Driving cross-country this summer from Boston, I encountered a glut of college life. From calm afternoons in Washington Square Park with Eugene Lang students, to the Southern rap-filled streets of Memphis with Mississippi U. kids, to the wild nights of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, American college life is diverse, surprising and educational, to say the least.
I met a Texican gentlemen in Juarez City, Mexico. He taught me that a home with two floors is a veritable mansion in these hard times of border life. I partied with some girls out of Arizona State in Scottsdale who taught me that keeping a $50 bar tab is the cool thing to do. And I spent a few nights on the fresh, hip streets of Hollywood and Santa Monica where I acted much cooler than I actually am.
As I approached I.V. and the drunken jungle of these dirty streets, I was curious as to how my fourth-year impressions of a place I love so much would unfold. I knew that the previous year abroad in Spain would certainly have a dampening effect on how I would reemerge in this ghetto of American extremes.
When I say that I.V. is a microcosm of America’s worst and best, I mean a lot of things. American lifestyle, history and attitudes manifest in these harsh Santa Barbara conditions at levels seen little elsewhere on earth. All of the ingredients of American culture exist here, more often than not, in extremes. We find extreme jocks, alcoholics, studiers, slackers, stoners, organizers, healers, entertainers, extroverts and introverts.
We have 20-year-old, inbred, WASP-y, blond, ignorant American men and women riding $35,000 SUVs and puffing on cigarettes. On the flipside, we have poor Mexican immigrants and Mexican American, Chicano, Raza workers living among us, pushing carts to collect cans.
We have church boys and girls in their $3,250 cribs, recruiting those whom desperately need the Good Word. Meanwhile next door, the cokeheads, stoners, and frat boys holler catcalls toward Del Playa Drive hoochies.
We have reggae-loving Trustafarians – read: rich kids who oppose personal hygiene and try to emulate all things Rasta – who deny their rich roots (not in their hair) and can’t stand the DP scene, while other poor kids spend every penny they have to shower with a view of the ocean.
Here in I.V. we truly find all types of people.
We pity those who always litter their garbage and hate cleaning anything but their asses.
We ponder those who spend their lives picking up after others and organizing things in space.
We commend habitual studiers rewarded with high notes. We cry when slackers who are just plain smart get all A’s.
We try to learn from those who eat well and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but snicker at those who can’t resist another bag of Cheetos.
Never in my entire 14-day, 3,500-mile journey through America’s Northeast, South and Southwest college life, did I encounter such a thing as I.V. We are blessed and cursed with a place where a college student can get anything he or she wants, live however they please and behave at any extreme they dream.
Each college campus I visited seemed to have a status quo for style, culture, even language. But here in I.V. we find all types.
Samuel DeFranceschi is a senior global studies major.