I think I have loved college campuses since I first set foot on one when I was a junior in high school. My first on-campus experience was as an attendee at Jersey Girls' State, held at Douglass College, about an hour and a half away from my home. If memory serves, I was there for a week along with girls from across the state. I remember having a good time, and but I don't remember much about the campus, nor do I remember being the least bit homesick. I do remember a sense of freedom, though, one that gave me a small taste of how things might be when the time came for me to spend entire semesters on a campus I chose to make my temporary home.
My next adventure was at Bucknell, where I earned both my undergraduate degree and my master's degree. In so doing, I came to love not only the campus, but the town itself, when, as a graduate student I traded in my dorm key for leases on a succession of apartments in downtown Lewisburg. The beauty of the campus was hard to miss, even on busy days when I raced from one spot to the next, keeping pace with myriad responsibilities.
Around the same time, I spent some time on the Princeton campus when I visited friends who lived in the area, including one who went to Princeton Theological Seminary. After working for nearly six years in Bucknell's bookstore, I began to make visits to campus bookstores a regular part of my campus visits, whether to browse or to buy a memento to remind me of the visit.
For the next two decades, my time spent on campuses decreased dramatically. As a gainfully employed adult, I took summer classes at Shippensburg, Millersville, and Penn State York, but didn't spend much time anywhere but in the classrooms. At various points in my public education career, I thought it might be fun/interesting to teach at a college but, lacking a PhD, it wasn't anything I actively pursued.
Then, one Sunday in April, after I'd been retired from my first career as a school counselor for almost a year, I opened an email that opened a door. At the advice of a friend who taught at York College, I'd submitted my resumé to all of the departments where I thought I might be qualified to teach. Two department heads had responded politely to my unsolicited information, promising to keep it on file and now, almost a year later one of them was offering me an interview.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that I've now been at York College longer than I was at my first two school counseling jobs. It's less difficult to imagine that this job, like every other one I've held, has expanded dramatically over time. Hired to teach one course each semester, I now routinely teach two and, more often, three in the same time frame. Like any other job, it has its plusses and its minuses, but the setting is at the top of the list of plusses.
There's just something about a college campus. The well-manicured lawns, the walkable terrain (mostly, anyway), the intermingling of original buildings alongside their newer, flashier siblings.
And, of course, a bookstore. And a library. A college campus is one place where there is never a shortage of books.
There's a sense of possibility that pervades a college campus, from the sports fields to the classrooms to the snippets of song that float out the windows of the music building on an autumn afternoon. If you love to learn (as I do), there's no better place to be.
I don't know that I appreciated all of this during my own college career, at least not as much as I do now. When it came time for my daughter to explore her college options, I was all in. Though I'm sure she would describe this time as more fraught than fun, I loved the trips to various campuses (and their bookstores). I loved hearing about -- you guessed it -- all the possibilities each place had to offer, absorbing all of the amazing adventures available to those who opted to make each place their temporary home.
I've spent a lifetime working in schools, and it seems only appropriate that I've graduated to college teaching to close out my career (though I'm not planning on doing that any time soon). At this time of year in particular, when the weather is (finally) as crisp as the falling leaves, I try to remember to walk a little more slowly, look up, and take it all in. It's so easy to get lost in my own thoughts, and forget that not everyone has the privilege of being part of a workplace that offers so much beauty and possibility.