My initial reaction to the realization that UVM students were moving back on campus this weekend was definitely a heavy sigh, and mental image of me stuck driving behind a white truck from Miami, Florida filled with people who are discovering trees for the first time ever, at a whopping twelve miles per hour. My next thought was saved for remembering my own college move in experience.
I looked from my pallid, sleepy reflection in the rearview mirror to the blue and gold balloons cluttering the entrance of Emmanuel College and as is customary for Me, Myself, and I, in new and daunting situations said, “Pull it together, G. Ready or not, we are doing college now.” The first day and weeks to follow were filled with many overly friendly upper classmen who assume you are lost always, interactions with new roommates where everyone is overly accommodating, every team building exercise you could imagine, and staff supervised parties mandated in order for students to mingle without substances. Because nothing says, “make lasting connections” like a class wide glow-in-the-dark bowling party! It was all kinds of awkward, but eventually once all of the “transition activities” ended, and us new college students had space to notice a feeling other than “stiffly-standing-next-to-my-roomate-because-atleast-I-know-their-name-and-don’t-know-how-to-talk” we adjusted.
Naturally, after reminiscing about my own experience and feeling a surge of nostalgia, I decided to walk about UVM’s campus during all of the hubbub. There it was, in all of its bright eyed, bushy tailed, glory- a school rejuvenated after summer.
I did my best to be an invisible observer. I did get stopped on a few occasions by volunteers and staff members, asking where I was headed or if I needed help finding things. I told them I was here for my sister, but I wondered if I could pass for someone’s Mom. That is a more interesting character to play, especially while wearing an Oxford University T-Shirt.
College move in day, happens almost exactly how Hollywood depicts it. Students and their siblings, antsy from hours of driving, tumble out of cars. The little people whine and the college students are in awe and wonder. You can imagine the world inside their mind completely quiet as they look up at the brick university buildings-their soon to be homes. Parents wear those “University Parent” shirts and slap their mini adults on the back exclaiming, “Wowee, kiddo! Look at this place! No wonder it’s such a money pit!” They talk to everyone and end up making friends for their students. “Hey honey! I was just talking to my new friend Sandra and she has a daughter who also likes broccoli! You should go hang out with her!” (This is the person that student in question ends up not spending an ounce of time with but every time they call their parents they ask about broccoli girl.) The parents excitement is enough to make the aging teens look down or nudge their parents in exasperation or perhaps blush their way through an uncontrollable, uncomfortable grin. They may be giddy internally but, they sure as hell don’t want anyone to notice. Being a fresh college student is all about balancing your appearance so it falls somewhere between overly excitable and an absolute hermit- despite those two feelings being the only ones you feel.
I succeeded in catching six secret selfies being taken in the hopes that no one would notice. (You know the type, “quick duck face and look around to see if the coast was actually clear”). Three selfies of new roommates, during which I thought, “Careful! You don’t know if they smell like ramen all the time or have a thing for death metal at 3am!” I watched one running reunion between two girls wearing coordinating Patagonia sweatshirts, athletic shorts with catamount insignias, tall socks and Birkenstocks. They both had blond hair in messy buns that bounced nearly out of the hair-ties as they bounded towards each other laughing shrilly. It was so very college, I almost broke my cover to tell them how impressed I was.
Wandering closer to the dorm rooms, I listened in on the volunteers giving wee encouragements to one another as they hauled the loaded bins, piled high with the entire contents of PB Teen dorm catalogs, up and down dorm stairs for the first year students. I forgot that they even supply you with cheerful people to carry your heavy stuff- what an incredible concept.
I continued walking down the path towards a large crowd of green shirted, bouncy folks with pom-poms in their hands. They were lining a corridor between two new and shiny buildings and waiting- all at once I knew what I was in for, and there was no turning back.
I charged through the path and when I reached the sea of volunteers, the shouting began. “YAY YOU ARE HERE! GO CATAMOUNT! CONGRATULATIONS ON COLLEGE! WELCOME, WELCOME, WELCOME!” I laughed, head down and walked through quickly and out of campus. Thank you, for your support, but I am actually just your average college drop out.
College is marketed as where your life truly begins. And surely, it is a large transition. I was amazed to witness the kind of support that is offered by universities in making the transition feel far less like a transition. You will not be lost, because you are given fifteen maps and your own personal guide, upon arrival. You will make friends, because you will find the at countless activity fairs that intramural knitting is an actual club that ensures that knitting enthusiasts will find a like-minded pal. You literally have a cheer squad for doing basic life things, like walking from one building to another. You won’t even lift heavy things during your move. It is brilliant and also, perhaps detrimental, as it is no where near the way transitions happen in life after college.
Real life transitions are not always so kind. For as much as the entrance into college looked suffocating and silly, I also thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a cheer squad for when I accomplish day to day activities? Wouldn’t it be nice to have cheerful people to take care of the heavy stuff in life? Like, “hey you started this new job and wrote the date down correctly on your time sheet- WAHOO!” or “GO Gretta! You cooked real food today!” To feel a little more “GO ME!” in general might be nice.
More than anything I wrote this post to describe the college students, because I enjoyed the nostalgic people watching and thought you all might too. But I also wanted to update everyone on my own personal cheer squad whom I have enlisted. His name is Ted. (No he is not permanent.)