The last few weeks have been rough. With bills due, students and parents have short-tempers and even shorter attention spans. They call, they leave a voicemail. They ignore our polite request on the answering machine to “leave just one message unless you don’t hear back in 48 hours”, they call again and leave another message. They call four times to ask the same question because they don’t like the answer, therefore clogging the phone lines for others trying to get through. Etc, etc, etc, for the last two weeks and into the foreseeable future. This is the part of my job I like the least: I want to be able to tell every student that they don’t have to borrow money, that we have an endless supply of endowment funds to cover their balance. But we don’t. We’re a private school in one of the most expensive cities in the country, you need to chip in too.
Dealing with frustrated and confused families day in and day out is emotionally draining, and sometimes I wonder “why am I doing this? Why did I go into this field? Why did I just spend two years of hard-earned weeknights and weekends slaving away on homework to advance myself in higher education?”
And then things like my subway ride from a few days ago happen. For the record, no one had left the sticker on their pants.
I was sitting on the train across from a group of teenagers that were clearly new students at the college I work at. They moved in a few weeks ago and are attending our early summer session to gain 3 extra credits before the semester starts, so they’ve been college students for all of two weeks.
And they had just about the cutest darn conversation ever*.
“I was really worried that I wasn’t going to be mature enough for college, that everyone was going to be really serious…”
“Yeah, I thought everyone was just going to want to talk about politics and ‘social justice’ and occupying things and stuff like that…”
“I know, me too! I’m glad other people just want to hang out and be weird too…”
Ugh, thank you, kids, for reminding me why I want to work in higher education. I love helping those insecure and worried students find their way and help them as much as possible to walk away feeling they’ve had a great experience. Yesterday I had to work at freshmen move-in (for the rest of the students that didn’t come early). While it was a pain in the butt waking up at 5:30AM on a Sunday and schlepping into Manhattan to tell students they owe money, it was nice seeing all those happy faces (and some sad parents) embarking on a great new adventure. I had some great conversations, some of the students had never been to NYC before, and it was good for me to hear their optimism and excitement. After getting a little jaded and bored of this fine city, I needed that to rejuvenate myself.
On the other hand, I also wanted to tell said students that the foliage in the Hudson Valley is amazing in the autumn, and they should really spend some weekends away in the next few months to head “up north”…I don’t think they’d opt to do that instead of getting to know their new home, but they really should.
*Am I allowed to say it was cute? I was one of those incoming freshmen seven years ago, am I far enough removed to use this sort of language?