I joined the Class of 2007 at Denison University believing that I was more than prepared for life on campus and that my only challenges would be academic. I chose Denison, a small, liberal arts college within my home state, because my first choice, New York University, seemed too overwhelming, and my safety choice, The Ohio State University, was too close to home. Despite choosing a small, less intimidating school, I quickly realized that my college experience would have unforeseen challenges that would push me out of my comfort zone and require new life skills.
With more than 175 student organizations to choose from, I filled up my schedule with extracurricular activities and social events. I signed up for every committee that interested me, made partnerships and friendships, and had commitments almost every night of the week. As a result, my GPA took a nosedive because I spent more time organizing events than I spent studying for my Astronomy and Biology exams. I should have spent more time making friends through study groups and less time at the Slayter student union.
Denison’s beautiful campus on a hilltop has excellent facilities, including computer labs on every quad, which I depended on for printing. Regretfully, on many occasions, I ran to a computer lab to print an essay or script just before a morning class. If the lab was out of ink or paper, I had to either wait for maintenance or run to another quad and risk being late to class. The little campus on a hilltop seemed to expand in size whenever I was on a deadline. If I had thought ahead, I would have purchased my own printer for my dorm room and saved myself many headaches.
First year students were paired up into dorms based on personality profiles and I was lucky to be matched with a great first roommate. A housing lottery was conducted for upperclassmen (non-freshmen) at the end of each year, which allowed students to enter into the lottery with self selected roommates in pairs, trios, or groups of six. I spent the spring semester of my junior year in London, England, and missed the housing lottery. Before I went abroad, I didn’t plan ahead for the lottery by coordinating with friends, so I started senior year in a dorm with three unfamiliar and unkind girls. It was a challenge, but I was able to convince the housing department, called Residential Life, to move me to another dorm.
Although I got lucky and was given an unoccupied double room, I was moved to south quad, practically off campus and away from my friends, classes and computer labs, and it was a daily struggle to travel up and down the hill, especially in the winter.
My hometown of Columbus, Ohio, the fifteenth largest city in the U.S., was a 40-minute drive from campus; however, most students didn’t own cars. Furthermore, the campus was strictly residential so after hours and weekend activities took place on campus, creating a feeling of entrapment and isolation. That feeling, called “The Denison Bubble”, caused frustration and tension when students felt bored or separated from the rest of the world. My solution was to spend entirely too much time and money traveling back home on weekends for laundry, food, shopping, and entertainment. I eventually learned how to do my own laundry and began shopping at smaller stores in Newark, Ohio, about fifteen minutes from campus, rather than relying on traveling back home for basic needs.
As a work study student with an all access meal plan, I thought I had my food needs covered. It didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t have access to food once the cafeterias, student union and in town restaurants closed for the day. Lacking culinary and meal planning skills, I survived on Hot Pockets whenever I couldn’t access food. Laziness, coupled with ignorance, kept me from utilizing the full kitchens located in every residential building. If I had planned my meals and stored healthy snacks in my dorm refrigerator, I could have saved a ton of money and frustration while learning how to plan meals.
The academic, social and personal lessons that I learned at Denison shaped me into a well rounded, self reliant woman and I am excited to visit my alma mater in 2017 for my 10 year reunion. Although there are many things I wish I had known about Denison before I attended, I wouldn’t choose any other school or campus.
Ashley Briggs earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Denison University with a Major in Cinema and currently lives in San Diego, California. By day, she works at an adolescent treatment facility and by night, she is a freelance writer and completing her first novel.