As my first semester winds down and my peers dive into weeks of neglected reading in preparation for finals, I am amazed at my enlivening first semester. If there is a theme to these first five months, it’s liberation.
Education prior to college is largely planned out for you, but once here it’s a sprawling, limitless space. Sometimes first year students shirk from such vastness; unsure or, unimpressed by what they find, they resign.
That freedom granted me room to carve a niche for myself as a student, a writer, and a human being while retaining enough uncharted ground for further self-exploration.
I thought it was odd that the school selected classes for first year students; still I was largely pleased with mine-though disappointed that I was assigned a drawing class instead of a writing class. I truly considered dropping it, but I was compelled to experiment. The payoff was tremendous. I am no da Vinci, but I’ve moved beyond cave drawings.
Experimentation tremendously enhanced my college experience thus far. I developed a quirky habit of visiting classes I hadn’t signed up for like Richard Mathews’ British Literature and Elizabeth Winston’s Autobiography. Academic excursions made all the more exhilarating by the fact that I could actually keep up in these advanced classes.
I observed Ezra Mirze’s Postcolonial Literature class around the middle of the semester, and by the end I was essentially adopted. I had fallen in love with the class, besides the Mirze experience is not one to be missed. Try sitting in on a class next semester, professors are usually approving of it. The perks far outweigh the cons: all the learning without any work.
Joining a community cemented me within the tempest of anonymity that college seems to produce. It’s comforting that a group of myriad personalities can congregate under a common interest.
As an ardent supporter of the written word, I found that The Minaret, Quilt, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English honors group, provided sanctuaries; yet, moving beyond the tamed trail revealed more satisfying oases.
Coming from a high school where I was the only avid writer I knew and one of few to know where the library was-let alone use it-then immersing myself in a community of English professors and majors with worlds of wisdom to share smothers me with anticipation of semesters to come.
I fondly remember the evening of the poetry slam, lounging outside Retreat-since I was the infant of our entourage-with a group of English professors and students. I’ve never socialized or interacted with teachers outside of school, let alone at a bar. Yet, there we were a motley, boisterous band of writers discussing not only literature but our lives. And those professors-who would have guessed their dynamic histories?
Frankly, my professors have been some of the most fascinating individuals I have met (trust me; they are much more intriguing when they’re not threatening quizzes). From Constance Rynder’s travels to Indian reservations and playing in a folk band to Andrew McAlister’s seemingly endless fount of enlightening cynicism on the state of mass media, to Elena CiFuentes’ anecdotes on the soul-reflecting ability of art in children and serial killers, delving into the secret lives of professors is immensely rewarding.
Of course, the college experience is not complete without a new menagerie of friends; and what a collection I have accrued. I recall the most poignant, and unlikely, friendship I’ve made. At the first Quilt meeting I remember thinking: Here’s this nice 20-something helping us new kids out, regaling us with hilarious stories when all of a sudden she talks about her marriage and three kids. I had to double-take (later she showed me a picture of her in high school; she has not aged since she graduated). What could a mother of three and a na’ve sophomore talk about? Plenty, that’s the beauty of it.
As in high school, you’ll encounter plenty of people just like you, yet the unexpected acquaintance is often the most enduring.
UT is honestly a godsend, which is all the more amazing considering I came here largely on gut instinct (having a writing program didn’t hurt either). Besides all the wackiness-mysteriously burned palm trees, incessant fire drills, the appearance of Derek Jeter-I must admit that university life is less strenuous than I feared. I dug around and catered to my hobbies, finding others on the way. I know people who rarely leave their dorms, yet feel justified in complaining about their horrid first semesters. Everything is laid out, but you must search; and if you can’t find it, create it.