Power. Rewind. Stop. PLAY.
Day one, freshman year. I had made it to college. Scenes from movies, memories of past experiences and pieces of friendly advice reeled through my mind. Energized, nervous, happy and totally organized and prepared, I hoped college would be a little like “Mona Lisa Smile,” “The Prince and Me,” and the college years on “Boy Meets World” – and not too much like “Animal House” and “Orange County.”
In “Orange County,” high school overachiever Shaun Brumder discovers after the pain of a Stanford University rejection letter that his guidance counselor switched his transcript with another student. In trying to right the wrong, he causes a Stanford building to be burned down and learns that Stanford students can be just as dimwitted as he feels his classmates in Orange County are.
Like Shaun, I had wanted to go where people were smart, where I could broaden my horizons and maybe write. So I threw away brochures from small colleges and went for the ones with the highest reputations, applying to Duke and Columbia Universities while also dreaming of Yale University. The College looked nice and had a great reputation, but “New Jersey” was part of the name. The “NJ” after “TC” made it seem too familiar and close-by – I had been writing “NJ” before my zip code on letters for my whole life.
Small envelopes came back from my two top schools though, with apologies for the size of the large applicant pools and the word “waitlisted” in the letters. My guidance counselor had a master’s degree and an award or two from the county on the wall, and I knew it wasn’t her fault. I was not going to burn down any buildings.
So here I was, a College of New Jersey freshman with dozens of Bed, Bath and Beyond shopping bags surrounding me in Wolfe Hall 203, my new room, and 50 students my age, just on my floor, to meet.
When Toula in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” starts taking classes, at first she has to eat lunch alone. With a makeover and some added confidence, though, she makes friends and finally talks to her non-Greek future husband.
College was great for starting anew – new haircut, new shoes, maybe a new smile and more confidence. As for meals, everyone needed someone to eat with. Wolfe 2 freshmen left their doors open and went around asking each other to the dining hall for almost every meal.
Although it was an old movie and I’d heard college was nothing like it anymore, I wondered how much college would be like “Animal House.” I did see some togas during Homecoming week, but I can’t imagine a horse in the dean’s office.
Not a crazy partier, I hoped there would be other fun things to do. There were. My floor was great, and found creative things to do at night and on the weekends. My favorite freshman pastimes were sitting out in the Wolfe 2 hallway knitting, playing board games and mafia, and watching the presidential debates with my floormates. Also, during Welcome Week I signed up for tons of clubs and soon found my inbox flooded with e-mails and things to do.
Laundry in the Travers and Wolfe Halls was not too bad. With sheets, towels and blue jeans spilling from the basket in my arms, the elevators carried me to every odd floor, where I checked for princes (like in “The Prince and Me”) who needed help with their laundry. Actually, the trips were to find the few and far between open machines, although some people did need help with their laundry. None were princes, though, as far as I know.
Welcome Week, fun and slightly awkward at the same time, passed, and classes began. I thought of “Mona Lisa Smile” and hoped my professors would be smart and inspiring like the art history professor and entertaining like the history professor (but honest, unlike him). They were – the classes were interesting and the students interested.
I wished my favorite teacher had followed me to college, like Mr. Feeny in “Boy Meets World,” but I had left him behind and was starting on a clean slate. On TV, perhaps there are too few actors to find ones perfect for the part of teacher. In the real world, however, there are 6,547,063,260 (as of 11:55 p.m. August 22) people who could be your new favorite professor or your closest friend. Some of the people I’d left behind in high school faded a little and I became a part of this new place, with new favorites and a new perspective.
Fast Forward. May 2005, the end of freshman year. In “Orange County,” Shaun found in his visit to Stanford that there were unintelligent people all over the world, even at Stanford. Looking back, at the College I found so many different people. My classmates, among them the top four in my high school class, were smart, funny, dramatic, creative, competitive and friendly.