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I’ve never liked being told what to do. I was one of those annoying kids who were always retorting “It’s a free country” when anybody questioned their actions.
As someone who doesn’t enjoy mandates of any sort, the California public school system was not really my thing. I hated the rigidness of high school and hungered for the freedom that I knew college would bring, where my education and life would be in my control.
So when I learned about the College of Creative Studies, where autonomy abounds and no one will tell you what do even if you ask them, I knew it was going to be just what I needed.
For those who don’t know about the College of Creative Studies, it’s composed of just about 300 students divided into eight different emphases: art, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, music composition, physics and my emphasis of choice: literature.
It’s been called a graduate school for undergraduates because of the freedom that students are given with the direction of their education. But it really is a place for people with perverse dedications to take solace in knowing that there are others who are just as perversely dedicated and to astound and disgust each other with the horrific lengths they’ve gone to to immerse themselves in their chosen field.
For example, in my first CCS literature course, which was devoted to The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, there was a senior who was learning Latin so she could study Virgil’s works in their original language.
I remember thinking, “She’s so pretty – what’s she doing learning Latin?” I’d tried reading translated editions of Virgil and didn’t have a clue what was going on; I couldn’t imagine reading any of it in Latin. Latin for God’s sake! Who learns Latin?
These people do.
They also go on research expeditions to Alaska, get their paintings in galleries and do whatever the hell it is that physics majors do that’s cool and unusual. I don’t know everyone in CCS, but what I do know about them is that they are incredible. Smart enough to squash even my superiority complex, talented enough to attract attention from graduate schools like Oxford and Yale, and normal enough … well being normal is overrated, I’m sure.
I spent my first year as a CCS student in a state of awe and overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy.
I hadn’t even heard of half the writers the other students in my classes were talking about, nor had anything I’d written after the age of twelve won any sort of award because I’d been too afraid to show anybody my stuff.
I felt ridiculously square and uncultured and wanted to run away, become a communication major and never look back. I was sure that due to my lack of edginess no one in my classes would like me or care at all about what I had to say regarding our class readings.
But whether it’s due to my irresistible charm or the fact that my parents are giving them all a monthly stipend, they actually do. And I like them.
I’ve also recently come to respect them as my peers as opposed to pseudo-gods of all things literary, mostly because I’ve gained much more confidence about myself as a student, but also because a lot of people in CCS are smaller and weaker than me. I’m pretty sure I could take them if need be. That’s comforting to know, especially if any of them try to boss me around.
Stacy Redd is a junior literature major in the College of Creative Studies.