Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Most Ethnically Diverse Campus in the Nation (Alissa Grosso)

I suppose I don't have the typical college experience. I'm not exactly sure what the typical college experience is, but in my mind it's the sort of thing one sees in movies and television shows: dormitories and fraternities and preppy style clothing. I'm not sure if this is a real thing or not, but I suspect it might be.

I did go to a four-year college, though being the weirdo that I am, I only went there for three and a half years. Tip: summer classes are a great way of cramming four years of school into three and a half years, and can be especially helpful if you're the sort of person, who like me, starts college in January instead of September.

I, like most of the students at my college, commuted to school. Thrifty kids (and parents) take note: this is a great way to save money on your college education. Room and board is not cheap, but my parents were nice enough to let me live at home rent-free while I was in school, and as long as I paid for my tuition, they would buy me a car, which seemed like a really good deal, since I needed a new one of those. It meant I worked part time while going to school full time, but this probably wasn't such a bad thing since it kept me out of trouble, and probably made me take my education a little more seriously since I knew how hard I worked to afford it.

Each year, U.S. News and World Report puts out a ranking of all the colleges in the country. While I was in college, my school, the Newark campus of Rutgers University made the list, though not for top school or best value or anything ordinary like that. According to the magazine, at least back in the mid-1990s and perhaps still today, Rutgers Newark was the most ethnically diverse campus in the nation. I'm going to assume this was an accurate assessment, though I should point out that at the same time the school directly across the street from us (NJIT) was declared the Most Wired campus in the nation, and I know for a fact that those NJIT students were always coming over to Rutgers and hogging the machines in our computer labs so I'm not sure what U.S. News and World Report based their findings on.

What was interesting about Rutgers was that it was the sort of place where when someone asked where you were from they usually didn't mean where in New Jersey or where in the country but what country. (Once when talking with a fellow student the fact that I'm part Scottish came up, upon which he noted my accent. For the record, I was born in Hackensack, New Jersey to American-born parents. My dad pronounces the word "idea" like it has an "r" at the end of it, and the word "souvenir" as if it's made out of a precious metal, but you'd have to go back a couple of generations to find any trace of a Scottish accent.)

Rutgers wasn't my first college experience. I did initially plan on doing the typical college thing and enrolled in a rich kid school in upstate New York. I didn't feel comfortable at the private school, was completely perplexed by the weird obsession with Laura Ashley bedspreads (Who was this Laura Ashley person, and why did she make such hideous linens?) but mostly was unable to get my head around the fact that in 1994 a reputable national school was still promoting a form of segregation by having a diversity dorm where the students there on scholarship - in general non-white students that had been accepted under the college's affirmative action policy - were encouraged to reside.

So, I went home, took a job in an outlet store, where all sorts of funky clothing that Laura Ashley wouldn't be caught dead in could be had ridiculously cheap, and began the process of enrolling in a school that from the start seemed more like a place that I belonged.

Maybe because of my college experience, maybe because I didn't grow up in some isolated all-white town, maybe because I'm just some weirdo, but I continue to feel uncomfortable when I find myself at a place or in a situation that lacks any kind of diversity. I feel like I don't belong, and if for some reason I find myself in a group of people all professing their love of all things Laura Ashley, I run away screaming.

5 comments:

  1. Great post, Alissa! I worked in Newark for seven years, not far from the Rutgers campus. I kind of regret not going to Rutgers. I hear you with the Laura Ashley bedspreads. There's a new phenomenon with Vera Bradley that I can't wrap my brain around, but I won't let my kid give in to buying an ugly, $80 tote bag and matching lunchbox just because that's what everyone else is doing.

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    1. Thanks, Jen! Yeah, I'm completely mystified by the Vera Bradley popularity, especially with the younger set, but then I guess I've never been "cool" enough to get such things!

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