Why did I think it was a good idea to move 1000 miles away from home, again? I worried about finding someone to sit with in the dining hall and figuring out where my classes were meeting, and I can distinctly remember getting up early on a Sunday morning and going in search of a newspaper because I wasn't sure what else to do with myself. The student union was empty, the dining hall was closed, no one else was awake, and there was a stranger still sleeping on the bunk below me. Of course, by the end of that first week, I had made friends - many of whom are still my friends - and the sensation of the world atilt had subsided. A day spent exploring Chicago with two new friends had helped, as had the bonding experience of smooth-talking our way into a cocktail party being held in the Hilton penthouse. How could they say no to three bright-eyed college freshmen who just wanted to see the view of Grant Park and the lake?

Since I am now advising a few first-year students as well as teaching a first-year seminar, I try to keep these memories fresh. Are my students experiencing similar anxieties? Probably. At least to some degree. I don't want and can't get a window into their worlds, but I wonder if cell phones, Facebook, and Skype make going to college different than it was ten or fifteen years ago. It's different to reconnect with high school friends five or ten years on than never to lose touch in the first place. With friends on speed dial, on Facetime, and posting regular updates of their first weeks of college, the jump from home to away-from-home must be less harrowing.

1 comment:

Jacqueline Schmitt said...

Evocative, Gale, of the what September means to us who lives our lives by the academic calendar.

I have also been thinking of 10 years ago, at Canterbury House, when you were getting ready to go to Spain and the World Trade Center collapsed. A weird September that will no doubt be over-eulogized this week. The quintessential high-anxiety start to the school year.