I have been to Chicago many times throughout my life and I didn’t think this trip would be different. It was. This time I saw the city through the anxious eyes of a new driver as I watched my Dad break all the rules my teacher had been preaching! I saw the skyline and I paid attention to the people hustling on the crowded streets, knowing someday I might be a part of it all. Chicago was different this time because during this trip I went on my first college visit.
Going on a college tour for the first time is eye opening. It is a reminder that life is going fast and has no intention of slowing down. I was suddenly touring a place where I could possibly be spending the first four years of adulthood. I visited Northwestern University. I had heard you fall in love with the first college you see. Maybe that is the case, but there was something special about this campus.
My mom cried on the ride there, while we were on the tour, and in the restaurant we stopped in afterwards. This didn’t surprise me–she cries every year on the first day of school, or at any hint of my inevitable growing up. My Dad, though, was also sentimental on this ride. He asked how it could be possible that the baby he had held in his hand was now going to visit a college. I experienced, to my surprise, a fleeting moment of panic as I wondered how in the world I could leave home, or how I would ever survive on my own.
It was a beautiful day for a tour, though maybe any day would have been perfect. The tour began at nine and we were there early enough to take a sneak peak. My mom and I walked around and she teared up when we saw the campus beach on the sandy shore of Lake Michigan. “Look,” she said to me as she pointed, “If you go here, we’ll just be straight across the lake.” On a clear day, it really is possible to see Michigan!
The tour guides were from all over: one from Alaska, two from California, others from far off states. My family joined a group with Carrie, a tour guide from the Upper Peninsula. We chose her because she seemed familiar–a fellow Michigander. She was a “rising senior”, bubbly, funny and extremely enthusiastic. She was the epitome of a college student in love with their school. As she told us about school activities and traditions, I thought how I would love to sport the purple and white and how good it would feel to tell friends of my parents how much I loved being a Wildcat.
Carrie told us about the tradition of “The Rock”–a large boulder stationed at the center of campus–that students paint. In order to paint the rock, the intended painter has to guard it for twenty-four hours beforehand. I remember smiling at the tradition and wanting to be a part of it–it seemed so college-worthy. I felt sophisticated, nodding at students and picturing myself walking on campus with a cup of coffee and a bag of books.
We left the school after a two hour tour, me smitten and my parents impressed, to say the least. I was told that I would fall in love with the first school, but I wonder if I was just lucky enough to have my first school be the one I genuinely loved.
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