Benjamin Rosenbaum

Comments on "From a letter to a college student"

Huh. I don't remember feeling that sense of looming future nostalgia when I was in college. What I did feel was... I'm not sure what word I'm looking for. I remember visiting a friend at Northeastern and having this reaction of, "This is what TV and books and all of that told me college was supposed to look like," accompanied by a wistfulness that I would never have that experience. Then I stopped and thought about it for a moment and realized how much happier I was at Bard. But it was rather the way I felt about not going to my junior prom, where part of me wishes I had because it was my *prom* but the rest of me knows I wouldn't actually have enjoyed it.

As for being the best time of one's life... I don't know, maybe I'd thought that was supposed to be high school? And I already knew high school being the best time of your life was a lie, at least in my case. College was the best time in one sense, though, in that it was the one time in my life when I've had such a consistent group of real friends. The one school for which I would *want* a class ring is exactly the school that just didn't do them.

Posted by Emily Gilman at December 12, 2011 09:51 PM

Hmm. I may of course be generalizing into a general social phenomenon what is more in the realm of family myths and institutions. I think my parents made their most consistent and profound friendships in college, and so I had internalized their romanticism about it. Whereas in fact, while I did make lasting friendships in college, I made more in high school... and have kept more of my high school friends than my college ones. But in high school those friendships were somewhat under a pall of "this isn't real life yet -- I'm going to move away and go to college and I'm told I'll forget all this, this will be nothing compared to what awaits" -- against which my soul rebelled.

That may have been idiosyncratic (I had a tendency to worry intensely about the future, which I have unfortunately passed on). But I do think the "preprogrammed nostalgia" is something colleges at least attempt -- even if not always successfully, and even if it competes with a culture of high school nostalgia, etc. But certainly the whole engine of reunions and alumni donations and so on, is a mammoth enterprise that tries pretty early to sow the seeds it will later reap...

Posted by Benjamin Rosenbaum at December 13, 2011 06:17 PM

Yeah, my closest friends in high school were Alphans living in other states, or childhood friends who lived in other towns, or older friends who graduated ahead of me. Part of it also had to do with where I was mentally and emotionally, and the extent to which I was willing to get close to people.

High school was always something I had to get through. College was the light at the end of the tunnel: the place I got to *choose,* with people who *chose* to be there too and who wanted and valued, if not exactly the same things I did, at least similar things. And the Bard population is still self-selecting enough that that logic actually worked out in practice.

Posted by Emily Gilman at December 14, 2011 12:55 AM

I recall my mom saying something along the lines of "at college you will make the friends you will keep for the rest of your life". To a good degree that is true - but I am a keeper of people in general (much as my mom was to my eye), so I still have friends from all different parts of my life.

If I were to take a tally, I guess Wesleyan would win with regard to long term 'closest' friends - but not by much.

Going to graduate school recently was a much more fulfilling educational experience for me than college was. I spent a lot of time just figuring out what to take next at school - with an eye to finishing more than an eye to any specific career or educational goal. If I could send my college self advice I would tell me to take more writing and computer classes.

Posted by Jeanne at December 30, 2011 06:04 PM

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