Blair, NE: When I think of travel, I usually think about a family vacation to some far-off place that takes way too long to get to. Billed as a time of togetherness, by the time we arrive we are already tired of each other. However, travel doesn’t have to be that way. Just going to the grocery store or driving around town can be traveling if you let yourself see it that way.
Not long ago, I went to Blair, Nebraska to visit Dana College. Some may not consider this traveling since it is only 20 miles away and I had been there before, but this time was different. I had never visited while school was in session and always imagined college as a place where students were finally away from their parents and didn’t have teachers telling them to go to class. I imagined a place free of supervision and full of parties.
Walking around campus, I noticed how serious most students were. The best way to describe them would be as one admissions representative put it: “These people are like you, they want to be here to learn and advance their education and life.” That was exactly true. Every time I walked into a room, there was at least one student talking to a professor or working on a paper. It didn’t seem anything like high school, where many students just don’t want to be there.
Television and movies seem to depict college life with two distinct groups: the partiers and the nerds. The nerds never do anything but go to class and study, and they are usually shown at Ivy League schools. A few characters in “Legally Blonde,” for example, are the nonstop studying type. The remainder (and the majority) are the “not-so serious” students who attend college in an “Animal House” kind of way.
Seeing an active college campus firsthand has made it even clearer how wrong a stereotype can be. Just because a student doesn’t attend an Ivy League school doesn’t mean he or she isn’t intelligent or serious. So many other factors can affect a person’s decision about college. Yes, there are the “partiers” and the “nerds,” but the majority of students are at college to learn and grow with life’s experiences.
Traveling isn’t just a new place and a new time. I’ve traveled that same 20 miles of highway many times, and I’d always felt the same; I didn’t want to leave my safety zone of high school where I knew everyone and what to expect. College seemed to be a place of uncertainty and either partying or studying all the time, but I didn’t like either option. I felt like I was never going to belong.
After this trip, however, I’m excited for college and what it will bring. Check out dana.edu for lots more information on a college that’s already changed my outlook for the better.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.