By the time I was in high school, I was taking advanced-level French classes that would allow me to get free college credit at the University of Connecticut – if I opted to go there and if I got accepted. That’s when I first toyed with the idea of going to college.
My dad had trouble wrapping his brain around the concept of higher education, convinced that I would end up joining the Air Force – just like he and my siblings had before me. He’d been stationed on the tiny island of Guam. “Trust me,” he’d say. “It’s the only way you’ll ever get to see the world.”
As for my grandma Mary, when I told her about my college plans, she just laughed and said in her thick Polish accent, “Bullshit college! Who’s going to drive bus?”
(NOTE: Cut to later in the chapter after I’d gotten accepted to UConn):
Sitting alone in my dorm room late one night during my sophomore year, I heard a swooshing sound behind me. I turned and saw that an envelope had been slipped under my door. Strange, I thought. I never get mail that way. I went over and picked it up. It was an invitation to a meeting for (UConn’s) Junior Year in France program. How weird. I was studying journalism, not French. In fact, I hadn’t taken French in years, having fulfilled my college language requirement through my advanced classes in high school.
As I stared at the invitation, it conjured up all the fond feelings I’d always had for le français, and it made me think about how the language had saved me. It’s difficult to describe, but even though studying abroad had never been part of my plan, I felt compelled to go to the meeting…
(NOTE: After this scene, I go to an orientation meeting and unexpectedly sign up for UConn’s junior year abroad program. It turns out to be a pivotal, life-changing experience for me, which is the subject matter for Chapter 2).