Working on a college campus during the summer is an interesting experience. Students disappear and parking lots are empty and it is easy to get used to being able to whip around campus and make it to work on time. Move-In Day was yesterday here at USF and classes start Monday so students have began showing up again; in fact today I had to drive through a parking garage, winding floor-by-floor searching for a parking space for twenty minutes.
As the new freshmen move in and pour in and out of our office, I feel more and more like a grumpy old senior. I’m not stressed out about books or finding my classes, I handled registration months ago and ordered my few books on Amazon for half the price our bookstore offers. I only get agitated when someone tries to explain something to me as if I don’t know what I’m doing. “I’m a senior!” I want to yell, “This is my campus!”
Yet, I feel the push of the currents and I know USF is slipping away from me. I came here three years ago, a scared and overly-excited eighteen year old who had never moved from her childhood home. I knew three people of 40,000 and I wanted to do everything. I was lucky enough to make friends with people in my residence hall, friends I still live with today. I learned the geography of campus by traversing it at night and running from building to building in the rain. I learned the tricks and shortcuts like how the second floor of the print lab is significantly less busy and that no one is actually going to steal your clothes from the laundry room. I even worked for more than one department so I learned the ins and outs of the administration side of the university – the side that leave most students with a bitter taste in their mouth and that I now understand faces challenges of their own.
This fall has snuck up on me, the beginning of my last year here. I’ve spent the summer further and further away from campus – traveling, interning for a weekly newspaper in Ybor City and spending time with friends who have graduated and moved on. I have a tendency to think of places as mine – this is my school, only I know this land and only I’ve had these fantastic memories here. But I know that’s not true. Students come and go and their college experience at USF leaves lasting impressions on all of them.
The past three years have been the biggest rollercoaster of my life so far – I’ve had amazing, fun times and I’ve wanted to run away more than once. I’ve met people I hope to be friends with the rest of my life and I’ve learned a thing or two about the flaws everyone has. I’ve discovered an industry I want to have a career in and I’m on my way to figuring out what I want to do with my life. As this semester forces me farther away from the carefree days of freshman year and afternoons spent skipping class and wandering through the plaza, I’ll think of how USF used to be such an unfamiliar place and now it’s mine and no matter how far I go, USF will always be home.