The College Experience

Way back at the end of 2008, I wrote some articles about what I loved and didn’t like about my college experience. Of course, the inspiration for these memories came from my college “daze” (as I like to refer to my college “days”), which transpired just a few years before the Big Bang. In case you missed those, or are too lazy to click the links above, here’s a quick recap:

Things I loved:

1. The thrill of independence. It has its pluses and minuses, but it’s a rush, nonetheless …

2. Access to all kinds of resources. Perhaps my primary collegiate passion was classical music (still is) …

3. Finding new passions. As a somewhat cocky freshman, I thought I knew just about all that I needed to know for my needs in life. Ha! …

4. Books. I still have my college texts and many of them reside on the bookshelves in my study …

5. Opposing points of view. Don’t grow old without engaging others who think differently than you do …

6. Autumn on campus. In my opinion, few experiences in life can compare to walking across a manicured college campus (perhaps hand-in-hand with a special someone) on a crisp, sunny, fall day with brilliantly colored leaves raining down to paint the landscape …

7. All-nighters. How could I love all-nighters? Because they proved that I could do them …

Things I didn’t like:

1. Elitist, leftist professors. Anti-war sentiment was strong in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, stronger than it is today, in my opinion …

2. Short-deadline tuition bills. Colleges know how much you need to pay them well in advance of their billings …

3. Long term breaks. Obviously, we all need reasonable breaks from the grind of incessant academics, but the length of some of these breaks creates negative issues for both students and parents …

4. Textbook prices. This is the flip side of my love of college texts …

5. Perfunctory Teaching Assistants. Please note that I didn’t cite “teaching assistants,” in general …

6. Massive, impersonal lecture classes. I had introductory psychology and art history (among other) courses at Penn State in a building called Forum …

7. The unfortunate, traditional timing of a college education. How much more could we learn in college if we didn’t have to go immediately after high school? …

In the six years since I wrote those love-dislike points, I have come to realize a few more. So, I’ll expand each list to a nice even ten here. Those will be my points for this article.

Things I have recently remembered that I love about college:

– Meeting new people. I came from a small, cloistered community dominated by blue-collar workers. Penn State greatly expanded my formerly limited culturally diverse horizons. I met the sons and daughters of wealthy professionals and some wildly talented artistic types. I also had a chance to defend my less-than-liberal outlook on the world of politics with some very non-conservative personalities. I still have stretch marks from those encounters.

– Being part of a varsity sports team. Tennis was my sport. Before transferring to Penn State after my military service, I was a starter for a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. I recall the thrill of providing the winning point in a team match against our prime rival, which, coincidentally, was the same school from which my daughter eventually graduated. I loved traveling to away matches and we had some riotous times on the team van, sharing stories about our latest tennis  or dating technique. Those were halcyon days.

– Homecoming weekends. The one I remember most could have been the model for every homecoming. The weather was perfect: cool autumn temps, a deep blue, sunny sky, and a dream date on my arm. This was at my pre-Penn State school and the atmosphere was quite cozy and intimate. I’m sure that in looking back over almost 50 years (how that that possibly be?), my memory has selectively edited out any negatives that may have occurred that weekend, but for me it will always be a very warm reflection of the way we were.

Okay, so much for advancing my list of collegiate loves. Now for a fresh trio of dislikes:

– Academic pressure. Yes, Virginia, I realize that we go to college to learn, and part of the leaning process demands academic accountability, ergo testing and project deadlines. Now, believe it or not, I was a responsible student who (mostly) tried to do my best work in (most of) my classes. (I’m thinking of possible exceptions to my idealistic classroom approach and the one that immediately springs to mind is a distribution-requirement course called (excitingly) History and Archeology of Central South America. I can already feel myself getting drowsy.) Anyway, I still have dreams about going to class unprepared for an exam and can even conjure a negative stomach flip thinking about those wee-hours marathons prepping for a mid-term or final. College shouldn’t be a country club experience, but I didn’t handle the pressure too well.

– Questionable food. Believe it or not, the gentleman in charge of food service at my little liberal arts school had a last name of “Bloodgood.” Yuck. Just thinking about that now makes me laugh. The food, though, was no laughing matter. It sucked. My roommate and I probably spent the majority of the spending money we received from home on steak sandwiches from Hilltop Sub Shop (HSS) because we couldn’t satisfy our appetites with Bloodgood’s Bloody Borscht, as we used to call it. “Mystery Meat” was an every-Thursday highlight. These were the days before selective meal plans. If we had had a choice, we would have deleted our meal plans completely and dined happily at HSS every day. Of course, eating there would have kept us from meeting our fellow suffering women classmates in the spacious dining hall. Thus, every tasteless cutlet had a cream-filled lining, so to speak.

– Nazi parking patrols. Okay, okay. I realize the problems of controlling parking for a school the size of Penn State, but for the price of attending, one would think that they would throw in a parking permit, for Pete’s sake. This situation, necessarily, led to a few of my more creative countermeasures. One of my favorites was tossing my license plate in the trunk of my car when I would have the audacity to park as close as three blocks to my 8 a.m. Monday classroom. This, when combined with the artfully deft relocation of parking spots, kept me “clean” for many 10-week terms. These days, I understand, chronic parking offenders get “booted” with those immobilizing steel things they clamp on your car’s wheels. Anyway, even though I hated the parking squad, I did get a modicum of satisfaction from avoiding their tickets.

There you have it, another half-dozen loves and “dislikes” (I wanted to call the dislikes “hates,” but why be so melodramatic?).