I may have passed Academics 101, that first semester of classes, but looking back, it’s fair to say that I flunked Campus Life 101. My mom dropped me off on Saturday and classes started on Wednesday. We had classes for three days and then I left campus for the Labor Day week. I like that schedule for classes; it gets everyone introduced to classes, time to get books, add or drop classes as needed and then take a breath, a little mental break before every thing really gets started. However, for students like me, it can be a difficult schedule because the campus becomes very quiet for those three days.
My roommate and I made it through the four days of togetherness with nothing to do and the three days of classes. Then the campus emptied out. I went to visit my grandmother in Guthrie. (A side note about my grandmothers is in order here.) Grandmommie, my paternal grandmother lived in Oklahoma City about 45 minutes away. Honoo, my maternal grandmother, so called because at age two my mother mangled her name, Helen, with my grandfather’s endearment Honey, lived in Guthrie which was located another 30 minutes past Oklahoma City.) Honoo had found ‘a local boy’ who was also an OU freshman and wrangled a ride to Guthrie for me. I spent three days there in one of my favorite places on earth. I was pleased to have a place to go and not sit in a mostly empty residence hall being lonely.
Most campuses do better these days. In the space between moving in to a new room or apartment and the start of classes, there are multiple activities planned. Student organizations offer events and programs as recruiting tools. There is a lot going on now on campus and even over the Labor Day weekend it’s not an activity desert. There may have been welcome activities my freshman year, but I don’t remember anything about it. Even if there were activities, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to go. And that reality hasn’t changed, especially at a large university. Students have to make some sort of effort and I did not.
And then the semester started for real. Classes took up a lot of time, but not all of my time. I remember going to one picnic early in the semester. Walker 9 West, the women’s side, teamed up with Walker 9 East, the men’s side (okay, we would have said girls and guys) to go on a picnic at a nearby park. I was awkward and it wasn’t much fun. Not quite as bad as a middle school dance, the guys hung out in one area and the girls sat together in another. I thought the point was to get to know the people from the other floor and said something a bit sarcastic like “if I meet one more guy, I don’t know what I’ll do.” The snarky response from one of my new neighbors, “I didn’t come here to meet boys”, effectively shut me down. I don’t think I went to another residence hall event the rest of the fall semester.
I certainly didn’t camp out for football tickets with the group from Walker 9. In those years, OU sold student tickets as season tickets so you needed to purchase tickets with the people you wanted to sit with. Seniors had first shot, then juniors and so on; graduate students were mixed in there somewhere. Freshmen were the very last to be able to buy tickets. There were plenty of season tickets, but the big issue for freshmen was tickets to the OU-Texas game. Held annually in Dallas, TX, this was not only a huge, long-time rivalry, but a massive party weekend. There were not enough Texas tickets for everyone, therefore freshmen who really wanted to go to that game had to be there early. This translated into camping out overnight in front of the ticket window. I like football, but not enough to camp out with a group of strangers, especially on a rainy night. I did buy tickets later during the day, but I don’t think I ever went to a game that year. The residence halls were very quiet on game day which meant it was a great time to study and that’s what I did. Choosing to study during football games at the University of Oklahoma during some of the great years – well that actually describes my first semester pretty well.
I spent a couple of weekends with one or the other of my grandmothers, took a trip to Dallas to see my boyfriend and talked on the phone with him as often as we could afford. It’s not that I didn’t meet anyone, I did, in large part because of the scholarship group I was part of because I did attend those meetings. Many of the same students lived on Walker 9 since it was the honors hall. But really that first semester on Walker 9, I was a nonentity.
(I would never have guessed that 40 years later, this very fall, I would be planning to join a group of friends from Walker 9 East and West for a reunion.)
I found out later that my mom had been a bit worried about me that first year or so and that my brother had reminded her that I was a slow starter in high school, too. As Neils Bohr says, prediction is difficult. Certainly, no one watching me that first semester would have ever predicted that I would become an RA, let alone have a thirty-plus year career in university administration.