OP-EDS

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November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Day charade

We are led to believe that attending college will ensure some grandiose upheaval of our current ideas and world views.

College changes your perspective on things.

Yes, this assertion is clichéd and blatantly obvious—after all, the aforementioned line is the go-to platitude for wizened advice-givers, a handy summation of the entire college experience. In high school, everyone from my father to my guidance counselor (with the first being regarded the most and the latter being listened to the least) would drill this little nugget of wisdom deep into my brain. However, it is not my intent to take away anything from the claim’s veracity; most trite sayings come into existence for a reason. It is safe to say that the actual presumed goal of the U of C and almost every other university is to aid students in developing new outlooks (according to the completely reliable source that is the admissions pamphlet).

Yet I can’t help but think that we aren’t given the whole story—I know that when my father spoke to me, his focus was clearly on the academic and social perspective. We are led to believe that attending college will ensure some grandiose upheaval of our current ideas and world views; however, I feel that the statement of change can also be applied to much simpler things than the complex human mind and conscience. Much quicker than I can feel my Sosc class’s enlightening effects, my perceptions on more everyday things are being altered. This observation is especially relevant at this particular time of year.

Often, living in a dorm makes it easy to forget the goings-on in the outside world. Most weekdays we take our meals in the dining halls, and our studying is accomplished in our rooms or the nearby Reg. Sure, during the weekends we may venture around Chicago or catch up on some news, but for the most part, we exist in something of a bubble. In fact, it was not until I took a quick trip to the store, where shelves were stocked with Christmas ornaments and Thanksgiving Day specials, that I realized how close we were to the holiday season.

Back in Michigan, like most other places in the U.S., stores begin seasonal advertising as early as late October. Bright red stickers boasting cheap pumpkin pie and discount turkeys fill grocery stores while nurseries hold specials on Christmas decorations and pine trees. However, aside from wholehearted participation in mass consumerism, different groups have somewhat varying outlooks on the holidays. For kids, the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas signifies multiple weeks off from school and great quantities of delicious and rather unhealthy food. Meanwhile, some adults may observe more religiously oriented interpretations of the holidays, while others view the season as a time to relax and spend some time with the family.

Prior to coming here, my own perception of this time of year was a mixture of the kid’s and nonbeliever’s points of view, with a healthy dose of Black Friday shopping thrown in for good measure. However, unlike back home, at the University it seems that holidays aren’t really anticipated for the actual holidays themselves—I have yet to hear a student say anything that refers to specific excitement for Thanksgiving or another particular day that falls within the two breaks. Additionally, the cooking and decorating frenzy that takes place back home and is most often associated with the season obviously doesn’t occur in the dorms—something that has partly to do with the fact that most of us are low on cash and not particularly compelled to purchase strings of lights or plastic cornucopias to spruce up our rooms.

It seems that here, the holidays are restlessly awaited because above all, they mean going home. After a seemingly prolonged period of schoolwork and distance from the people we grew up with, the notion of heading somewhere that is comfortably familiar is an extremely welcome one. Rather than for want of celebrating two or three days, most of us are anxious to travel back to reunite with our families, hang out with old friends, and return to the places that we were so anxious to leave two months ago.

College does change your perspective on things. Maybe it is not in the way that you had hoped and perhaps the shift doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d like, but the evidence of the transformation is still there. Next Thursday, over a premade dinner purchased from Boston Market, my father will undoubtedly ask if the world appears any different now that I have gotten a brief taste of university life. I will cryptically nod my head yes and ask him to pass the mashed potatoes.

Alice Hur is a first-year in the College.