I didn’t want to go to Indiana University. It was one of my back-up options, and one I had barely considered outside of mom’s endorsement of its great reputation. So when the scholarship application came out over Thanksgiving break senior year, I was annoyed that I had to fill it out. I mean, there was no way I was ever going. But here I am.
Four years later, a proud Hoosier. And it feels good.
My finalists for college options ranged from small college, a Big 10 university or a west coaster that was crazy far from my family. I chose the Big 10: Indiana University.
People always tout that adage of “you’ll know it’s right for you when you step on campus.” I don’t know if that’s the most reliable way to choose a school, but it worked for me. It went from bottom of my list to the top after just a couple hours among the limestone monoliths.
A university with 38,000 undergraduates was going to be big change, but one of the tour guides said something that stuck with me. You can make a big school feel small, but you can’t always make a small school feel big. That I knew from experience—I went to a really small high school. I’m talking really small. Fifty kids in my graduating class small, and I didn’t know if I could do it again.
If you want the small environment all the time, that’s great. But I wanted big. I wanted to get lost in the crowd of people I’d never meet. I wanted to feel like I was walking on a city sidewalk on my way to class but still feel like I could look around and find a familiar face. That’s what IU gave me.
It’s a chance to be anonymous when I want.
I came to IU knowing no one besides two kids from my high school. At this institution, I can reinvent myself every year, every semester, every day and no one will care. I can be who I want in my classes and with my friends. I could be who I want, when I want and feel that sense of agency.
Being a part of something so large also gives me endless opportunities beyond simply bettering myself. Inside the classroom, on the football field, on stage or in the career center, I found so many ways to express myself. I can attend a speaker series at the IU Cinema featuring Boots Riley, director of Sorry to Bother You, see a touring show at the IU Auditorium and attend a massive football game at Memorial Stadium all in a matter of days. IU provides major funding to study abroad and have experiences that shaped me. I can even accidentally attend a lecture about an Indiana wildlife photographer that I still think about every time I walk on campus (tldr: hearing nature lets you see it more clearly, so take your headphones out).
Choosing Indiana University gave me options that I didn’t know I’d want. It gave me an education I didn’t expect when I added my journalism major. I’ve taken classes that have pushed me and met people that have changed me.
So many students means so many alumni that want to help Hoosiers succeed too. A large campus with a big institution also means money, simply put, for big arts programs and big sports. Endless performances and arts festivals alongside Hoosier Hysteria and IUBB. Indiana University gave me the feeling of being a part of something huge and then showed me why that was so important.
I often look back and wonder if I made the right choice. Would I have been happier at a coastal school and not stuck in Indiana? Maybe. But Bloomington has made me embrace what being a Midwesterner means. Being kind. Being considerate. And saying “ope” when you run into someone in the aisle at Kroger.