I started college in the year 1989, which was pretty much when dinosaurs still roamed the earth in the context of a teenager’s brain. Kids to day probably couldn’t imagine life as we lived it on the VCU “campus” which was about four blocks from start to finish and where kids wore overalls and Doc Martens and there was nothing retro about it.
When I started college there was no such thing as the cell phone; parents were at the mercy of the hall phone and this was to the college student’s advantage. The hall phone was shared by forty plus girls and at least one of those forty had a long distance boyfriend she was constantly conversing with therefore the phone was always busy or being answered by someone far too inebriated to decipher a room number much less a name.
This was good because you actually were able to miss your parents; they weren’t texting you every five minutes like they do today asking you if you’ve dropped chem., added a meal plan or been to health services.
In 1989, you dropped classes and took whole semesters of classes like basket weaving and pinhole photography without your parents consent concern or questioning. Parents did not decide your major, you did, lots of times.
Food in 1989 was unhealthy and mediocre certainly but if you grew up on frozen Banquet chicken and fighting for the last pork chop, then you thought cafeteria food was splendid bountiful and delicious. In 2014, my son has thirty choices of what to eat and where to eat it.
In my day it was one hot meal covered in some sort of gravy or the ever- present cereal bar. If you lived off campus you ate Ramen and it wasn’t a punishment but good money budgeting because your money was saved for more important things like beer (PBR).
In 2014, college kids’ parents contact the professors with excuses in hand for their kids. My parents didn’t even know my college professors’ names or genders and I would have died of shame and changed my name if they had contacted any of them.
Hazing in frat houses has changed immensely. I know nothing about frat houses and never went to a frat party, but I know in that case, change is good.
In 1989 when you rented an apartment it was a dump and you loved it. You covered up holes in the wall with a giant Cure poster or a Bob Marley blanket. Today kids live in lofts with private parking and gym memberships that cost more than my utilities bill.
College life prepared you for what your real life would look like; bleak, poor, and living in a beginner house until you earned your way to the penthouse, if you ever did. College life now prepares you to get ready to use a credit card, move back home to Mommy’s or be in for a very giant shock when you find out that you actually have to pay almost five bucks for that frothy coffee drink you get every morning when you swipe Mommy’s meal plan.
Change is good certainly and some changes are for the better but I’m still happy I went to VCU in 1989 in all it’s notorious, glorious, full of character shabbiness where I was away from Mom and Dad and made decisions (good and bad) on my own and a lot of learning was done outside of my textbooks.
I learned to stand on my own two feet, to fend for myself and to make my own buck and my own budget.
Now, that’s what I call higher learning; the kind you can’t find on any transcript and not the kind you’ll get any credit for but the sort that might be the most valuable lesson you ever learn in your four years…or in some cases eight.