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All about my recent visit to Ashland University last fall.
‘Ah,’ I thought. ‘I’m here at last!’ And where was here? Scenic Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.
“There’s just nothing like this campus in the fall,” said the young man guiding our tour. He might have meant it as an promotional cliché, but I was truly awed by the dazzling autumnal display of rich russets and titians presented by the trees that overlooked the courtyard in which our group was stationed for a moment.
Most of us were accompanied by our parents. Some looked as though they couldn’t wait another minute to get away from said parents and leave high school behind. Some others seemed more hesitant and uncertain about taking this gargantuan plunge into the next chapter of their lives. And still some others looked like I felt- caught somewhere between the two.
Some, including my scrapbooking-crazed mother, whipped out cameras from purses and bags to take pictures for the folks back home. Me, I was too busy taking it all in. The courtyard was located squarely in the center of the campus, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle that marked, we were told, the daily routine at Ashland.
“This is a very active campus,” said the tour guide. Again the timing of his comment surprised me. “There are many, many things for students here to be involved with, as you can see on your brochure.”
That seemed to be the cue for everyone to look at their brochures. Sure enough, there was an satisfyingly colossal list of activities available to us. Never one for sports, I skipped over the more athletic options. “Drop of a Hat Players” and “Marching Band” caught my eye, as did “Literature Club” and “International Club”. But none so much as another boldfaced title in a column all its own- “Study Abroad”! Since the moment my older sister had come home from a trip to Slovakia with her college roommate four years ago and regaled me with details galore I had yearned for a good old horizon-broadening experience of my own. Slovakia wasn’t my country of choice, but that which I’d learned so much about in the past few years- Ireland. I felt my wonderment level crank up a notch as I beheld the thrilling word in the list of countries.
“And for those of you interested in travel,” the tour guide was saying, “you may be intrigued by the vast selection of countries that Ashland students have gone to in the past and in which programs are still being run.”
By this time we had moved on from the courtyard and the square and were headed towards a large red brick building bearing one of my favorite words- “Library”.
“The campus library is open to all students, seven days a week. Not only is it an excellent, much-used resource for those pesky papers teachers seem to get such a kick out of assigning,” the tour guide said, and several parents chuckled knowingly, “but it provides an environment of peace, quiet and solitude for freshmen or anyone else trying to research and decide on a major or another dilemma.”
‘Splendid!’ I thought. ‘But I’ve already tackled that dilemma.’
Yep, I still remembered the happy day a few months ago when, after months of
considering the full profiles and outlooks of many careers, I had finally decided upon…(drum roll, please!) events coordination.
“It must be what she wants to do!” my mother has laughed on more than one occasion to relatives, friends or anyone else who had gotten suckered into a conversation and surely regretting it by that point. “She’s stayed on this one for more than a week!” Funny, Mom.
I understood that Ashland had a very strong Hospitality Management program, which prepares one for a broad range of careers, including those in the culinary arts, hotel management and my own career of choice. This was boasted on the several dozen letters, postcards, brochures and flyers I had been receiving from Ashland, and even had been attested to by a graduate from my high school who had gone on to Ashland. At a band function in the summer I had thoroughly grilled her about her experiences, and she had even offered to let me spend the night to get a feel for campus life.
“Be sure to visit the college website if you’re interested in spending the night to get a feel for campus life,” said the tour guide, and I nearly dropped my brochure.
Anyway, I had been told time and time again by more than a few people, including friends, family members, teachers and even the guidance counselor that my time management and organization skills were top-notch (not to toot my own horn) and would prove infinitely useful to one who, at any given moment, could be in charge of several affairs at once, each with its own set of people, places, times, circumstances, finances, colors and points of view to juggle. And, speaking of points of view, it’s important for anyone who will be working with people almost exclusively to have good…well, people skills. I already knew that I would have to take courses in psychology and sociology to gain more thorough knowledge of the workings of the human mind since I’d be dealing with people from all different ethnic, financial and religious backgrounds. I also knew, due to my sometimes agonizingly extensive research, that I wasn’t simply entertaining a pipe dream, but employment opportunities for this career were expected to increase by twenty percent in the next ten years!
“Whoa!” chorused several people around me softly, breaking through my happy reverie. We had moved on from the library, and approaching a large red-brick building. This building, though, was not what had induced the unanimous expression of wonder, but the enormous statue of an eagle mounted on a golden sphere we suddenly found ourselves standing next to.
“That’s kind of a ‘tourist attraction’,” said the tour guide, making air quotes and beaming. He sounded very pleased that some of us were so impressed.
‘Still,’ I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be coming here all that often.’
“There’s plenty of things to do here even if you don’t like sports,” he said.
All right. What was this business? ESP?
“There aren’t just sports here,” he continued. “You can sign up for card game competitions, play video games and even rent movies!”
‘Huh. On second thought…’
“And if you look to your left…” (and of course we all did) “you’ll see the student health center. This is the place to go for any medical emergency you might have while you’re here on campus, or just any minor injuries or sicknesses.”
“Check,” said my mother softly, and I rolled my eyes.
There was one thing that separated me from all of the eager beavers. Unlike any of them- at least, as far as I knew- I would not be attending Ashland the following fall. My mission here, therefore, was slightly different. I was due to be at the admissions office in half an hour, which, conveniently, was around the time the tour was projected to end.
“All right, we’ve got about a half hour left,” said the tour guide with a glance at his watch. “Are there any questions?”
I put my ears on autopilot, but I hardly heard the others’ questions, much less processed them as I was so busy getting my own questions in order to ask the admissions officers. Carefully I shifted the higgledy-piggledy stack of papers in my hands and skimmed through my meticulously drawn-up list.
For the first year of college, I had planned to take basic courses at Edison, a local community college. You know, those basic classes everyone has to slog through before you get into the “real” stuff, your specialized courses specifically designed with a degree in mind.
“Which classes are transferable?” I planned to ask. Joining that was “Are transfer students any less eligible to receive scholarships, students loans and grants?” Once I had these questions answered I could really be at peace with my decision.
And this decision, by the way, held another benefit that was hard to come by. It would surely prove less costly in the long run with a much more modest tuition- less than two hundred dollars compared to Ashland’s annual fee of twenty-four thousand plus. My parents and older sister had struck a deal before her first year at the University of Dayton that my parents would pay for the first two years of college, but during that time my sister would have to take a job and save, save, save in order to pay for the next two. This had worked so well (and here ‘well’ translates to ‘virtually no student loans to pay off’) that my parents had decided long ago to employ the same policy with me.
Knowing this, I had planned to take a job while also taking classes at Edison and living at home. My plans for room and board had not changed, and my offer to help to pay for groceries and utilities “wouldn’t be necessary”.
“I hope you had an enjoyable, memorable experience today,” said the tour guide, not echoing my precise thoughts for once. “We here at Ashland are here to help you make plans and secure them for a bright, successful future!”
Now it was three-thirty, time for me to go and take the first step in securing my own bright and successful future.