Monday, February 4, 2013

Go Away to College!

I wasn’t one of those teens who was eager to get away from her family or thought she was ready to grow up. (I’m very close to my family and I still don’t want to grow up!) I went away to college because first, I got a scholarship, and second, I chose to. I chose very carefully with lots of financial conjuring. First was college, and second was grad school.

College for me was a state university only forty-five minutes away from my hometown. It wasn’t glamorous or expensive and I probably wouldn’t have chosen it had I not gotten a scholarship, but I’m glad I went. It was the beginning of spreading my wings, my training wheels of higher education.

Disney 2001
At college, I learned that the real me is friendly and can talk to strangers, can handle being hit in the head with a bamboo sword, and can survive being ripped apart. I met some great friends for life. I started to come out of my shell. I learned about roleplay, cosplay, and anime conventions. With my friends, I started a club for our geeky hobbies like anime, sci-fi/fantasy, and gaming. It was called Fantanime. As far as I know, the club is still around.

Through college, I traveled to Disneyworld in Florida, where I worked for about three months at Magic Kingdom. (But that's another story.)

Savannah Sunset
Grad school was inspired by jealousy. It was the result of me outgrowing college and wanting more specific instruction than I was getting. It was inspired by me making an online friend and wishing my college was as cool as hers was. So I applied to her college. And I got in.

The Savannah College of Art and Design. It even sounds spiffy, doesn’t it? SCAD is the kind of college I used to only dream of going to. They were hazy, vague desires of a faraway ‘art school’, but SCAD made them real and solid and even more desirable. Even the dvd they sent in the packet dripped with Spanish moss and sparkled with excited art students laiden with shiny new art supplies.

One of the squares near my apartment
When I traveled to Savannah to start my first quarter, I knew no one. I had no safety net other than living in the dorm. And I didn’t care. I was wrapped in a blanket of the south, surrounded by one of the most gorgeous cities I’d ever seen, and I was learning under professional talent. I was enchanted. I would walk under the bearded trees, gazing up at the historic buildings and appreciate. I would sit in my classes, shaking my head at the bored undergrads, and absorb.

There were no walls of self-consciousness, no silly pride, no hesitation. I was stripped down, open, and eager.

Halloween 2006
At SCAD, I came alive again, my creativity rejuvenated, my social appetite buzzing. I made amazing, talented friends. I became the one American in a cluster of Asian girls, and I fit right in. I went to restaurants, art exhibits, doll meets, Halloween parties. I found out I could be a social butterfly under the right circumstances.

Portfolio Night 2008
I won contests, participated in events, lived in three different places in two years. The last was an elegant old two-story brick apartment building with gaslights out the front and a wrought iron fence. It had six-foot high windows and wood floors. It came with great roommates.

I got loans for SCAD. Loans that I am just starting to pay back. But it was so worth it.

And that’s what I mean by “Go Away to College”. Go away because it’s an adventure. Go away because it’ll help you find out who you are and appreciate what you already know. It’s not the money I think about when I remember my college years. It’s the experience.

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