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  • Lydia Yu

Visiting your future: a visit to the college I will attend opened my eyes

Congratulations! You got into college. Good job. Challenging AP classes, repetitive student council meetings, soccer games in the rain—everything paid off in the end. Except it is not the end. It is the beginning of your next four years.

After I learned about my admission to this college, I was in utter shock. Because of my admissions plan, early decision 2, I am required to attend this school. And, to be honest, I had no idea what this school or my next four years would be like. This college was not my first choice. I have never visited this college, nor have I ever been to the city of the college. Writing a 400-word essay about why I want to attend this school does not translate into any practical knowledge of the school—most importantly, how the cafeteria food is. Thus, when they notified me of the opportunity to visit the school for free, I immediately applied.

Surprisingly, the next day, I heard back. I was allowed to visit the school with no fees for transportation and accommodations. The only thing the college asked for was, “Per hotel policy, all students are required to bring a parent, guardian, or other responsible guest over the age of 21 who can share a room with the student.” However, my parents are out of the country, and it’s difficult to ask a family friend to drop everything to go on this trip with me to a mid-sized city on the other side of the country that is not a typical tourist attraction. I only knew one person with a connection to this city, but he was not permitted to come on the trip since he was not 21. My only choice was to lie to the college about having a guardian accompanying me and to hope the hotel would take pity on me. Thus, I set out alone on a 3-day cross-country trip.

Since the college ordered my plane tickets, I was at the mercy of whichever schedule they chose. My first challenge was to find a ride to my 5:25 am flight at the Monterey airport since my scheduled Uber driver canceled at 10 pm the night before. It was too late to ask local day students to drive me—and I was freaking out. The only solution I thought of was to leave right then, at 10 pm, when Uber drivers are still working, and spend the night at the airport. Thankfully, the faculty on duty warned me that the Monterey airport does not allow overnight stays. I began reaching out to EVERYONE. After an hour of phone calls with suspicious local taxi companies, my friend’s mom miraculously agreed to take me to the airport. I started my day of travel, beginning at 5 am Pacific Time and ending at 9 pm Eastern Time. This attachment is a map of my round-trip journey.

I arrived at night, eager, excited, and very cold from the high winds. Thankfully, the hotel staff believed my lie, allowing me to check-in. With nothing to do, I ran to the school’s lacrosse field, right across from the hotel, and just stood there. The floodlights were on, but no one was out on that night. Dispersively, one or two cars zoomed past me. Despite the bedazzling lights from each apartment window, the city felt empty—neither bustling nor naturally beautiful. It was not welcoming with its gusts of wind and lack of liveliness. It was hard to envision myself living there for the next four years. The darkness surrounding me was the perfect metaphor for my uncertainty regarding the future.

On the school shuttle that took us to campus in the morning, I met my first friend(?). Her name was Kim, and she was from Kentucky—the first person that I’ve ever met from Kentucky! She had a Southern accent, and a charming smile, following her Southern hospitality. Surprisingly, we had a lot more in common than my first assumptions. We shared similar interests, and navigating the campus with her made me feel immediately at home.

The campus was so pretty, blooming with cherry blossoms. Every new student that I met was so friendly and open to talking. On the campus tour, I reacquainted with the reasons why I applied to the school in the first place. I had forgotten why I liked this school until the tour guide reintroduced those facts and quirks. It is the feeling of reuniting with a friend you’ve lost touch with.

The rest of the day flew by as I met people that I will be spending my next four years with. People traveled from all corners of the country, from California to West Virginia to campus. After the events, everyone else was scheduled to leave, but my flight was booked for the next afternoon. Once again, I was alone in this city at night. But, this time, I had recommendations of where to go. As I walked down the streets, I daydreamed and envisioned myself doing this every day very soon. I explored, buying a great pair of pants from a local boutique, visiting a vegan coffee shop exclusively selling communist books, and visiting the free art museum. After all of this, I missed my friends and I was excited to return to Stevenson. However, my return back was not as easy-breezy. Ironically, it was because of wind.

On the day I was supposed to return, the winds in Pebble Beach reached 53 mph. The National Weather Service calls this a strong gale and describes, “Structural damage occurs, such as chimney covers, roofing tiles blown off, and television antennas damaged. Ground is littered with many small twigs and broken branches.” The rainstorm in Dallas extended my layover, but a larger storm challenged my flight to Monterey. Once we reached the Monterey Peninsula, our plane circled the Monterey Regional Airport for 2 hours, trying to find a way to land. Sporadically, the plane would vertically drop for 30 seconds—an eternity when your plane is at an altitude of tens of thousands of miles. Even as an appreciator of the Tower of Terror (aka Guardians of the Galaxy–Mission: Breakout), this experience was dreadful. I am not Catholic, but the company of a nun on board was the only saving grace I could hold on to. We circled around and around from the hills of the Salinas Valley to Monterey Bay, waiting for the wind to die down. It would not end.

Thankfully, our plane had ample fuel, and we flew to Los Angeles, landing at 1 am. After landing, I received all the text messages and calls from the hours between my scheduled and actual landing time from my concerned friends, family, and the faculty member on duty. Their concern warmed my heart, letting me know I wasn’t alone.

Finally, after staying at the airport overnight—not being able to fall asleep and strolling around the outside of LAX—my flight finally left for Monterey. Although there were still winds, I returned to school safely through the maze of fallen trees.


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