Not only is this a new semester, it’s also my last one here as a student at Appalachian. I could try to wax nostalgic, but all I feel like right now is “it’s about darn time.” I’m glad I feel this way, because I decided to graduate a semester early, after much debate. I’ll miss a few people (mostly professors), but I know it’s time to move on.
It’s an odd semester. I just have two classes on campus, both of which meet at 5pm. I drive to campus as most people are leaving, take class, and head home. Or, if there’s something I need to do in town in the morning , I hang around the halls of the anthropology department all afternoon, because making just one trip a day is efficient. Aside from frequent trips to pick up library books, I’m more removed from campus life than ever before.
I feel like I’ve spent the past three years trying to find my place on campus with other students. And really, it hasn’t gone especially well. I’ve made a couple of friends, but ultimately, there’s been a huge frustration around feeling as though everyone else is on campus to socialize, while I’m there to actually learn. I’m enthusiastic about many of my classes, and it tends to kill the mood when most other students don’t seem to be there for any other reason than to check off a requirement. It’s been difficult to feel like an outsider. I both love that I am so devoted to my studies and worry that perhaps there’s something else I’m supposed to have gotten out of the college experience.
My hope is that I’ll find grad school more to my liking. I’m already to that stage where I’m totally immersed in my own work and finding classes to take that will further my projects and interests. And it doesn’t seem like many undergraduate students have reached this point yet. I find it so much more enjoyable to discuss research with my professors than to sit around before class starts and make small talk with students. None of this is to say that there’s anything wrong with what I observe to be the experiences of other students, but certain elements of “college life” have not really worked for me, mostly when it comes to the pressure to be more social. Instead, I’ve put my energy into things that matter to me, and when I graduate, I’ll have written a thesis, worked as a research assistant for a few different professors, and learned a lot of engaging material. Some parts have been a struggle, but in the end it’s been worthwhile. And yes, I’m absolutely ready to graduate and move on.