The Tempest This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 12, 2017

I am a storm with a power and ferocity like none other. My high-speed winds are unrelenting, and my downpour is soaking the earth beneath me. I give the desert what it needs, saving it from its drought. Clouds, dark and heavy, blanket the landscape below, preventing any sunlight from reaching the ground. The crisp scent of creosote permeates the air. As I push my way south, my thunder causes the buildings to quiver in fear as my lightning dances across the skyline. To some, the tempest may appear melancholy, but it’s just the opposite. It swirls in the sky and rains down, bringing life to the flora and fauna below. The storm appears intimidating, but its grand presence is nothing to be feared. The desert welcomes it.

Dread fills the atmosphere suddenly as I continue on my journey southward and my winds begin to dissipate. My lightning becomes infrequent. Out of nowhere, the thunderous downpour lightens and scatters so that only a handful of areas receive the much-needed rain. I can’t concentrate my rains in one area lest I leave other areas neglected, so I must lessen my force and spread myself thin across the landscape. At least it’s something. I can tell my lack of force is beginning to have an effect on the lands below as I watch the puddles evaporate and the streams of water in the washes thin out.

Fortunately, this is only temporary. Droughts in the desert don’t last forever. Soon my strength will return full-force, and I can give the desert that for which it yearns. I will return with my downpour to soak the earth, I will return with my clouds to blanket the landscape, I will return with my lighting to dance across the sky.

This analogy represents my transition from high school in a small town up north to college in a big city. This move is one of the biggest changes I’ve experienced in life, and its challenges are endless. Homework, midterms, and early morning classes taunt me, making me question if I truly earned my place here in this university.

In high school, I was known for my intellect. My nickname since elementary school has been “The Cailanator.” In the fifth grade, we played a math game involving fractions. A problem appeared on the board, I scribbled the answer jaggedly on my team’s whiteboard and lifted it for the teacher before the rest of my peers even got a chance. One question after another and my team racked up the points, putting us in the lead. I was so quick that my classmates assumed my team was cheating and using a calculator. My teacher quickly replied, “They don’t have a calculator, they have The Cailanator.” Throughout middle school, I was placed in higher-level courses, Advanced Placement, and eventually the International Baccalaureate Program. I was a “straight A” student, on top of everything, always getting assignments done on time, if not early. This is shown in the analogy by the opening paragraph describing the strength of my storm. The storm covers the whole of the landscape, representing how I was on top of everything. Each class and extracurricular activity I took received equal attention and effort. The high-speed winds and heavy downpour represent my determination and willpower. I did anything and everything I could, eventually getting involved in five clubs my senior year on top of my extreme course load.

Fast-forward to fall of 2017, and I’m moving in with my friend from high school. Classes start. Here I am, in way over my head taking seven honors credit hours, the equivalent to almost half of my semester course load. Winds dissipate and my clouds scatter and disband. I start to forget about assignments, meetings with professors, entire classes… So far, I have forgotten to attend one class, I have nearly forgotten several others, and I have failed to turn in at least two assignments. I can only give rain to so many areas at this point, so other academic areas are forgotten.

The education system has failed not just me, but thousands of others entering college this year. Through high school, our academic goals are simply to pass standardized tests. We are taught what to think rather than how to think for ourselves. This limits our ability to think critically and creatively. Additionally, there’s simply not enough being done to prepare teenagers for the major life changes they will face. For most of us, college is the first time we will ever truly be far away from family. No more having mom bring dinner to our rooms or having dad do our laundry. We are propelled into adulthood with just a few months between the day we walk across the stage to accept our high school diploma and the day we walk across campus to our first college course. When we get to that class, no one is holding our hand. Our professors don’t seem to realize that the majority of us are shell-shocked by this new environment, and so they immediately begin assigning essays, projects, and readings. It is for this reason that many college freshmen are stricken with anxiety and panic in their first months of school.
Of course, some may argue that academic entities do plenty to help students ease into their new lifestyles. Our university, for example, offers counseling services and even gives the first two sessions for free. We attend welcome week events where we mingle with our peers and try to acclimate. But what if we prevented the tears and the panic? What if the mental distress was curbed before counseling was made necessary? This would be easily achievable if only more was done for students before they actually reach the university. For instance, easing students into heavier workloads in high school could help prepare them for the sudden bombardment of assignments in college. Offering short camp getaways or stays at universities would help guide students into independent living from their families rather than just pushing them into independency once they reach campus. Had I been more gently eased into what’s easily the most immense change of my short eighteen years on earth, my winds would have continued blowing steadily and my downpour would not have wavered.

However, as I said earlier, a drought in the desert does not last forever. While it may take longer than I had expected to fully transition into my new life here, I will adapt, and my rains will return stronger than before. While the winds may have died down for now, they will come back with the strength of a monsoon. I will do what I came here to do, and I will take my university by storm.

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