My classes are writing Proposing a Solution essays right now. Many of them select campus-related issues, and it never fails that every year I get plunged into nostalgia for my dorm years. I lived in one dorm all four years of college, in the same room for three, and had classes strewn about the Michigan State campus.
One essay in particular was about bike travel on campus; the student mentioned the lengths of walks to class here at BGSU, with the tops being about 20 minutes. MSU, of course, is giant in comparison, and I was reminded of my long hikes, particularly in driving snow and frigid temperatures (though not barefoot, uphill both ways). For instance, one term as a freshman I had to walk from my dorm, Mason Hall, to Wonders, clear across campus, which is about 1.15 miles according to a run mapping program (and if I'm remembering my route correctly). Then, I had to walk from Wonders to Brody, an additional .65 miles. After this, I had to walk back to Mason, which was about 1.35 miles (again, I had to guess at the route I would have taken, which may not have been the most efficient and may have even been longer). Sometimes, I recall, I shifted my route to avoid wind gusts, especially heading out to Wonders.
When you're walking with a backpack and early in the day (this was all before lunch), this takes you some time. I remember it took me about half an hour to get out to Wonders, 25 minutes on a good day, and an additional 15 minutes or so to get to Brody. Then it easily took me forty to forty-five minutes to get back to Mason, as they were quite literally at opposite ends of the campus. I'm a fast walker normally, but I definitely remember trudging in the winter, certainly not at top speeds.
In my mind for the last few days has been a very distinct memory of one such day. It was bitterly cold, and snowy to boot. I was wearing one of my giant wool sweaters. On my way back to the dorm, all I could think about was lunch, something hot from our good cafeteria (dorm food, and the way they pay for meals, here at BGSU is not so good--I was spoiled). I wouldn't even go to my room, but take my exhausted, hungry self and bag straight into the dining room. As I was scanned in, I noticed that my sister and her friends were seated at a table. If I was in the cafeteria today (although it doesn't exist anymore), I could show you exactly where they were: righthand side of the righthand long tables, between the pillars.
My sister and I lived in the same dorm for a year, one floor apart, I as a freshman and she as a senior (it was not considered unfashionable to live in a dorm the whole time you were at college, especially when you lived in a nice building like ours). Yet, we hardly ever saw each other. She and I had very different schedules. We very rarely ate together, especially since I was at dance classes all evening, right through normal dinner times. But for once, we ended up at the same place at the same time.
I was welcomed at their table. I remember specifically that I had clam chowder. My sister and her friends were very kind to me, asking me about how things were going and commiserating with my ridiculous walk. It was a few minutes' oasis in the middle of a busy day, and I have always been grateful for it, being accepted by senior honors students and treated like an adult and a friend.
I often think of that lunchtime when it is bitingly cold and windy here on my current campus, remembering how comforting the environment was, and wishing the same sort of warmth for my own freshman students.