College Envy

Here I am at L & J’s house outside Annapolis, lying on the chaise with the borrowed Mac (very sweet of them – an added benefit is that I can check all my sites with Safari/IE5 – looking pretty good so far).

Eldest Son and I arrived in the wee hours on Tuesday, got a couple of hours of sleep, and made it to St. John’s in plenty of time for registration. Registration at a college that has no choices turns out to be pathetically simple – here’s your schedule, here’s your room key, go get a picture ID, go get your computer account (already set up, ES just had to throw in a password). Nice. I notice that it’s really, really humid here.

Finding your dorm at a college that’s entirely contained within two city blocks is also pretty easy, although we were misled (briefly) by the European floor numbering (ground floor, first floor, etc). This means that I can’t get up to ES’s room (think historic colonial building – think no elevator), but what kid wants Mom in his dorm room anyway? Then we go in search of the boxes that ES mailed to himself last week, but they’re not here yet.

Lunch provides a diversion. The kid will probably not starve (salad bar, sandwich bar, couple of hot dishes) although he may go into some sort of food deprivation shock by having to eat it at regular hours. We discover that the campus wireless network does not work INSIDE the dorms because of the windows having lead, or something, so we call J and ask him to bring an Ethernet cable.

After lunch, the parent meeting. Parents of the 125 freshmen and the senior faculty (=administrators). Among the fun Q&A:

Q: How often do you consider reviewing the curriculum?
A. Every week. (Waits for laughter to die down.) Really. We don’t change it very often, but we review it every week.

Q. Are there any provisions made for foreign students who cannot go home over the Thanksgiving break?
(I perk up and listen, as ES is not planning to spend money on a plane trip.)
A. Yes, I cook them dinner. (Waits for laughter to die down.) Really. My wife and I (this is the college president speaking) have about 45 students for dinner every Thanksgiving.

Another big winner was the athletic director’s speech, part of which went something like this:

Your bookworm could go through all four years without ever setting foot in the gym, and that’s fine. But all freshmen are randomly assigned to an intramural team, and here there are no tryouts, no cuts, nobody rides the bench and everybody plays. You’ll notice we have no bleachers – at St. John’s sports are not about spectating, they are about playing.

After the parent meeting comes the convocation, in the auditorium. All freshmen in academic gowns, the faculty in full regalia. Every student is announced by name and hometown. Every student crosses the stage, shakes the president’s hand, and signs the registration book. It’s much shorter but more moving than ES’s high school graduation. The president gives a (short) lovely speech about beginnings and endings, managing to reference Homer, Cervantes, Tolstoy and the Bible.

Then the kid is off to read the first six books of the Iliad before tomorrow evening’s seminar – but he still needs to get to waltz practice (for the waltz this evening at ten).

I think he’s going to like it here. I do. I’m jealous. Time to let him go do his thing.



  1. Patricia Tryon

    My 33 years ago self is insanely jealous — make that sanely jealous. It sounds simply wonderful.

    And say hey for good friends :-)

  2. Katja

    J is very jealous. I can see him considering the graduate program right now.

  3. Pingback: Out of the frying pan

  4. Patricia Tryon

    Graduate program, huh? I’ve just passed along THAT very interesting piece of information. Thanks.

  5. mdmhvonpa

    Wow … I think I went to the wrong college.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *