The first days of spring
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: College/University on 12 Jan 2010.
19-year old Ethan left for the US a few days ago, closing a chapter on his somewhat eclectic homeschool to begin a new chapter studying in a university in Texas. Never mind that some folks scoffed that the uni in question wasn’t a ‘recognized’ one (okay, it isn’t Ivy League). As his parents we were a bundle of mixed emotions – incredibly delighted, a mite apprehensive, pretty bowled over, fairly amazed, deeply grateful – but mainly happy for Ethan, that his unconventional ‘schooling’ did not get in the way of his education. 38 hours, 4 planes, 1 wrong airport, and a visit to Walmart later, he writes about starting out as a regular student for the first time in his life.
TOMORROW I BEGIN MY FIRST SEMESTER in Hardin-Simmons University. I’ll be coming in smack in the middle of the academic year. There won’t be an official orientation for me since, well, it’s just not worth it. I’ll have to play catch-up in a game altogether unfamiliar to me. I do not have my books. I do not have my schedule. I do not even have the key card to my dorm (and have had to rely on the kindness of strangers). This is because everything – everything – will only open tomorrow. Someone in my dorm promised to show me where to get the necessary first thing in the morning. Still. Oh god.
The months preceding that letter of acceptance from Hardin-Simmons were frustrating, confusing months. I wandered in the desert for 40 years when it came to sending out college applications. A major hurdle was the fact that I’d never been to school before. I had loads of interesting things like book reviews published in the newspapers, piano exam certificates, public speaking awards, extra-curricula portfolios – that sort of thing – but colleges wanted more. They wanted to see GPAs, transcripts, high school finishing certificates that they recognized. I was on the verge of fabricating my GPA when I grasped at the first straw I could find. I went to Eli360, a Christian college rep agency. Eli360 represents more than 50 private universities across the United States. The list of options was narrow because of my qualified lack of qualifications.
Hardin-Simmons was the first to accept me. I could speculate on and on why Hardin-Simmons accepted me even when I didn’t have a GPA. It might have something to do with Eli360’s president speaking to the university on my behalf. It might have something to do with the recommendations my friends wrote. It might have something to do with the person reflected in my application packet. Or it might have something to do with the slumping economy and the need for easy cash. It’s possible Hardin-Simmons may not be the only university in the world to accept me, but I don’t and didn’t care. I took it.
I received a partial scholarship from Hardin-Simmons based on my SAT score. A better SAT score would mean a better scholarship, so I took the SAT again. I studied for it this time and, to my surprise, scored higher for math than for writing. I’m now eligible for a better scholarship that would cover about one third of my fees. This I’ve decided to take as a promising omen.
I’m here for a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. The sort of degree that nobody really understands because Liberal Arts students don’t really understand it either. Ah, perfect. But to give you a better idea of what this might mean, my classes this semester will be:
Intro to the Visual Arts
Freshmen Writing I
Intro to Psychology
The weeks leading to my date of departure were full of farewells. The people who showed up at the airport to see me off made it a little harder to leave because I could see how much I’d be leaving behind. Kuala Lumpur. Singapore. Moscow. Houston. Fort Worth. Abilene, Texas. I’m here. And I’m not done yet. In a matter of hours I’ll discover what it means to go to class.
(Photo: Ethan (R), in a rare pose with younger brother Elliot in KLIA) Follow Ethan’s blog here.