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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    College experience unpredictable

    I was driving back from a photo shoot a few weeks ago, and I passed a school with huge sign that said “”College Preparatory.”” It made me think, and I didn’t have to think very hard. Just what exactly are they preparing students for?

    One local Tucson prep school, a school that costs over $14,000 a year for a high school education, promises that it will provide knowledge in math and government, among others subjects, plus traits and abilities such as sportsmanship, respect, intellectual curiosity and, of course, seeking happiness by ways other than wealth.

    Well, that’s fantastic!

    If college was all about knowledge and being objective to all ideas, then every college-bound student should strive to attend a prep school. Too bad it’s not. The four (or five) years that go by are life-changing, to say the least. And there is no prep school that will prepare you for what can happen out here. I sure as hell wasn’t prepared. Let me explain.

    I am now entering my fifth year here at UA. I did not “”finish in four”” because, quite frankly, shit happened. My first year was reasonably uneventful. I had some roommates who did nothing but smoke weed all day. And that is the classic example: horrible roommates. Chances are high of getting screwed with a roommate that is impossible to live with. I got to deal with police coming into my apartment.

    So, therefore, my first piece of advice to incoming students: Do not live in an apartment complex that rents by the room. There are loads of places offering cheap rent and the freedom of an individual lease. The place I found my first year offered great rent ($330 for everything except cable), but they could let anyone move in to my unit. And they did.

    My second piece of advice: Live in the dorms. I will keep coming back to why.

    My second year I, reluctantly at the time, moved into Kaibab-Huachuca. I had only a slight idea of what it would be like, mostly from various college-based movies. It was nothing like that. (No way!) People tell me I am lucky because I became great friends with my roommate, Eric, as well as others in my wing. It’s true, that doesn’t happen very often. Roommates are luck of the draw, but I had no issues that year.

    Let’s just skip to junior year. That’s when shit hit the fan.

    I had never really heard of this thing called anxiety disorder, or something called bipolar II disorder. But in about a matter of a week, I essentially developed it. And it progressively got worse over the next couple months; I had no idea what was wrong with me.

    I can’t imagine how anyone can prepare for the sudden onset of a mental problem like that. It was not in the curriculum list for any of the prep schools I researched, and my parents never warned me about it. It just happened, and I had to deal with it. And I still am.

    I had to drop a semester worth of classes because of what it did to me. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. It was just a sulk-fest day after day. Naturally, getting all the way to school seemed to me like climbing Everest with no legs. So two grand and four months or so down the drain.

    But I had friends (friends I met in the dorm) who helped me through it. I would rather not imagine what would have happened without close friends who had a lot of patience. Real friends, friends you can trust, are more important than keeping up your GPA or studying for finals. That’s key in getting through these years. That is the best piece of advice I can offer.

    And having friends has always been key. Especially when you lose one.

    Among my best friends in the world was Eric Bradley, my roommate sophomore year. We had a great time living together, playing “”Halo,”” drinking, movies, all kinds of things. The following year we stayed friends.

    In October 2005, Eric developed a brain tumor a little smaller than a fist. After hours of surgery and months of chemotherapy, it seemed that he had beaten cancer. But out of the blue, one fine afternoon in April, another tumor sprouted in about a week, and it was inoperable. Eric Bradley passed away April 23. The only way that I, or any of my friends, got through that is withone another. Knowing math and science does not help you much there.

    Plenty of other problems have come my way these past years. I went through a period of being totally broke and eating one time or less a day. After a few mistakes and failures, I suddenly had to come face to face with my feelings on abortion. The list really goes on.

    College is about learning and furthering yourself, expanding your mind. But it doesn’t all happen in the classroom. Most of it happens outside every day, and you probably won’t see it coming. I didn’t. Hopefully, you will.

    Alan Fullmer is a senior majoring in journalism and sociology. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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