Beginning my search for a college of my dreams didn’t follow the typical narrative that normally plays out your last years of high school. I didn’t spend hours combing over pamphlets with “students” who appeared much too smiley for sitting in class. My big decision-making process went like this: “Hey, you want to get out of school on Friday? I think there’s an orientation we can sign up for that’ll last ‘til about 2 p.m.” And can you believe I had earned a 4.0 GPA?
And then I decided to visit the University of Iowa.
I always considered school important. Obviously slacking didn’t come naturally to me, but at the time, school was a requirement in my mind rather than an interest. College didn’t strike me as a yes or no question because in the eyes of my family, college was simply the next step after high school. If someone ever presented secondary education as a question and my honest reply suggested a life without my BA, a life as a professional fast food cashier would instantly flash before their eyes.
Due to this, I figured that the little choice I did possess in where to attend didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. My scouting turned into an excuse to get out of class with my friends as we toured campuses that we knew we would never step on again. Coincidently, this is the story of how I landed at my dream school: the University of Iowa.
At this point in time, it seemed like I made up my mind to attend a private college in a small Iowa town. The Central College campus emanated the small campus feel with a cute town surrounding its borders. I imagined myself walking through that town with Dutch-inspired architecture, stopping in to say hello to the workers at the local bakery, books in hand as I found my place to study on the weekends.
If you’ve imagined the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast then you’ve properly stepped into 17-year-old Lauren’s head. Fortunately, this Disney fairytale took a wide veer into left field when those friends asked me to join them on a tour of the University of Iowa. Even though I supposedly decided my life for the next four years already, I itched to get as far away from my high school as possible and I agreed to join in their fun day off.
Before we stepped foot into Hawkeye territory, I made it clear to my parents that this university didn’t even make my list of top five schools; I merely came to support my friends. Staying true to my family’s Iowa State University roots, I refused to succumb to the black and gold, giving little attention to anything on the tour. I hovered towards the back of the group and never asked a question for the cheery guide to answer on the spot. Instead, I zoned out, observing my surroundings as we made our way across the enormous campus. I started to notice the lay of the land, the architecture, those passing by with bulging backpacks. I became so engulfed in the vibe of the campus that suddenly everyone else fell away and I stood envisioning the next four years of my life ahead of me.
You know how sometimes you get a feeling about a person or a place and you just know… Well that day, standing on the Pentacrest and staring at the campus before me, I just knew. I full on Dr. Strange’d that tour as I began to imagine my life in the future carrying a bag that made me look like a pack mule, studying near the Old Capital building and grabbing coffee in the IMU before heading to a morning class.
Now, when a campus causes you to experience a trippy form of mental time travel, you can’t just pack up the van and hightail it out of town. I surprised everyone that day as I told them I would attend the University of Iowa in the fall (especially those in my family who went to Iowa State University, the rival school). Either way, it was time to embrace the reality that while my family and their traditions were important, I’m still my own person. Time to break out the major odd duckling status at the family get-togethers and wear that Hawk with pride. At this point in my life I grew as an individual, unapologetic and unwavering in the choices that I knew (from my brief psychic stint on my tour) would introduce me to my second home. Little did I know that the English gods were on my side because I had just chosen one of the most highly ranked universities for the English majors in the country. Maybe I really am psychic?