My junior year of high school, my friends left me behind for spring break all thanks to a band trip to Italy. (When I chose not to pick up an instrument in the fifth grade, I wish they had done a better job explaining the perks.) My father must have been feeling sorry for me because he offered to take a college tour to Vanderbilt for spring break. I was disappointed to learn it was in Nashville because at the time, I hated Country music. (My excuse for that faulty opinion was my only exposure to Country was my Uncle Kevin’s penchant for playing Dwight Yoakam.)
Honestly, I didn’t know much about the school and didn’t think I had much interest, but getting out of Minnesota in March definitely sounded like a good idea. I am so glad I did. I fell in love with Vanderbilt the minute I stepped foot on campus. It had everything going for it. Vandy was a mid-sized school, a little green oasis in the middle of a decent-sized city. I liked the idea that most students lived on campus. I even liked the tour guide, the Admissions office presentation, and the fellow-prospective students in my group. As fate would have it, when I matriculated as a student almost two years later, I found myself making friends with one of the other girls in my tour group.
Thankfully, my dad was extroverted enough for both of us, asking students questions about classes, professors, dorms and meal plans. We stopped by the mail room, bookstore, even the medical school. But at some point, I looked around and realized these co-eds were not wearing sweats and pajama pants like the people I knew at the U of M, they were wearing sundresses, khaki pants, and sweater vests (It was 1999 after all). But to my sixteen year-old self, it was my Shangri-La.
Getting that thick envelope nine months later made my day, my year, my life. I had worked hard in high school to get into a good college. When my parents dropped me off, it felt like I had reached my final destination and I just knew I’d be happy. However, Vanderbilt was harder than I ever imagined, academically, socially and every other way a school can test a person. There were plenty of all-nighters and heartbreaks. It may be a real cliché, but there is no doubt in my mind I wouldn’t be who I am today without the disappointments, challenges, triumphs and people I met along the way.