They caught me at a weak moment. My kids, at some point this summer, talked me into letting them “redecorate” their rooms. Having eagerly devoured many times the stories of my sister and I being allowed to do the same at about their age, my nine-year-old daughter had been quite persuasive and relentless: “Let’s continue the tradition” in her room! Her brother, 13, quickly jumped on the bandwagon.
I finally gave in. Which is why I spent many August hours up and down the aisles of Target and Ikea. If you haven’t noticed, they are overflowing with items begging and specifically designed to be in your college apartment or residence hall. And in those aisles I was endlessly seen. Choosing. Negotiating (“No, you can’t get a new bed, but how about I sew you some new pillow covers?”). Purchasing. Returning (nine-year-olds have this unsavory habit of changing their minds). And, too often, assembling things (Argh, Ikea!).
The upside? Like having a front-row seat at a choice concert, our little project has provided a unique and extended chance to meet and observe the palpable “back to school” tasks and excitement of new and returning UST students, as well as their peers from other colleges and universities.
It’s irresistible, isn’t it? The urge to sharpen your pencils, buy new socks, clean out your drawers, create your “place,” purchase notebooks and imagine what’s possible for a new (school) year ahead! It clearly was for the students I had the joy of observing and meeting.
Like the four handsome young men – UST students, apparent by screen printings on their shirts – selecting glassware, lighting and a rug for their new apartment on Ashland Avenue.
Or the first-year student at Macalester who had just arrived – moments earlier – from Brooklyn, N.Y. His parents and I chatted. Matt had donned a brand new (the creases still fresh) orange “Macalester” shirt and “new student” lanyard with “new student” ID dangling proudly with the keys to his new room. He and his parents, with a visible sense of nervousness and excitement, shopped for a desk chair, reading lamp and set of sheets.
And then there were the kind and smart young St. Kate’s women – roommates, no doubt – who happily chatted about and gathered goods for their first apartment. I’ll admit I was eavesdropping, but their “we can’t wait to have our own place” conversation simply made me glad. In each case, the enthusiasm about beginning the new school year was, as it always it this time of year, fresh and contagious.
In each of these instances – observations of optimism amid the glue sticks and loose-leaf paper, area rugs and portable filing systems – I was reminded of what I love most about the new academic year. It’s a fresh start. A new slate of possibilities! A boatload of options. And, most importantly, a new set of ideas to be explored and knowledge to be discovered.
Ah, academia. It’s the best, isn’t it? Especially this time of year.