Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Different College

Last week Patrick represented GEICO's Actuarial Department at Penn State's career fair, held on their main campus. The company was reimbursing gas mileage and the hotel room and a small stipend for food; of course Isabella and I were happy to tag along! Anything for a change of scenery every now and then, right?

After leaving Patrick at the fair to do his thing, Bella and I took full advantage of a beautiful campus and perfect weather: have stroller, will travel! After a while all that sitting (We did just have 3 hours in the car) caught up with Bella, and she looks up at me and very clearly says "Mama! DOWN!" Not understanding that I was searching for a grassy spot, she thought I was ignoring her, so she grabs the straps, kicks her feet, and vehemently and with great volume insists "DOWN DOWN DOWN DOWN!" ...whew! Patience is not her strong point yet.

This was our pattern for the next 4 1/2 hours - walk for a while, then find a safe spot to run. At one stop we were sitting (thank the Lord!) reading a book when 2 squirrels scurried right in front of us, catching Bella's attention. Stopping barely 5 feet from us, one stayed put and watched Bella, almost as intently as she was watching it! Excitedly pointing and proclaiming, she jumped up and started toward the remaining squirrel; rather than running away, however, that little furry friend stuck around for some play time! It would approach Bella, and then hurriedly scurry past her, only to stop and make sure she was following. She would giggle and start toward it again, to chase it another couple of feet. This dance continued for a good 15 minutes, of the squirrel teasing Bella - there is no better way to describe the scene other than saying they were playing! Bella was fascinated! I must say, though, I was too! How many opportunities do we have to come that close to nature and connect in our play? It was simply adorable.

Unfortunately the pictures did not turn out so great - every time I tried to get close enough for our camera the squirrel would panic and start to run away. I stayed far enough back to watch them continue their game, which meant the pictures are a little dark and hard to see.

After 4 1/2 hours of the great outdoors (yes, I walked for the better part of 4 1/2 hours!!!) the 3 of us went back to the hotel room - at least 2 of us were exhausted!!! Patrick went out for carry-out dinner and I put Bella to bed, but not before she had a chance to run around the hotel room being silly! (She is not a thumb-sucker, by the way; she really was just being silly, grabbing the remote and snuggling against the pillows.)

In walking around that afternoon/evening, I had a lot of time to be amazed at the differences to the college life I had known. Of course the obvious difference is mere size; my alma mater had 1900 enrolled students at the time I was there, and I could not venture a guess at the size of Penn State's student body. Also, there are stoplights on campus! And buses! And of course every state college must have the football stadium, which we also saw.
The difference that really struck me, however, was in the students themselves. They seemed nice, most of them were dressed well (although I did keep in mind that it was career week) and I even got some smiles in passing. During a visit to my alma mater I would have been swamped with "hellos" and comments about the Baby and offers to help me, and that doesn't include anyone I might know! It's just that kind of environment.
Another thing I noticed is most likely a generational change: the isolation that electronics brings. I saw so many students walking beside someone with whom they were not talking - they were on the cell phone or sending texts. There did not seem to be many casual passing greetings, because those walking alone were often plugged in to their Ipods. Of course this was not everyone; I saw many groups of friends talking and laughing. I am simply commenting that I would not have been able to identify with this generation of college students or this atmosphere of student life. Times change, and places offer different atmospheres.

It really was a fun little trip - a change of pace, a change of scenery, a great opportunity for outdoor enjoyment!


Stephanie said...

I know the feeling, Kate. I was struck by the same thing my first semester at Maryland in grad school. These students who would be dialing a phone number as they walked out of class...who were they calling and how could they afford the cell phone bill? Or, perhaps more accurately, how could they afford to run up the bill their parents were paying?