Town & Gown: Is the college experience a myth?

By Montse ReyesOctober 18, 2012 

The notion of the "college experience," much like that of the high school experience, has long been glamorized by media and pop culture.

If the mystical concept of high school as a time of self-realization, in which we dip our toes into the real world through a series of firsts, then the college experience must be when we dive head first into the realm of adulthood -- balancing all the freedom and responsibilities that come with it.

An essential part of the college experience I craved included the new social and cultural worlds that would unfold before me upon migrating to a new environment.

Naturally, I felt I had been wrongfully deprived of these options -- especially entertainment -- having grown up in a town such as Merced.

I heard, and continue to hear, many qualms from my peers about lacking a true college experience as a result of their decision to stay in Merced.

How could they possibly find their niche in the adult world while still living at home, bound by inconvenient rules like curfews and chores?

While these frustrations hold some grain of truth, staying in town does not mean you have to forfeit your coveted perception of a college experience. It might just need a bit of tweaking.

Sure, as a Blue Devil I will never get to rush a sorority or live in a cramped dorm with two other girls. My presence will be glaringly absent at wild, "Animal House"-style college parties.

Fortunately, for both my peers and myself, a real college experience has no standard script one must adhere to. As terribly clichéd as it sounds, any experience will be what you make of it -- especially your college years.

Let's forget about the academic aspect of college for a second.

If entertainment and a spectacular social life are what you seek, moving to a cultural mecca for school does not ensure you will never spend another night bored at home, curled up watching "The Breakfast Club" for the 20th time.

Even living in a huge metropolitan city like San Francisco, there are bound to be days where you seem to be racking your brain to find a way to pass the time.

Such a concept might be difficult for us Mercedians to come to grips with, since griping about our lack of entertainment options and cultural stimulation have become almost second nature.

But could it be that these complaints have evolved into a force of habit rather than verified observations?

In the past couple of years, the arts and entertainment in Merced have flourished, thanks to individuals who have been dedicated to making the city a better, more positive place to live.

New businesses have sprung up in the downtown area, catering particularly to a younger demographic.

These restaurants, coffee shops, nightclubs and live music venues offer new places for young adults such as myself to socialize among peers and cultivate their own unique college experience.

Montse Reyes is a sophomore at Merced College majoring in sociology.

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