“So where are you headed off to college at?” The graduation invitation salesman asked each of my fellow class officers in the last months of my senior year.
We were all very conditioned to this type of question by then, and the other four officers’ schools rang in my ears as if they were gleaming palaces only for the best: Platteville, Iowa State, Aurora, and another Iowa State. Ah, the luxury of a four-year college … I mused as I meekly replied, “Oh, I’m just going to IVCC.”
“Just IVCC? Why, no need to be ashamed. I’d say you’re the smartest one of the bunch. Just think of the money you’ll be saving, and IVCC is really a very nice school.”
I remember a blush coming on and smiling from ear to ear, feeling pretty good about my decision to attend a junior college, but I was still feeling a little gypped about missing out on the whole college experience. All my friends would start to get the freedom and independence I so longed for, as well as getting to live with and meet all kinds of new people. I couldn’t help but be just the weeist bit jealous.
My feelings on the issue didn’t take too long to change, though. For one, I didn’t have to move out all of my belongings into a possibly tiny, uncomfortable room with other people I didn’t know. Also, I didn’t have to take out a loan for my upwards to $30,000 or $40,000 tuition cost, and I wouldn’t be unluckily paired with a rude, messy or crazy roommate. The list could go on and on.
Yes, I do have to drive 40 minutes every day to get to school, and I do have to deal with my family every night (don’t worry, just kidding!), but after talking to one of my friends who lives away at college in a dorm, I realize that I have it pretty good.
I get to come home to my comfortable, roomy house every night with home-cooked meals and the freedom to drive or go wherever I want. I get my own shower and double-sized bed with all of my belongings at fingertip access. And perhaps best of all, I get to keep the relationships with my family that so many college students lack.
Since losing the constant attention from a relationship and also losing some of my closer friends to college both about the same time a few months back, I’ve learned the importance of needing to nurture my relationships more. The people that you love and that love you aren’t necessarily there for life, and if you are not careful, they could up and leave in the blink of an eye.
I am not a very outgoing person, an introvert by nature, so making lots of new friends and being the life of the party is definitely not my strong suit. Through realizing this about myself, I also figured out that while meeting new people is fantastic, often maintaining long-time friends and family is the most important because we will always be closest to them.
Reflecting on this idea, one of the highlights of my days has been the almost nightly walks with my mom. We love to take quick half hour strolls through the scenic areas of Princeton or on country roads by our house while discussing our days and just being there for each other. Due to these quick catch-up sessions, my mom has become one of my best friends; always there to listen, rejoice, mourn, advise or whatever I need each day while I try to give the same in return.
It isn’t always perfect, and we have our share of disagreements, but I am so thankful for this growth in our relationship because I know that my mom will always be there whether I like it or not, and I love that we get along so well and have learned to understand and be patient with one another.
Another time I cherish is the occasional homework sessions I share with my brother. Mind you, we don’t always get a lot of homework accomplished with all of the distractions, but I love being able to catch up and enjoy a few laughs together amongst our very different schedules.
We can do this because we both drive to our colleges, so I am thankful for campuses within driving distance. Without them my brother would not have lived at home for the past four years, and this year I would also not be home, guaranteeing no brother-sister time on a regular basis.
IVCC has really been a blessing for me in so many ways. I know that junior colleges aren’t for everyone, but I encourage all students to give them a chance because they are the perfect transition from high school to universities and the “real world” (and I absolutely love my professors!).
But more importantly, IVCC has allowed me to maintain and strengthen many of the relationships that are the most essential to me, which is much harder for those who are away at school. I will eventually move away to a campus and experience the other parts of college, but for now I am very thankful to be living at home and being with the people that care about me most.
Danae Ross of Wyanet is a freshman at Illinois Valley Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.