Professor Adrienne Jankens
10 October 2013
As a first year-first semester student at Wayne State University, I have come to find college is much different from any schooling I have encountered in my educational career thus far. Aside from the challenging classes, thousands of unfamiliar faces, and adjusting to an entirely new community, college is the place where one starts to find himself and gain independence as an adult. It is the threshold from childhood to adulthood, the door to a world of new discourse communities. I identify myself with a plethora of discourse communities at Wayne State, each serving as elements to whom I am, and who I aspire to be. One of the larger discourse communities I partake in is the “commuter” community, as I drive to and from Wayne State each day. I have been told by numerous friends and family members that college is the place where one really gets to know himself. My interpretation of finding myself is growing into an individual and understanding how I contribute to society as a global citizen. As I am trying to find myself throughout my college journey, I constantly wonder, “Would I better develop as an individual if I were to live away from home?” All semester, I have been asking myself “What if?” when it comes to living on campus and commuting. I want to understand how, or if, I would grow to better know myself if I lived on campus. Researching my I-Search may give me insight to something I may have been blinded to, or would further justify my decision to commute to Wayne State.
As a commuting student, I do not know much about campus life beyond the basics (dorm, laundry, campus food, etc.). Since my question is more personal, I knew I would not find my answer in reading articles; I needed personal feedback. Fortunately, I am blessed with friends who live at Wayne State and other universities who allowed me to interview them about campus life. I inquired about academics, social life, family and the college experience in general as I felt these aspects were most important to me. I planned on using peer responses to give me a better picture of how life would be on campus and then applied them to myself and personal experiences.
Before actually interviewing several students, I came across various online articles which inspired me to come up with specific questions for interview. Most of the questions derived from these articles were about social life: “What sorts of interactions allowed you to make friends on campus?” “What was your motivation to make friends in college?” I then came up with a list of questions on various topics, organizing them according to their category, and refined each question in a way that allowed for a conversation opposed to a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Since I interviewed students with different circumstances I revised each question in a way that was relevant to the student’s situation. After a final revision of my questions I started to interview.
While inquiring about academics, I came across a range of answers from, “I’m a perfectionist, so it wouldn’t really matter if I lived at home or on campus; I still strive for excellence and accept nothing less” (Smith) to “When I lived on campus, I really didn’t care too much about grades because my parents weren’t on my butt all the time about it” (Fatone). Currently, my study habits consist of doing homework on the third floor of the UGL while conversing with friends and cramming for exams at the Farmington Hills Library. Whether or not I were to live on campus or live at home, I know I want to do the best I can in my schoolwork, and be able to maintain a relatively high GPA— especially because I plan on furthering my educational career to medical school. Although I have not yet found my study “groove” in college, I know I will eventually find what fits once I am better acquainted with Wayne State, which will hopefully in turn help me get better acquainted with myself. At the least, I know I strive for the best, and have an unstoppable will to succeed in my studies.
After inquiring about academics, I inquired about social life. When it came to social life, every interview was basically the same. When I told Molly Freida to describe her social life while living on campus she said, “I became a lot more social living on campus. More social than I was at home, like, everyone is just there where, like, at home all my friends were off to college and all my friends from school lived at school” (Freida). As I interviewed other students living on campuses besides Wayne State (Michigan State University and University of Chicago), they mentioned how their social life became more important than their academics, causing their focus to dwindle (Kim). Right now, I have a solid group of friends at Wayne State. We study together on a daily basis and hang out off campus on the weekends. I plan on meeting new people and making even more friends as the semester progresses. If I were to live on campus, I would probably get caught up in the social scene and try to make as many friends as possible for a sense of comfort. I would become much more involved with on campus activities and see how different things work. This would make me better-rounded which is a good contributing factor to individuality. However, my focus on school would definitely deplete, and my time management skills would not be up to par. This would take away from my individuality, or at least my personal development.
As I continued the search to my ultimate question, I began thinking about my family and my relationship with them. I am close to both my immediate family and my extended family—I could not imagine life without them. When I asked Hannah Yosef to describe her relationship with her family while living on campus opposed to commuting she responded, “When I was living at Wayne State, I missed my family like you wouldn’t believe. Oddly enough, it made me closer to them. Now that I am living at home again, I appreciate them a lot better.” On the other hand, Akash Patel responded, “We really don’t talk much. My mom calls me about nine times a day, but I don’t always necessarily answer.” As much as I would love to strengthen my relationship with my family I would find it hard living on campus as I would become distracted with my own priorities, making it harder to keep constant contact. Yes, technology is always available as an excellent form of communication, but it is not the same as a face to face conversation; the emotion is just not there. As I mentioned, my family means the world to me. Almost every decision I make is based on my family. I would have a hard time finding myself without them, as they are always there to support me in all my endeavors. They constantly give me the confidence I need to believe in myself and follow my heart. Life would be tough without this support, and I would begin to doubt myself. However, making decisions on my own would help me become more independent and allow me to know what I really want. I know I would develop if I were to live away from home, but am not entirely sure how I would do so.
When ending every interview I asked each student, “How is your life different living on campus?” All but one student replied they are free to do what they want, when they want. The one student who did not have this same answer replied, “Coming into college I thought I would be changed, but I’m not. I stayed true to my beliefs. Yeah, my family life was different, but that was about it. I do me, and don’t really care about anything else. Life’s the same, and I don’t expect it to change” (Walter). I found this answer to be the most unique. It hit home.
Unfortunately, I did not include questions pertaining to religion in my interviews as I knew some of the interviewees were not comfortable talking about religion, or did not have a religion to discuss. Instead of interviewing, I decided to reflect on my being and how my religion affects it. After much thinking and even more praying, I immediately knew I could never be the same person without God in my life. I pray daily and attend church every Sunday. I purposefully make time for prayer in my daily schedule. With this being said, if I were to live on campus, I could see my relationship with God weaken because I would get too caught up in studies, friends and enjoying college in general. My church would not be as close as it is at home, and I would find excuses to miss Sunday Mass. My religion is my foundation, and without a foundation it would be nearly impossible to further understand myself.
Throughout this process, I received much more than an answer to a question that interested me. I learned technicalities of the process of interviewing and personal narrative writing. I was pleasantly surprised at how each interview was not so much an interview, rather, but an open hearted conversation. I appreciated how honest my interviewees were, and did not just give me what I wanted to hear. Most importantly, I learned about myself. After reviewing each interview, I thought more deeply about my I-Search question and how I would actually answer it. Since my topic was personal, I had a hard time putting my personal feelings out in the open as I am introverted. I experienced much anxiety about how I would present my thoughts on paper. Somehow I pushed through and constantly asked myself the question “Would I truly be able to define myself if I were to live away from home?” each time I concluded an interview. I would sit in my bed and think, writing down every thought that came to mind. After, I tried to come up with an answer using these thoughts, but could not bring myself to one concrete response. I wrote and re-wrote my final answer, but was never satisfied. Eventually, it just clicked. It took a while, but I finally realized there really is no answer to this question; I would have to experience it for myself. As much as I would want to develop into an individual throughout my collegiate journey, I finally understood it takes a lifetime to develop into an individual regardless of living at or away from home. Life is always changing, and I honestly do not known what is going to come next—I am just going to roll with it and see where it takes me. As long as I “do me” and stick to my beliefs I will be on my way in doing so. It was not the answer I anticipated—not even merely close to the answer I wanted out of this question. For some reason, I am okay with this answer, as life is a journey of finding one’s self, and for me, college is just the beginning.