Little Fish On Campus

First day of school.

As I write this, it my childrens’ first day of school.  It’s dawning hot and steamy, and the kids will sweat in their non air conditioned classrooms.  Lunches are packed, outfits are laid out, backpacks are filled to the brim with the stuff that the teachers deemed necessary for their success.

In 1988, my first day of school was my first day of college.

Every September had a familiar feel to it for me; I knew where I would be and what I would be doing.  I usually also knew that I would do fairly well at it; I was one of those who not only did well at school but actually liked it.

But this year?  This year I stood in Akers Hall in a dorm room with two strangers and one friend looking at the piles of disorganized things we’d all brought.  Everywhere there were thick textbooks that cost more than I’d ever imagined, and maps of a campus so large I thought I’d never learn my way around.

We’d moved in the weekend before.  My dorm room was an odd split of two smallish sleeping areas and one larger study area, plus a tiny bathroom.  It was built in the 1960s as the Michigan State University grew.  These ameneties gave our dorm the distinct edge over the older dorms from the early 1900s which had shared bathrooms down the hall.  The downside to Akers was its position on campus; being a “newer” dorm, it was built where there was room left.  This put it right on the eastern edge of campus, far away from absolutely every class I had registered for.

The dorm was immense.  My hallway, on the first floor (I was thankful for this on move in day), was the girls floor.  Boys were segregated on the other side of the building, beyond the main hallway.  The cafeteria was on the second floor, a huge, open room that served passable meals at a snail’s pace.

I felt fortunate with the girls sharing my room.  One of my room mates was my friend Karen, from home.  We were rooming with Lori, a girl from the suburbs near where my father lived.  She was a sophomore and told us all sorts of tricks and tips for dorm living.  She too had a boyfriend living in the dorm, on the other side.  Our other roommate, Ayesha, was from Detroit.  She was a freshman like us, and I was eager to get to know her.

My class schedule was something like this:

Concert Band
Private Music Lessons
Music Theory

I’d never had so few academic classes and so many music classes.  I was definitely out of my comfort zone.  Even though I’d graduated with over 600 kids and went to a high school of 2500, being on campus with 40,000 other students gave me the distinct “little fish in a very, very big pond” feeling.  It was disconcerting.

Happy First Day of School, everyone.


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