Quirky characters on college visits

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Quirky characters on college visits

Graphic by Aaron Newman

Graphic by Aaron Newman

Graphic by Aaron Newman

Graphic by Aaron Newman


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Graphic by Aaron Newman

I’m in a dim wood-paneled room, staring at two young men reclining in naugahyde chairs. The well groomed boys, both wearing blazers, khakis and tasseled loafers, are munching on rice crispy squares. Although it may sound like I’m on the set of “Gossip Girl,” this isn’t the case. Unfortunately I’m not staring at the handsome stars of the show, but looking at two college boys, relaxing in their student lounge.

When my parents first proposed the idea of touring college campuses, I was somewhat hesitant. After all, I’m only a sophomore, and the thought of spending my spring break driving across Southern California rushing to college tours seemed less than ideal. However, after a successful first visit at a large public university,where the tour was led by a personable A-cappella singer with a great sense of humor, my reluctant attitude diminished. I was excited for the remaining tours.

The next tour brought me to a small liberal arts school outside of Los Angeles. When I arrived at the admissions office, I was introduced to my tour guide, Desdemona. Desdemona is a “unique” character who wore thick wool socks underneath her sandals. She wasn’t your typical outgoing tour guide; though she had the requisite love for her chosen institution, she seemed to lack the people skills necessary for her job. The tour got off to a rocky start when Desdemona nearly collided with a bicyclist while walking backwards. Desdemona was startled by the near accident, and throughout the rest of the tour she struggled with an essential skill that all college tour guides must possess—the ability to talk and walk backwards while leading prospective students through the campus.

In sharp contrast to my first tour, where students could be seen roaming around everywhere, engaging in everything from designing 3-D portraits to conducting innovative science experiments, this campus was deserted. When one parent, halfway through the tour, asked Desdemona how many students attended the college, she said 1,600. This was somewhat hard to believe. After all, I had only counted four.

We met two of these students in their dorm, when Desdemona barged in and asked if everyone on the tour could look inside their room. One of the students agreed under the condition that we remain quiet, as her roommate was asleep. As we “quietly” looked inside the cluttered, dank room, I noticed the sleeping girl passed out on her bed. I was shocked that she was asleep – after all, it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. Why would she be sleeping? The bigger question, however, was why was her roommate sitting in their cramped room watching her sleep? It was at this point that I decided that I will never attend this college.

After my less than successful visit with Desdemona, I drove five minutes away to another liberal arts college, which is a part of the same consortium as Desdemona’s school. At this school, I was introduced to my tour guide, Chad. Chad was the polar opposite of Desdemona. He was precocious and wore a blue and pink argyle sweater that looked like it came from Abercrombie and Fitch— this wasn’t surprising, considering the CEO of Abercrombie is an alum of the college. Chad was incredibly boastful, and before the tour began he proudly informed the group that after graduation he was going to be an intern at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington D.C. Much to my liberal father’s dismay, this tour was going to be led by an up and coming Newt Gingrich.

Chad lead us throughout the hideous campus that looked similar to a decrepit drug and alcohol rehab center. When we arrived at the main plaza on campus, Chad had us stop next to a fountain. For the next ten minutes, he told us different stories about the fountain: from students getting thrown in the fountain on their birthdays to going for “dips” in it on hot days. Discussion of fountains was the only constant theme among all my college visits. No matter what campus I visited, I heard at least one story about a fountain, because obviously I’m going to pick a college based on what kind of fountain it has.

After sharing the lore of the fountain, Chad lead us into one of the campus’ dining halls, the Parthenon. Before entering the “Parth,” Chad informed us that this dining hall was for students who enjoyed having an “upscale” dining experience. I don’t know what he meant by upscale, but upon entering the “Parth,” I felt as if I’d been transported to a retirement home in Boca Raton. The dining room was adorned with cheap Home Depot chandeliers and carpeted with “oriental-type” rugs. The “gourmet” food served was cruise ship food; sauteed chicken mushroom dijonaise, anyone? As we looked around the dining room, Chad explained that each weeknight a guest speaker came to address students. When listing the notable “Parth” speakers, Chad was proud to say that both Karl Rove and Mitt Romney have spoken. At this point I considered asking Chad if he thought Barack Obama was a United States citizen, but I thought better of it.

After exiting the “Parth,” Chad lead us into a lounge, which he described as a place where students gathered every afternoon “to eat rice crispy squares, drink coffee and engage in intellectual discussions.” It’s in this room I met the preppy, Chuck Bass wannabes.

My experience of visiting colleges was eye opening. At Tam there is some diversity, but for the most part everyone is just an average, affluent “Marin Kid.” After going on campus visits, I realized that colleges attract very different personalities and characters; from people who wear socks with their sandals to students who enjoy spending their evenings watching “On the Record with Greta van Susteren.” And although I may not agree with these students, I will have to accept them for who they are and trust that they will do the same. I just hope that within the next two years I can find a college that’s the “right fit,” so I can sing along to the rapper Asher Roth and declare too, “Man, I love college.”

 

Written by Billie Mandelbaum. This article was originally published in the June issue.

 

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Quirky characters on college visits