By Garrison Weaver
AML Guest Co-Ed Columnist
Photos courtesy of Garrison Weaver
It’s funny to think that only one year ago I was getting ready to start my senior year of high school. The only things I had to worry about were golf practice every day and trying to stay interested in my summer reading that was only about half done. I had almost no idea that I would be sitting in a dorm room in Richmond typing away about life. Now that it is here, the surreal feeling sets in. Last year I didn’t know where I was going to apply. It was almost a helpless feeling knowing that I would be judged by a group of institutions that had no idea who I was and convincing them that I would be a positive contribution to their group. Now that I am here, it is the greatest feeling in the world. All of my hard work over four years has landed me in Marsh Hall, Room 0132 as a student pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Economics.
I left my summer cottage in Mt. Gretna, a small town near Hershey, at around 9AM on August 16th to make the journey to Virginia, my home for the next four academic years. I drove a suburban filled to the brim with my clothes, books, personal items, basically my life packed into an 18 foot gas guzzler. With my mom in the passenger seat I wound down the Turnpike to US-15 and turned south to get to I-95 south, the straightaway that leads right into Richmond. We seldom stopped in order to get to the University by 2PM, my appointed check-in time, but did manage to get a “last-supper” at a Wawa somewhere in Virginia (I definitely recommend the pepperoni and provolone bagel melt). I think I should mention that I was involved in a pre-orientation program called the Outdoor Challenge. It was an excuse to move in early and avoid the sea of parents and tears that usually accompany move-ins, and get my foot in the door to both campus and a group of 15 other guys that would be some of my closest friends here.
I checked in, unloaded the boxes and boxes of both necessities such as bed linens and food, as well as not so necessities such as Playstation and my golf bag. (Just as an aside, if you do bring a game system to school, make sure you grab controllers that work because in the rush of packing I happened to choose some that work. I had a mini-freak-out when they didn’t; it was a bit sad to whoever witnessed it.) Anyway, once everything was in and set up, my parents left and I was basically alone in my room for the next few hours. Adam, my roommate, wasn’t coming down until the 19th, the regular check-in, so I time to snag the best area for my bed and stake my claim so he would be at my mercy for the rest of the year. That sounds harsh, but we eventually got everything worked out so that we can cohabitate peacefully until May.
The Outdoor Challenge took the aforementioned group of first year guys to a wooded area near Kings Dominion to engage in team building exercises on high ropes courses and various other contraptions for three days. We were all in the same boat. We didn’t know each other, we were away from home for the first time, and we had nothing to lose by introducing ourselves to one another. We lived in tents in the sweltering heat of the Virginia summer and cooked food over an open flame. It was honestly one of my better decisions this summer. The cost of leaving home three days earlier than I had expected paid dividends by introducing me to a great group of guys that I could have as a basis for the people I meet on campus. When we came back to school, I felt ahead of the crowd. Instead of being afraid to go out and meet people, the guys I met on Outdoor Challenge come to me and say, “What’s up” or give a high five. I could go to the dining hall (Dhall) or the Dean’s Den (a billiards room) and know at least one person that I shared an experience with. During orientation I didn’t have to be by myself trying to map out this new world of mine. I was able to sit with people I knew and joke around (even when it wasn’t appropriate) just like I was back home. I feel incredibly lucky to have had this event just to boost my confidence-it makes being away from family and friends incredibly easier.
Orientation. Probably one of the most boring experiences of my life. If anyone from school saw this I would be skinned alive, but it’s not their fault. It was just long days of waking up early and going to be late and in the meanwhile being told things not to do. They were common sense things such as respect for women and respect for self. Not possessing or consuming alcohol in the rooms, but then again who would ever do that; not smoking in the rooms so that the cinderblock holes we live in don’t burn down; being mindful about how we act…et cetera et cetera.
The three days of boredom ended with an event called Vegas Night. The school put up a mock casino in the Commons and a dance floor in the next room. It was a great way to unwind for two hours before the gates were opened and the freshman were pounded into the ground with work. I got to sleep way later than I should have and awoke the next morning to go to Calculus 211, the first class of my college career.
The first class for every course was a rundown of the year. I was handed a single sheet of paper that detailed how I would spend my weeknights until December 4th, the last day of classes for Fall 2009 semester. The very next class I was plunged into the fiery pits of academic hell as I try and find a way to get all of my work done and still retain a shred of humanity. To be frank, it really isn’t as bad as I expected but no matter how you coat it, work is work. There is no getting around that. This semester my classes are as follows: Calculus 211, Intensive French 221, Microeconomics 101, and CORE 101.
Intensive French should be renamed FML French because it is every single day of the week and twice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The class is taught completely in French and it took me a good two days to see how far behind I had fallen by taking a year off from my studies in senior year. CORE class is a reading class required by the school. We read, over the course of two semesters, a plethora of books that describe “the Human Experience”; everyone from Marx, to Plato and from Nietzsche to Mahfouz. It is a drag for 75 minutes on Wednesdays and Fridays but it could be worse. I finished my first paper for CORE a few days ago. It was probably the toughest assignment I’ve ever considered but with any grace of God I did half descent on it. Econ is probably my favorite class so far. Good thing I do like it because I do plan declaring it as my major next year.
Aside from schoolwork, I have gotten myself involved in the school newspaper, The Collegian. I am a staff photographer for the sport section currently assigned to cover the men’s and women’s soccer teams as well as a story on the development of a Club Figure Skating team. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays this year I will be participating in Club Rugby. I had played a bit before but I haven’t played a contact sport since 5th grade football at St. Anastasia. I will post updates on that as I get mangled and beaten by guys twice my size running without pads. My goal is no serious injuries, but only time, and luck, will tell.
This weekend is the first football game of the year. The defending 1AA National Champs Richmond will take on Duke in Durham. I will be on the bus going down to the game along with about two hundred other students. The campus is a buzz with football pride. Almost everyone wears his or her Richmond Rowdies (spirit group) shirts at least once a week here. Coach Mike London has worked the team so hard that I rarely see any of the football players on my floor anymore. I know I will get some flak from back home on November 7th when the Spiders take on Villanova down at UR Stadium. I’m pretty sure we can pull out that game this year. It was stolen at the last minute from UR last year, so we’re due for a win.
Now I just had a realization. Plato’s Apology won’t read itself, so I best head off to the library! It’s a building where I spend most of my nights frantically resisting the urge to sleep and put off all of my work to some later time.
Go out and have Wawa for me,