“I don’t want to go to UNH,” was my adamant response whenever I was asked the dreaded question all junior and seniors in high school get at least once a week-“Where to you want to go to college?” My parents and family friends who had all attended UNH would regale me with hilarious tales of their times at their alma mater in an attempt to convince me otherwise; but I have always been stubborn and I was determined to go anywhere but UNH.
Growing up in Portsmouth, NH, UNH was almost literally my backyard. My parents would take me to hockey games, DHOP or a drive around campus. I had a favorite order at both Pauly’s Pockets and Breaking New Grounds before I had even started considering the thought of applying to colleges. I grew up hearing stories of the “good old days” from my mother, father and two aunts, who are all alumni of UNH. From living on Young Drive to midnight runs to Karl’s cheesy fry truck (Kurt’s before Kurt came to C-Lot) for some late night junk food, I felt like I knew all the ins and outs of UNH before I was sixteen.
Therefore, UNH was quite possibly my last choice of schools when I began the college hunt my senior year of high school. I had visions of city life, maybe Montreal or Boston. I wanted to experience the energy and flow of a city; thousands of people and cars in perpetual motion. I wanted to get away from my, seemingly, quiet life in Portsmouth and go somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere that wasn’t home. But my parents, who frequently know me better than I know myself, had different plans.
When trying to narrow down my choices for schools, my Dad asked me some questions that annoyed me at the time but, looking back on them now, quite possibly were the reason my college experience has been so incredible.
“What are you looking for in a school?” my Dad would ask, a determined look in his eyes as if he already knew my answer (which he did, I was just too stubborn to see it for myself).
“Well,” I would respond, trying to carefully craft my response so I wouldn’t answer the question the way he wanted, “I want a school with a campus,”
A small nod and slight smirk from my Dad.
“I want a school that’s close to the beach and the mountains,”
The smirk grew wider.
“And I want a school that’s big enough to meet new people but not so big that I get lost, I want a home.”
At this point my father’s smirk was a full-out triumphant smile as he said, “You know you just described UNH, right?” And, as much as I hate to admit it, my Dad was absolutely right.
UNH really does have everything that I could have ever wanted in a school: it’s close to both the mountains for skiing and the beach for relaxing. It has an absolutely gorgeous campus that is tinted with shades of gold, red, orange and yellow this time of year. It’s big enough so that I can always find something new to do or interesting people to talk to but, at the same time, it’s small enough so every time I go into the dining halls I’m guaranteed to see at least three people I know.
Since being at UNH I have given tours, planned homecoming, strolled through college woods to see the foliage, gone sledding down library hill, made a fool of myself playing broomball, been an orientation leader, slept too little, spent too much money on coffee, discovered the simple joy of free pizza socials, received at least 25 free t-shirts, made best friends, had an internship and made memories I will never forget. Oh, and I took some really great classes along the way.
In short, over my past four years at UNH, the school I was once so opposed to has become my home. Even though there is a bus that will literally drop me off at the end of my road in Portsmouth, I very rarely opt to go home, much to my mother’s dismay. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being at home anymore, I do. Trust me there is nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal, a slobbery kiss from my dog and the promise of free laundry. It’s just that, after four years of living and breathing life at UNH, I finally understand my parents’, aunts’ and family friends’ enthusiasm for our school.
Through my years here UNH has become so ingrained in my heart and mind that it is, and always will be, a part of who I am. UNH will always be my first real home away from home, the first place I got to test drive being an independent adult and after four years of living in this community, instead of saying “I don’t want to go to UNH”, I’m wondering, “Do I really ever have to leave?”