Once upon a time, on the west end of Locust Street, there lay a collegiate castle called St. Ambrose University. Thousands of students of different ages from different hometowns all came to the castle to make something of themselves, whether personally, academically, or both. Four years ago I was accepted into the castle and embarked upon a journey that would change my life forever.
The castle was beautiful, complete with dormitories, townhouses, classrooms, a great dining hall, an arena, a library and even a few parking spaces here and there. Black squirrels climbed up the trees and ran across the grass. Rap music blared from dorm rooms on nice days and late nights. Castle events were scribbled across the sidewalks in colorful chalk. St. Ambrose was a friendly, delightful place to be.
Dormitories in the castle were buildings for all of the students to live together. All three of the residence halls I resided in, Bechtel, Franklin and Tiedemann, carry their own memories in my treasure box. Although living with other princesses created moments of drama and ugliness, we all came out of it as friends. I will never forget staying up all night in Bechtel singing along to Pink and eating Oreos. Franklin will always remind me of singing Shania Twain on “Bathroom Night,” which really shouldn’t be explained. Rooms 101 and 103 of Tiedemann will always be remembered as the dance party rooms, which usually started a train around the halls of the dorm.
There were also buildings full of classrooms, in which each student could discover which major was the perfect fit. Going into the experience, I thought journalism was my match. As it turned out, English was my true love and gave me everything I had ever hoped for. I was lucky enough to be paired with fairy godmothers for my professors, such as Nancy Hayes and Bea Jacobson. Alan Sivell, Owen Rogal and Carl Herzig would be my fairy godfathers, if they will accept the term. No professor of mine was ever wicked.
I cannot complain about my experience with journalism; the communication department can throw some of the best parties I have ever been to. The faculty members are also the most helpful people on campus.
No classes in my time at the castle compared, however, to creative writing classes with the English faculty. There is nothing more magical than sharing something as personal and secretive as your own writing with other students and professors and learning to accept criticism and feedback. The encouragement and support to finish a story is mystical.
At the far end of the castle lies Lee Lohman Arena, a gymnasium, in which students become athletes. I spent two long years there, leaving my daintiness at the door and pouring all my sweat out on the floor to play volleyball with other princesses. One perk about this was having young, handsome princes for coaches. They pushed us to do our best, trust our teammates, and most importantly, to have fun.
My favorite memories in the arena, however, were in the stands rather than on the floor. To be a part of a record-breaking crowd for the men’s volleyball team was more exhilarating and wild than any moment I spent actually playing the game, (perhaps because the men’s volleyball team was good, unlike our girls JV team).
Across the street from the large castle, with the new chapel as its center point, there is an enchanted forest, also known as Vander Veer Park. I visited this forest countless times throughout these four years for many reasons. My roommate and I unsuccessfully flew kites. We very successfully fed the ducks. And many times I came by myself, just to beat the stress of the day and avoid the chores my fairy godmothers had given me. Walking along the paths as the sun was setting was the most relaxing time of the day.
In four years I have had a crazy ride of ups and downs. I’ve experienced the loss of a friend. I’ve faced the battle of a 20-page research paper, and somehow won. I was lucky enough to travel to Europe twice. I’ve kissed a frog or two, yet I am still without a prince.
Now it is time to leave this castle and build my own. I don’t know how to start or where it will end up, but I felt the same upon arriving at St. Ambrose. I came here with a handful of friends, and I’m leaving with a kingdom full of friends.
I came here being quiet and shy, too afraid to speak up. I’m leaving loud and confident, brave enough to speak my mind. Most importantly, I’m leaving with more knowledge of the real world. Graduation day will not be my happily ever after, but my sparkling beginning to a new fairy tale.