24 December 2012

Welcome to Fredonia

Welcome To Fredonia
Rebecca Shulman

            Here I am. I’ve finally made it. I have been working so hard for this! My entire life has been filled with so much time spent studying, analyzing, crafting, and working just to get to these next four years, where I will put all that I have ever learned into my work here, at SUNY Fredonia.

“Honey, are you excited?” My mom asked, turning around to meet my gaze with this nervous grin that seemed to be plastered on her face for the entire week.

“Yeah!” There is no way she is as nervous as me right now, right?

As I stared at the buildings that passed by my window, everything seemed so different from the last time I was here to visit for the campus tour during spring semester. I remember I was nervous then, too, but I knew that at that point I was going back home with my family. This time there was a very unsettling kind of feeling that just sat and festered inside my stomach. A sense of self-doubt, questioning whether this was really okay for me and if this was the right place stayed in the back of my mind. As the car made a right into the entrance, we passed a sign that read “WELCOME TO FREDONIA”, and I began to think about what got me to where I am.

I was in my room, flipping through the numerous college pamphlets I had picked up the night before at our annual college fair that was held in our main auditorium. Colors of every shade popped out as I walked in with my friends, and all of the sounds reverberated off of the walls as people were joyously talking back and forth. I obviously had no idea what I was thinking when I entered that room, because I ended up coming home with every single piece of paper that I could find. People handed me things left and right, whether it was a pen with the school logo on it, or a piece of gum. I filled my bag to the brim of what seemed to be pointless information. I spent forever trying to talk to as many school representatives as I could, but reading through all of the information I had collected, I couldn’t decide what I wanted.

What were my parents thinking? Is college really the right choice for me? As I tossed Mount Saint Mary’s portfolio towards the wall, I threw my hands in the air. How am I going to decide which school is right for me when I don’t even know what I want to do with myself? How does anyone expect me to understand what I want to do with my life when I’m only seventeen? Sure, some people know that they want to be a teacher, or a doctor, or a veterinarian. That’s not me! Was this seriously going to be my fate? Graduate high school and have nowhere to go? Maybe I’d work at the local grocery store as the stores clerk, or become a janitor mopping the floors all day long. I’ll watch everyone else succeed as I sweep the garbage, praying that this minimum wage job would get me by with Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner and water for the rest of my life.

When I was younger I always had everything handed to me, as if I didn’t have to do anything to deserve it. I lived on a schedule during my days in elementary school, where I would walk to school with my paper bag lunch, go home at the sound of the last bell to do my homework, and dinner was always on the table at 6:30. I never felt as though I was expected to do anything. I mostly expected others to do everything for me. I expected teachers to teach me, I expected my mom to fill my stomach with good food, I expected my brothers to play with me, and I expected my dad to tuck me into bed. Thinking back on it now, did they expect me to just understand what this drastic change was going to be like?

Then there was high school. Everyone I had talked to about high school before I entered the ninth grade always told me that these four years were going to be the best years of my life. As a freshman you were looked down on as the “freshies” or “fresh meat,” and the seniors you knew growing up would pick on you. I enjoyed my time being in high school because I always kept myself involved. I obviously hadn’t put a lot of thought into the fact that my leaving home and going to college was going to be a pretty big step. In fact, thinking about it now, it is probably one of the biggest turns that I will ever take. What would the seniors do there? Were they going to pick on me all over again, even though I wouldn’t know a single one of them?

            WELCOME TO FREDONIA. I snapped back to the reality of my situation instantly, as we passed by yet another sign, along with one next to it that read “Welcome back students!” My dad pulled up behind a blue Toyota Rav4 that I noticed was waiting patiently to be directed to their dorm building by what seemed to be a group of students. I saw the girl in the passenger seat ahead give a smile and wave kindly, as she rolled up her window as they carried onto their journey ahead, slowly moving forward down the road. My dad pulled up to the stop sign as my mom pushed down on the window key letting the fresh air blast through the crack. As my mom asked for directions, I pulled my Ipod out of my pocket and hit PAUSE, taking my ear buds out one at a time so I could listen.

            “Hemingway? You make a right here and you can follow this road till you get to the second stop sign. Make a right, then a left, and it’ll be just a little ways down the road on your left.” One of the girls in the group handed my mom a pamphlet that had a picture of the clock tower on the front. My mom opened it, and looked at the map for a brief second. “You’ll see cars parked on the lawn, and we have campus police to escort you where you’ll be able to park. Good luck!”

            As my dad let go of the break pedal, we inched forward; turning right and following those few simple directions that helped us finally reach our destination. What if people, like teachers or world leaders, gave us the wrong information? If all of the time put into our studies weren’t worth it, how would we know? It’s as simple as giving someone the wrong directions to a certain destination. If when we arrived to Fredonia, and that girl had told us the directions to another building, we would instantly know she was wrong because we would have ended up at the wrong place. But how would we know the information that others are giving us could be misleading?

“Hi there. What can I help you with?” The woman gave us a welcoming smile, as my dad sat down on one of the chairs while my mom and I stood by the counter of the office.

“Yes. We have to pay for a meal plan, and we were wondering how much it would cost to have a debit plan as well.”

As I let my mom handle the money situation, I surveyed both the Debit and Meal Plan brochures that they had sprawled along the counter in front of us. I never realized how expensive college was going to be until I started to plan where it was that I wanted to go.

“Okay. So, Becca, have you decided on what schools you are thinking you want to apply to?” I was sitting in my advisors office during my fourth period lunch. I thought it would be a good idea to talk to him about my ideas and see if he had any that I didn’t while I still had some time.

“I didn’t think about the fact of whether or not I could afford it.” I looked up only to see his facial expression. It was something between shock mixed with confusion, because while his eyebrows were pinching together and creating this indent just above the bridge of his nose, his head was tilted slightly to the side and his eye began to twitch. This guy must think I’m an idiot. “But so far I’ve applied to Quinnipiac, Mount Saint Mary, New Paltz, and Sienna.” The relief on his face was unbelievable, but at least it showed I had stepped in some sort of positive direction.

“Why don’t you try applying to more SUNY schools? You can easily apply to multiple through the common app online.” It was that simple. I had already filled out the common app online. All I had to do was send it to a specific school. The only main problem about doing that was that for each school I applied to we were required to pay a processing fee of $50.00.  They made it so easy for us to send the money to each school through the application, but it was the fact that I was giving my money away just to be told if I was going to be accepted or not.

When I got home later that day, I went on my desktop that my parents set up in our kitchen. I pulled up a chair from the dining room table, and booted it up. As I pressed the ON button, I heard the door open and my mom walked in.

“Hi honey. What did the counselor say?”

“He said I should apply to more SUNY schools. If it’s a money issue, he told me they are more affordable and with the scholarships I’ll receive, it could probably be the best choice for me.” Even though it may be the right choice, I still felt bad because in the end it’s her money. I feel that all I was doing was wasting it all since I was, in the end, only going to attend one school.

“It’s not a waste if it’s for school.” She always said that. I’m not wasting my time, I’m not wasting my money, I’m not wasting my effort. I’m not wasting a single thing if it has to do with furthering my education. She is still saying this today. She is a firm believer in that if you put the effort into hard work, in the end it all pays off. I feel that we always hope that someday we will get the money back. Depending on what you go to school for, we are all hoping to leave with a better understanding in our specific field, hoping that it will all somehow make us wealthy and able to take care of ourselves and one day possibly a family or loved ones.

My mom and dad left. They are gone and I’m here in this room with a girl I’ve never met until today, a room I just finished setting up, and my laptop. My laptop can be my friend. And I thought that changing schools in the same district was a tough thing to do.

“I’m thinking of going to get some things to decorate the room with. Want to come?” I thought about how I’ve never been this far from home before. She’s the only one that I know here, but that wasn’t why I decided to go. I chose to do what I felt best because of the situation.

Being at college is definitely different from living at home. There are different expectations now, but the tables have turned so I’m the one who is expected to do what needs to be done. I am expected to get myself to class and do what it takes to receive good grades. I am expected to exercise and stay healthy by eating well and getting my own food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is also expected of me to join groups and activities around campus so that way I can do what needs to be done while still having the chance to enjoy my time here. That’s not even a problem.

Looking at how my life is now, the way I view American Identity is sort of in an open book aspect. I see that life here to me is as wide as I want it to be. Personally, I’m not sure where I’m going to be a few years from now. Being at college is an experience like no other. Yeah, I’m given a lot of freedom, and yes, I’m given the time to do whatever I may want to. I grew up learning that I have responsibilities to do what I have to in order to have a successful life. I came here with a sure idea of what I wanted and I’m leaving this semester feeling lost in this large world. My identity is my name, who people in college see that I am, where I am from, and where I’m going. It’s something personal, it’s a decision we make faster than we blink our eyes. It’s what we do each and every day, it’s every single step we take.

“Hey, what are you doing today?” Molly asked, as I put on my jacket, grabbing my keys and getting ready to head out the door.

“I have some homework I need to get done. I’m heading to the library if you want to join me.” I told her.

“No, that’s okay. I don’t have that much to do.”

“Okay. See you later.” I headed out of the room, easing the door shut.
Booting up the computer was easy. It was actually forcing myself to work that made me struggle to finally start. But that day, even though I told my roommate I was doing homework, I was actually looking at our home page trying to decide what major I wanted to focus on. What path do I want to take? What road am I willing to travel? I feel that I can create my identity, because in this moment, I am

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