Crossing the Border Between Town Life and University Life

From Anne Giles Clelland, Handshake 2.0, for First College Visit, a series of first college visit stories by business professionals sponsored by SmartCollegeVisit.

I never thought of applying to any university other than the one in my college town of 10,000 residents and 20,000 students.  Even though my father was on the faculty, even though as a child I sat rapt during events on campus – plays like Bubbling Brown Sugar and speakers’ series featuring Vincent Price - when I entered Virginia Tech as a freshman, I crossed a border between town life and university life as if between two countries.

My first visit to a college dormitory at Virginia Tech was on the first day of my freshman year when my father drove me the two miles from our house to Slusher Wing.  I can still remember the poised, beautiful resident advisor with whom I felt hopelessly unsophisticated, and the feel of the heavy Yale key she put in my hand.  My father helped me tote two suitcases, a box of books, a pillow and a lamp up the stairs to my room on the third floor.  Although my new roommate and I had never met or spoken on the phone, we had written letters and agreed her mother would buy us matching bedspreads from Sears.  Mine, still in its plastic wrap, was on my bed.

My father helped me make my bed, military corners folded with the expertise only a former President of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets could give them.  I sensed in him what I felt in myself, the ambivalence of longing to stay a family and excited readiness to begin what this would be.

I don’t remember what words of wisdom and encouragement my father spoke to me as he began to leave the dorm room.  I just remember that he was there.  And that I didn’t let him go then, but walked down with him to the car.  And we both waved until we couldn’t see each other any more.

Dr. Crandall Shifflett, Anne Giles Clelland, Dr. A. Roger Ekirch, Virginia Tech graduation, 1981

Dr. Crandall Shifflett, Anne Giles Clelland, Dr. A. Roger Ekirch, Virginia Tech, 1981


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