Audubon, Iowa, could be described as the storybook small town. You’re sure to find more livestock than people. You’ll struggle to find someone who doesn’t have a weakness for at least one country song. And if you took three minutes to drive our entire stretch of highway, you’d even get a peek at the town’s claim to fame: Albert, the world’s largest concrete bull. But if you looked a little closer, you’d get a look at the close community bonds that shape Audubon. You would be greeted by some sort of story — usually told by grandparents over morning coffee — at every turn. Soon, everyone would know your family, your achievements, your future plans, even an embarrassing story or two. This is small-town Iowa, or as I know it, the last 18 years of my life.
When my father decided we should go college shopping halfway across the country, I was scared. When I found my dream school halfway across the country, my fear turned into nervous excitement. In April, after I was accepted, that nervous excitement transformed into a wide array of new emotions. Elation. Curiosity. Enthusiasm. And a pretty healthy dose of pre-college jitters.
For a while, the sheer size of Yale had me scared to death. I graduated with 53 other students I’d attended class with since the age of 5. I was very comfortable and familiar with this small group, and had come to regard many of them as family. When I realized the size of Yale’s freshman class was roughly half of my entire hometown, I’ll admit I was a little on edge before deciding to matriculate. As the months have gone on, I have really started to embrace Yale’s size. Growing up in Audubon, I became accustomed to one sort of culture: small-town life. But as I’ve geared up for Yale this summer, I have become more and more excited to get a look at cultures, backgrounds and personalities I have never experienced before.
I, along with many of my classmates, have come to the startling realization that my parents aren’t going to be a few rooms away anymore. As many of my fellow Audubonites have pointed out within the last few months, Connecticut isn’t exactly in Iowa’s backyard. Almost every grocery store run has led to a familiar conversation, usually involving the following elements: “Are you really going to Yale?” “Wow! You must be really smart!” And then: “That’s pretty far from home.”
You have to love a bit of this small-town predictability, and I do appreciate that the repetitiveness of the conversation has allowed me to consider appropriate responses. As for the first part, that’s always been a proud, resounding “Yes!” The second, I smile and attempt to brush over that comment. (I don’t mean to sound full of myself, but I would say it’s a pretty safe bet that no one at Yale has been accused of being the dullest knife in the drawer.)
The third comment, however, has caused a bit of inner reflection on my part. Connecticut is undeniably far from Audubon, Iowa. But I have also come to realize the importance of breaking out of my parental — and cultural — cocoon as a part of growing up. It is inevitable to miss home, no matter whether I’m half an hour away or half a country.
The thing I worry about the most, though, is leaving my tight-knit community. I have become so accustomed to the comfort of knowing every person I meet that the prospect of thousands of introductions over the course of the school year scares me to death. I no longer have the luxury of my comings and goings being publically known. I have no people in New Haven idly discussing me over morning coffee (although I can guarantee that my grandmother will continue that in Audubon).
I realize that I must make a giant leap into the nerve-wracking world of meeting new people. I have to prepare myself to learn hundreds of names as well as introduce myself to hundreds of new people, something I haven’t had the luxury of doing for years. I must develop the skills to create my own community of peers and friends.
Despite the many differences between Audubon and Yale, my fears of being a new college student, and the many other worries tucked in my brain, I do know one thing. No matter how scared we are, how different our backgrounds and what our future plans include, my classmates and I are about to embark on 1,300 different journeys of a lifetime over the next four years. And honestly, who wouldn’t be excited about that?
Katelyn Asmus is a freshman in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.