Freshman Press: I may be in Missouri, but I’m not in Kansas anymore
I have never owned a black Scottish terrier. I have never been harangued by a group of flying monkeys. I have never befriended a heartless golem of metal and oil. I have never thrown my drink in the face of a green-complexioned woman in her own house.
But I have spent the last 18 years of my life surrounded by cornfields, singing to farmhands about happy little blue birds and traversing the space to and beyond rainbows and other light-induced phenomena (I exaggerate, but only a bit). The song is over now and I find myself translated to an unfamiliar world with a new pair of shoes—they aren’t ruby, but I’ll get over it—and more questions and excitement than I ever imagined possible. The Lollipop Guild is still MIA.
I haven’t been here long, but the contrasts between home and Washington University reveal themselves to me more and more with every new experience.
Set against the backdrop of the country music and rows of soybeans of almost-rural southern Illinois, my parents always told me that I needed to make good grades so I could gain admission into a respectable school. Their encouragement and admonitions propelled my desire to further my education somewhere beyond the limits of my home town and set in me the expectation and anticipation of college. It would be amazing. It would be fantastic. It would be the best experience of my life.
I didn’t realize how close the would-be’s were until a couple of weeks ago, when I started to pack for my first year at Washington University, and I barely managed to cram my last box of clothes into my parents’ car before the whirlwind of Aug. 16 swept me westward to a campus that I thought was worlds removed.
Agriculture and a small-town feel have been at the forefront of most of my life, but I now live miles from any fields, surrounded by buildings for the first time. When I awoke this morning, I realized that I had regained consciousness on the campus of a university that houses thousands of people in a city of almost 3 million. I feel like a stanza in an epic poem: almost too small to be noticed, but still very much a part of the imagery and symbolism.
Imagery changes, however, and a time comes to experience new ways of interacting with the surrounding world and people. As an only child, I have never had to worry about who took a shower when or whether my room was too cold or if my clothes did not completely fit in my closet. Now, though, I find myself trying to keep everything organized and open so the 14 people I live with won’t kill me.
Just like every other student, I have left behind lifelong friends in exchange for a group of strangers that is not as strange as I had imagined. I already feel the bonds of friendship beginning to form. The beauty of college resonates not in the four-part harmony of “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” but in the quirky personalities and eclectic backgrounds of my new companions. I have befriended photographers, an aspiring fashion designer, a less-than-tall business student with advice for every problem and a purse-toting neuroscience major who aids in the abduction of rubber ducks. Quite the posse to journey down the yellow brick road, no?
Glenda has yet to make her appearance, arrayed in sequins and clad in her shimmering evening gown, and I do not expect that she will. I am in college now, and, in effect, responsible for my schedule and myself. I realized last night while looking at my already-cluttered desk that Mom is not around to mandate that I clean my room or make my bed or give Toto a bath. The only person who can make me study or do work or steal the witch’s broomstick is I.
It feels so strange, looking at myself only a few days ago and who I have become in such a short amount of time, but I suspect that is what college does to a person. I pay attention to street names. I eat Thai food. I examine and discuss book themes and intricacies. I laugh at myself and don’t care who hears.
There’s no place like home—I know. Black-and-white is classic, but I’m starting to like Technicolor.