The joke began in the summer of 2012 (and for the record, it wasn’t funny back then, either). I had just returned home to Seattle* after completing my first year at St. Lawrence. I was feeling knowledgeable, independent and accomplished. I was ripe with stories about my new East Coast friends and experiences. I was so obviously challenged, improved and changed forever by my first year at SLU –I still can’t fathom how any of my friends could joke that I didn’t go to a “real” college, a joke that still tends to mollify many Seattleites who are confused about how I could go to a school they’ve never heard of in a place they’ve definitely never heard of.
In its entirety, the joke goes something like this: Not only do I not attend a real school, but in fact I live in my parents’ basement during the school year and spend my days manufacturing fake St. Lawrence apparel in an effort to corroborate my elaborate lie. See? Not funny. At all. It’s even less funny when I get asked how long it took me to do the stitching on my SLU t-shirt.
To be fair, there are SLU alumni living all over the world, including Seattle. And there are probably thousands of people who have some sort of tie to SLU alumni in Seattle as well. Over the past few years I’ve discovered countless connections between St. Lawrence and Washington State. The strangest one so far? While camping in the Tanzanian bush during my semester abroad in Kenya last spring, I discovered that our guide’s sister is on the same college rugby team as one of my friends from home. I’m not the only student at SLU from Washington, and I have quite a few friends here who are from outside the Northeast as well.
When my acceptance package from St. Lawrence arrived in the mail that fateful spring, my mom held up the letter and said, “Never heard of it.” It was in that moment that the “realness” of my college experience began. Despite the fact that very few people I knew from home were familiar with St. Lawrence, I decided to take a chance on what I hoped would be a strong liberal arts education and a close-knit community. I had no idea that SLU would be the warmest, friendliest campus I have ever encountered. And when my friend from Seattle visited for the first time this fall, he said the same thing – along with, “I have no idea where I am right now” and “I want my younger sister to come here!”
Of course, there are some serious hardships that come with being a Seattleite at St. Lawrence. Every day it’s difficult to be away from the mountains, the ocean, Starbucks, Bill Gates and my family’s new puppy. I have to take two planes to get back and forth from home to school, and one time I lost my suitcase at the airport. No one at St. Lawrence cares that the Seahawks are quickly becoming one of the best teams in the NFL. I miss the rain.
Yet none of these challenges can really compare to the joke. Because at the end of the day, I’m okay with taking two planes to school (I make a new friend each trip!). I’m okay with people not understanding how great of a team the Seahawks are (they’ll see when we win the Super Bowl!). I’m not okay with the idea that I don’t go to a “real” school.
After four and a half semesters here, St. Lawrence is real to me in every sense of the word – my time so far has been a truly, genuinely, really real liberal arts college experience. I am confident that my professors, my abroad experience, my classes and my friends will feel as real to me in 50 years as they do now. And for all of you who still think I’m lying about St. Lawrence: look at this cool blog I posted on the actual website! Does it get any realer than this?
*For any Washingtonians out there - I am not technically from Seattle, but from Bellevue, Wash. For the purposes of this blog, no one really needs to know the difference.