I was so excited to actually be going to Florida; that I would staying there for more than just a week or so. But I was nervous too. The night before I left I lay awake: exhausted, happy and scared. Not the best way to start my early morning trip to the airport; I hadn't slept at all. I left my family with tight gripped hugs and dazed goodbyes. I was lightheaded and zoning out but still too nerved up to actually contemplate sleep.
The plane ride was as it always is: cramped and awkward. And by the end I was feeling even more worn down. I arrived at the airport with no one to meet me. I waited for my bulky, wheel-less luggage with a feeling of complete loss.
I had to take a city bus to my next destination, so I lugged the 50 plus pounds of my baggage, the straps cutting into my shoulders to the bus stop outside of the airport. I was the only young person on the bus and I was further made aware of the state of Tampa when a group of homeless-looking men and women got on the bus.
When I reached my stop I was situated right across from the university. A four-lane street and steady flowing traffic stopped me in my tracks. No pedestrians were in sight except for me; my awkward bags biting into my tired shoulders and thumping heavily every so often against my hips. I waited a small eternity to just cross the street. I was fairly dead by the time I reached the other side under the indifferent eyes of young students in nice cars. It felt like a walk of shame especially because I had not thought to change out of my clothes appropriate for Northern weather and into something more suited for late August in central Florida.
Sweating, uncomfortable and worn out I went to get my student ID and other important items so I could actually get into my dorm room. I parked my big bags down in a corner, I was the only student that did not have someone to help them unload luggage, and I was obviously the only student who got here by bus. I felt out of place among these younger kids with bright eyes and no apparent worries.
I queued up relieved that I was in the right place at a decent time and making quick progress. But I was met with a frown and was told I needed to go to another line and pick up my ID, etc, there. Oh, and they had some problems. The problem turned out to be that they needed me to pay the full tuition immediately, up front if I wanted to even get into a dorm room that day. Of course I found all this out after waiting more than three hours in an endless line of students with their parents.
Maybe I was completely delusional thinking things would work out once I got down there. I thought they would be more understanding or more helpful. But if I wanted to attend their school I would have to take out a $10, 000 loan right there in front of them. I sat down in a bit of a hopeless state thinking to myself that this school was not worth getting into debt over.
It probably sounds like I am over-reacting and that taking out loans for school is perfectly normal. Why shouldn't I? But this university was convincing me that the people running this school where in their own dream world. They bragged about the $1,000,000 they spend each year on keeping their historic campus in tip-top condition. They were in the process of building a $20,000,000 religious 'center' to bring the campus together in beautiful diverse harmony.
The bottom line was that the more time I spent on the campus the more I was convinced that I was not supposed to be there. At this point my eyes were bloodshot and irritated from my contacts (and from my appearance I am sure many people thought I had been bawling my eyes out), I was still sweating from the heat and was working on almost 24 hours with no sleep.
|From the plane|
I woke up at an indecent hour, much too early to have recovered at all. My eyes felt swollen and immovable. And my stomach was starting to eat itself I was so hungry. I needed to run away. To distance myself from this campus. I walked to a nearby gas station grabbed some food and walked aimlessly back. I saw a different side of the campus on my way back, what the place could have been for me if I was a different person. But it was not something I wanted.
I felt relieved when I made my decision to return home.