I decided very early that when I was older, I wanted to attend college at Southern Oregon University.
In the late ’90s, I attended a violin camp in Ashland, Oregon with my Northern California violin studio. We drove up for a few days during the summer, performed a handful of times (including once on a train), and, most importantly, stayed on campus, in a dorm at Southern Oregon University.
I didn’t know that a place like this existed. I’d been to hotels, sure, but this was different. Here, my sister and I got our own room, just like at home, because none of the dorm rooms had more than two twin beds; it was like we were in college even though we were both under ten years old. Later, I honed my pool and piano skills in the common room (I could live in a place with pool tables and a piano?!), and during our end-of-camp talent show, I showed the fruit of my labor: I played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on piano, the first song I ever taught myself to play by ear. I didn’t know any of the notes, so every time I played it, I picked a white key to start with and hoped for the best.
By the end of the trip, I fully believed all of these amenities — the dorm room, the common room with pool table and piano, the beautiful Pacific Northwest campus — were exclusive to this university. And so I told my parents that when I was finished with high school, I would be attending Southern Oregon University. I remember they never fully bought into my decision, but it was never fully rejected, either. They just knew that once I looked at, say, a second college, that I might start to understand they were all basically the same in the ways that were important to eight-year-old me.
Why didn’t I end up picking Southern Oregon University? Because when colleges started contacting me after I took the PSAT for the first time, it wasn’t among them. I got letters from the University of California system, the Cal State System, from Columbia and Mount Holyoke and Syracuse, and eventually decided that if I was going to go out of state, it should be somewhere “more prestigious” than a public school that was basically in California (so I rationalized it), so my Pacific Northwest offerings dwindled to Seattle and Gonzaga.
One of my first official activities as a Gonzaga student was a pre-orientation camping trip with a handful of other incoming freshmen. We took a school bus to Montana, and for five days, we all slept under a tarp draped over a rope tied between two huge trees. We ate food cooked over a fire, or sandwiches that weren’t cooked at all. We went hiking and biking and, crucially, white water rafting, an activity that was offered to us at violin camp but that my parents declined. So really, in the end, at least my chosen college gave me that experience.
This is an entry in my 30 Day blogging challenge. Read the first post explaining it here, or see all the posts in the challenge here.