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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Unknown spaces and hidden places create center of friendly faces

    Adjusting to college can be tricky. It’s not uncommon for students to have a difficult time their freshman year — after all, the UA’s average freshman retention rate is 78 percent. That statistic isn’t surprising either; I still remember how baffling it felt to be tossed into a large university with little guidance.

    With a student population of about 40,000, the UA can seem to be a sea of people. However, sinking does not have to be inevitable. To stay afloat, one simply needs to find a wooden door, and in the immortal words of Jack in “Titanic”: “Never let go.”

    Sometimes students need to break the boundaries of traditional, cliché college activities to find their door. Going to football games and joining organizations are the most popular ways to connect on campus, but if those activities aren’t for you, there are other pathways to community and cultural spaces that students are not aware of.

    After struggling to find my niche during my freshman year, I finally found a place to come up for air. I heard that the University of Arizona Poetry Center needed volunteers, so I gathered my courage and left the comfort of my dorm room.

    After making the trek across Speedway Boulevard, I saw the Poetry Center, located off of the lovely quiet Helen Street, glistening in the sun. Huge windows invite passersby to take a peek inside and the building’s large shadow helps make the area around it cool and calm.

    Upon entering I found friendly staff and volunteered as a front desk receptionist. I helped out at Family Days — special events in which children play and learn while visiting the Poetry Center. I found the place where I belong.

    Tyler Meier, the Poetry Center’s executive director, called the center, “One of the flagship collections of contemporary American poetry in the country.”

    It is the nationally renowned home to nearly 70,000 books and items like special prints of individual poems. Poets from Billy Collins to Robert Frost have visited it for readings. The center provides ample volunteer opportunities and comfortable spaces for studying, making it even more worthy of student attention.

    Spending time at a place like the Poetry Center, where the atmosphere is intimate and individuality reigns supreme, can remind students that the UA is not just a large university, but also a school in which everyone is important. It’s deeply refreshing to be able to go to a place in which the staff is friendly and greets you by name.

    Unfortunately, many students are simply unaware that the Poetry Center exists.

    Meier attributes lack of knowledge about the Poetry Center to its relatively remote location, but also to a core challenge.

    “It’s easy to enter a track of study and not think outside of that … unless an academic requirement forces it,” he said. “How do you help people choose poetry, when they have so many other choices for how they spend their time?”

    The question has an interesting implication: Perhaps as students we should try to look beyond the classroom and conventional activities when it comes to making connections on campus. Maybe, sometimes, we need to seek out opportunities for ourselves. You can belong in a club or the stands in McKale Center, but it doesn’t have to be. We shouldn’t be afraid to search for niches in unlikely places. Mine is the Poetry Center, but yours may be the Women’s Resource Center, or an elementary school where you can volunteer or even as an intern at an off-campus art gallery. If we not choose spend our time floundering in this sea of people, we can find opportunities we might have otherwise missed.

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