Are you thinking about undergrad school? Reflecting on my past experience….

Here’s a link to my very first undergrad school.  I just watched this:

http://www.umass.edu/flagship

Wow, I sure remember.  I entered UMass/Amherst in 1975 at age 17.  My goal: getting away from Mom and Dad and making a new life for myself. Goal #2 was to get an education for myself. Rather quickly these two goals became integrated.  I found that for the first time in my life, I LOVED learning.  I was thrilled. The faculty were terrific.  I also liked being in a place that was sort of a community in itself, a world where you were surrounded by academia and overwhelmed by it.

No, I didn’t like feeling like I was expected to be what’s now known as a “sheeple.”  In case you don’t know what a sheeple is, it’s a cross between sheep and people. We were herded like sheep. All alike. Watch those videos carefully.  I now view them and look back and sorta feel terrified, remembering how I felt.  Kinda pissed off in a way.

I guess I could say I didn’t like the way we were bossed around in marching band one bit, so I quit that.  No way did I care for the cookie-cutter approach of the overcrowded classes. Why did we all have to do the same thing? Why look alike? Why any uniforms at all?  The appearance of synchronized anything (if it involves humans) now scares the heck out or me.  I wanted individuality. Why was being unique and special discouraged?

I switched from full-time study to part-time study in the spring semester, 1978. That summer, I moved to Vermont.

Sure, you’ll get a good education at a large school if you like that kind of thing. But if you want smaller classes you can get that at a junior college for less money, and you’re likely to be able to allowed be yourself, not a number in a gigantic crowd.  You will get far higher value in a smaller class.

I’m telling you this looking back. Decades have passed.

My next school was Bennington.  Yeah, expensive, but I got financial aid. The school was like night and day compared to the large UMass campus.  The classes there were so small, maybe six students at most.  At UMass/Amherst, the classes were between 15 students and 200 students per class.  Often at Bennington we’d meet with our instructors individually. Sadly, many of the smaller liberal arts colleges restructure. When applying for colleges, please look at how well financed the college is that you are applying to when you make your final decision. Things can indeed change. Sadly, I’ve heard that occasionally, a small liberal arts college closes some of their departments or combines two of them into one or makes some other compromise you may not be happy with.  Another thing I’ve heard can happen is that your major might be eliminated, forcing you to apply and enroll in another college. This could end up in a financial hassle. That’s why some choose the more stable state schools even though they are larger and more impersonal, as I’ve described above.

I guess bad luck forced me to drop out of Bennington. So I floundered around for quite a while.  I finished much later at Emerson College. I’d say this is a medium-sized school situated in a city, Boston, Massachusetts. So while  Bennington is in Vermont, which is certainly rural, Emerson had the advantage of being in a big city. At Bennington some students liked being rather close to New York.  Often, the Bennington students traveled down there via some sort of transit, perhaps bus travel on weekends.  I never did but it was the “in” thing to do. Vermont is beautiful and cold.  Bennington itself was a funny little town. The town had its dichotomy.  The locals certainly saw the students as “rich kids” and the students saw the locals as “townies.” So see the divide I’m talking about? You could feel the tension.  It led to all sorts of scandal, believe it or not that eventually was serious trouble.  It ran deep, deeper than many realize.  I believe it’s a serious problem even today.

I wasn’t an enrolled student at Southern Vermont College, but SVC is on the other side geograpically of Bennington. SVC seemed far more stable financially and certainly on a more stable level socially with the town.  The college offered different majors so the two didn’t compete really, and coexisted rather peacefully.  They were both small and although they had their little athletic teams they didn’t compete athletically against each other to my knowledge.   I enjoyed my classes there and the class size seemed ideal. It wasn’t a residential school, meaning they didn’t have dorms, so everyone lived locally and commuted there. From what I recall, the school was situated on a large hill and the campus was gorgeous because from up high, you could see all over the town.  I remember a long, scenic gravely road to get there.  I recall a castle-like building. Made of stones.

At any rate, I’ll talk about Emerson for a bit. This was many, many years later for me.  As I said, Emerson is in the heart of Boston, right on the Green Line (that’s the name of the subway line), actually not far from the Boston Common. Chinatown is nearby, too, and the Theater District. So lots is happening there. If you like city excitement, you’d be thrilled, but many don’t care for that kind of thing.  I recall after I broke my leg I was crossing the street ’round there and I was actually shoved right off the sidewalk!  I didn’t turn back but muttered to the person that surely they shouldn’t have done that.  I’d just finished with my crutches and was no longer using them, but was still slow on foot.

The person said to me, rather rudely, “You sure don’t look disabled!  Hurry up, klutz!” This is your typical city person who is in a hurry.

Naw, I didn’t fall or anything.  I was lucky.  I gathered my patience and moved on. I told myself there are plenty of impatient people on the planet and I’m proud not to be one of them!

So in Boston this is the life.  Hurried people that don’t care and shove each other and walk around with headphones on.  If you don’t mind that kind of thing, you won’t mind Boston.  It’s not a bad place overall.  There are cool places to go.

Emerson is a good school.  You’ll find good instructors there that will take the time to get to know you.  I didn’t enjoy graduation at all. Too big.  I’d say I wish I hadn’t gone except it’s one of the last memories I have of my beloved late boyfriend, who attended, along with my brother (whom I rarely see) along with my mom.  It’s just that graduation there is so impersonal and doesn’t seem to represent what the education there was about.

That afternoon, Joe and I went out to lunch. Late lunch.  I wouldn’t take that darned cap and gown off. Can you believe that?  Me and Joe at the Halfway Cafe. The waitress thought I was nuts. She said, “Okay, I won’t ask.” I said, “Don’t.”

I can’t remember what we ordered. They always had popcorn as an hors d’oerves.  I remember when Joe ate popcorn I wished Tiger was there at the Halfway Cafe to pick up everything that fell, cuz Joe sure dropped most of what he picked up before it got into his mouth. I doubt the waitstaff cared. They were tickled by him.  He loved the food.  He loved to compliment the chef.

He spoke of graduation.  How proud he was of me.  How proud my dad would be if he were alive. We were sad, too. We wished my dad could know, somehow, that I’d made it to that moment.

I remembered that day well.  Only a few weeks later, I was accepted to grad school at Goddard College. This was the day of Joe’s funeral.

Years later, I finished grad school. It was the second week of July 2009.  I thought of Joe.  I remember the dinner after graduation.  I had salmon with my fellow students, now proud graduates and their families.  I thought to myself that Joe would be proud of me, too, if he’d known I’d accomplished so much.  I think he did.

 

Feedback and comments welcome!