The Last Four Years

Posted on: Sunday, April 24, 2011

I've spent a lot of time thinking my college experience wasn't what it was supposed to be. I'll just start with that, and here's why:

In Finland I discovered that I got along really well with people that were older than I was, by just a few years or several years. Aside from a few younger fellow exchange students, my closest friends in Finland were all at least 21 or 22 at the time, while I was barely 18 and right out of high school. Some of my best memories are of experiences and conversations with my host families. I didn't much care to go out and party (though I was of legal drinking age), I would much rather go sailing or out to the summer cottage for the weekend or chat around the dinner table in the evening. I would much rather walk the dog by myself or go nordic walking with my host mom. Upon returning to State College I felt like my normal, social and fun self, back with all my familiar friends and group dynamic (well, sort of; everyone else had been off for a year of college, having experiences and whatnot as well). I didn't really notice how different I was (from my old self, and from those around me) until I got settled in at American as a freshman. Everyone was stressed, panicked, and worried about a lot of things. They were excited to be out and about, away from home for the first time. I wanted to yell, "It'll be OK! Chill out!" but I knew this would not be a readily welcomed or helpful response. They were actual freshman, that's all, and I just wan't one of them. I had some good friends in my dorm building, but I'm pretty sure if I hadn't found AU Players I would have been quite unhappy.

My favorite thing I ever did in college was AU Players, the student theater group at American. I had the fortune of being selected to stage manage a show my first semester at American; turns out it would be the first of five productions I would manage in my two years at AU. Getting involved in such an intense and busy organization right at the start of school was the best possible thing for me (and probably for anyone, really). I found people that were more my age and that I could relate to much more; it was great getting out of the dorms for hours of long rehearsals to have fun and accomplish great things at the same time. It took me a couple shows to break in and be comfortable in the group, but by the time Titus Andronicus rolled around, I had a wonderful and talented family of actors, directors, techies and friends around me. I haven't missed much else about AU since I left.


I started at American as a business and international service double major at American University. I'm graduating as a psychology and anthropology double major at the University of Pittsburgh. Different! The story of how that happened was that one Saturday in October (or thereabouts) of my second year I was doing homework for a psych class and a cross cultural class and also reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for fun.  My mind exploded and I realized what is really interesting, important and relevant, and that was not business (at least not for me to spend my time learning about). Before gen ed requirements I hadn't even considered or been introduced to such fields of study. I was quick to realize where my true interests lay, and within a month or so I also decided I did not want to be at AU. It was a combination of things that made me want to leave the school. I had issues with terribly loud (gross, rude, idiot, mean, etc) neighbors in the dorms and had resorted to sleeping on the uncomfortable floor of a friends room, and as a result getting and staying sick for a while. The school didn't feel the need to do anything about it until my parents got involved; that's not how it should be in college. Since my living experience was so bad, everything else seemed not too great either. While before I had quite liked the campus, at that point the fact that you could get anywhere in seven minutes tops made AU feel way too small and lacking in character. I still felt out of place. I'd been to visit Kyle a few times, and Pitt seemed like what college should be. People out and about, vastly different areas of campus, shops and restaurants right down the street, a park, run down apartments, the cathedral...even the dining hall impressed me (TDR could never compare to Market). I had fun adventures whenever I went to visit Pitt, and I realize that is because I was visiting Kyle and he made sure to have some fun things planned, and when is visiting your best friend a bad thing, but still, I felt more at home at Pitt, and I dreading going back to AU after each weekend visit.

When I decided to transfer I concurrently decided two things. 1) I wasn't going to go to a completely new school with people I don't know and risk this whole thing not working again for the last two years, and 2) I wasn't going to go to Pitt. I knew Everyone would look at it as me transferring just to be with my boyfriend, and not care to look any further, so I was going to rule that out completely. The only two places I had some familiarity with were Pittsburgh and State College, though, so I was considering Penn State and Carnegie Mellon. My family reassured me that hey, it's OK if I wanted go to Pitt, so I decided to add that into the mix as well; whatever, Everyone!- think what you want. And honestly, I never have ever wanted to go to Penn State, so that was really only a backup plan (as it was the first round of applying to schools senior year). I went to visit both Pitt and CMU one snowy weekend in January (I think I was the only one leaving DC for Obama's inauguration). CMU made a bad impression (well the tour guides did; terrible people), and the campus was a bit too similarly condensed like AU. It didn't feel right. Pitt however was lovely. I made sure to go on the tour and spend some time around campus by myself. And that weekend I decided to go to Pitt.

This post is getting pretty long and probably boring, so I'll try to keep the last two years at Pitt short. Pitt has been better, but I've come to realize that it's not the school, it's just me. Academically I'm fine probably anywhere. That part of school- the part with working and going to class and learning- I'm very good at and quite enjoy. That was never the problem. The problem was with having fun, and getting to know people, and being able to relate to people outside of class. When Kyle and I had a six month overlap attending Pitt, he was the one that made sure I had fun, and at least attempted to have the kind of fun that every other student seems to enjoy (because let's face it: going to college is hardly just about going to classes). But really, going to a random party with strangers and playing beer pong is not fun for me. Beer pong is boring. Drinking just to be way too drunk is stupid. College kids are mostly really annoying, full of booze or not.

I do not party or go to bars or do many fun things as most college kids do. I've never been very good at being a "normal" college kid. I thought it was the school I was at; wrong!- it's me. I think starting college with a group of people a year younger than me really threw me off. I'm much better at being "old" than being "young," but everyone around me seemed for the most part so much younger and more at ease with the college lifestyle, so it has been hard to find a comfortable place and role for me socially at/outside of school. I feel like I was upset a lot of the time- because people were inconsiderate and keeping me awake at night, because I was never quite comfortable in my surroundings, because the one person that really understood me was always far away, because I didn't understand why I couldn't have fun with/like everybody else. I thrived as a stage manager, as a tutor, as a responsible worker, at time management and never once having to pull an all-nighter -all things the mature and older side of me was well suited for. That isn't to say that being old equals not having good times; I've had plenty of those over the last four years, and made a few great friends. I just feel I've failed at what it seems should be the easiest part of attending university: enjoying it.

Here I am come graduation, and I'm not good friends with a single senior at this school. Why go to a ceremony with a bunch of people I don't know? I do not like celebrating things that have to do with myself, but if I went I'd have only myself to celebrate for. I don't mind; the ceremony and celebration of it all is not a big deal to me. I did well in school, learned and forgot a lot of interesting things, had good experiences working in the field, maintained a wonderful long distance relationship, got married to my best friend, and now I'm figuring out what I want to do in grad school and beyond. The last four years were a success, and I guess they did turn out how they were supposed to; how could I think otherwise? They just were not the four years I thought they would be, or the four years everyone around me seemed to have.

- From the desk of Mrs. Sarah McPherson


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