By S. Hatcher
I chose Appalachian State for one reason and one reason only – It was as far away from my parents as I could be and still get in-state tuition. It’s not nice and it’s not noble, but the truth rarely is. My parents lived in Raleigh and a school somewhere on the beach would have worked just as well as far as my requirements were concerned, but my father refused to let me go to UNC Wilmington, one of the top ranked party schools in the country at the time. Mostly, he was concerned about booze and frat boys. I guess he didn’t take into consideration the weed and women up in Boone.
My parents moved us to North Carolina right after I graduated from high school. The move was expensive and there was a new baby in the family, so money was in short supply. That meant no college money leftover for me. I worked everyday until I left, teaching gymnastics and waiting tables to afford my first semester – out of state tuition because we hadn’t lived there for a year yet. I socked away every penny for my mountain escape.
ASU is accessible by one mountain road, which my father and I traversed on a dark January afternoon. It was early when we finished unloading everything, and he pretty much dropped me and my stuff off and got back in the car. My roommate was away on Christmas break and the dorm was basically empty, so I vented my energy by unpacking everything and decorating my side of the room. I happily played my music at top volume and tacked a neat criss cross of my postcard collection all over my walls. I papered the ceiling with maps of continents I hoped to travel to one day. I arranged my books and CDs in a very particular order that makes sense only to me. I carefully folded my clothes and rearranged them until whole sections of like shirts and pants fit into their own space without having to be broken up. I piled my snacks neatly on a corner of my desk. Then I sat on the bed, cranked open the window, and cried.
I couldn’t figure out how the phone worked to call out of the dorm and TV got nothing but static up in the snowy mountains. It was so dark and so early and so cold and here I was with the freedom that I had been working toward and saving up for since I was 15 and I was too scared to leave the dorm room. I knew my propensity for getting lost just by turning around and I didn’t want to risk it on my first night alone in the snow. The next day, I signed up for the minimum number of classes possible to maintain a fulltime course load. Half of them were theatre classes, making it the easiest academic semester I would have in my entire college career.
In my first few months of college, I played in the snow and built sets for shows and made friends with an army of people whose names I can’t remember now. I saw bands for free in the quad and learned to hate drum circles and ‘jam bands’. I smoked weed on the Parkway and tested my fear of heights by climbing rickety, slippery mountain slopes. I stayed up late making posters for protests against growth hormones in cows and have not been able to touch Southern Comfort since a nasty incident at a party one night. I snuck in and out of boys-only dorms and discovered that I enjoyed making out with girls.
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t in a regimented house, with classes from dawn until mid afternoon, training for the gymnastics team until after dark, with homework and healthy dinners until my early bedtime. I became nocturnal and lived off of barbeque potato chips and the waffle bar at the cafeteria. Classes were the absolute smallest part of my life and I didn’t so much as turn a cartwheel the entire semester. When summer came, I happily got my first job waiting tables at a local café and moved in with some potheads with a penchant for Bob Marley and video games instead of moving back home like everyone else did.
If I have any advice to impart, it would be to not sign up for any 8 a.m. classes your first semester, to try arriving during the day rather than the night (so it’s less depressing), and to ease into things with some fun classes instead of overloading yourself. I knew quite a few small town kids who showed up to ASU and were just overwhelmed by the experience. ASU is small. Boone is even smaller, but a ton of people packed it in halfway through the semester. Stick it out. Give it a chance. Homesickness will pass and you’ll be glad you stepped out once you get used to it.
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