Wednesday, August 21, 2013

They're Ba-ack...

In my experience, cities built around universities are colorful, welcoming, and dynamic. (I grew up in a college town, but since my own graduation from the University of Iowa I've called both college and non-college towns home.) These communities support, encourage, and actively work toward advancing the arts, a robust and diversified economy, strong public schools, providing and promoting opportunities for personal and professional growth, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. I love college towns, consider them perfect for raising families, and hope to never live anywhere else. (The odds are in my favor, considering the fact that Tom is a professor.)

Despite my affection for college towns, for many years post-graduation I stayed away from campus, Target, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond at this time of year because it made me nauseous to watch parents unload mini-vans in front of dorms and shop next to students whose carts overflowed with miniature refrigerators and microwaves and papasan chairs and lava lamps. Going away to college was difficult for me, and these locations - as silly as it sounds - triggered really uncomfortable flashbacks and made me feel like that homesick 18-year-old all over again.

But now that I'm no longer tethered to my freshman anxiety (thank goodness), I intentionally seek out reasons to drive through campus or shop at Target or BBB in August. College students - especially the young-uns - bring a vibrancy and excitement with them when they arrive on campus each fall. Campus and the surrounding community no longer emanate calm; when the 18- through 22-year-olds pull up in pick-up trucks and SUVs (all considerably nicer than the vehicles we drive, but that's another topic for another day), campus and community life are suddenly beautifully noisy and chaotic and the atmosphere brims with anticipation.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some peace and quiet when the college students head home for the summer. The roads are clearer, the parking spaces are plentiful, and the restaurants are less crowded. Target sells more throw pillows and fewer under-the-bed storage containers. The kids and I see my husband/their daddy more often, and he's noticeably less stressed. But I recognize that without the students, my college town(s) wouldn't exist. Without the students, the arts and the economy and the schools and the opportunities and the diversity would suffer. So welcome back, "kids". Here's to another great year in our home-sweet-college town.

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