After she loaded the boxes of her things, her easel, and a few mementos from home into the moving van they’d rented, Kiki took a moment to let all the feelings settle. This was the day she was going to college. She wasn’t sure when she’d be able to return home again, with her busy schedule on the soccer team, so each breath was something to savor. The fresh air of home!
She felt gratitude, mostly. Sure, she was scared, excited, nervous, anxious, sad, and homesick already, but she was also incredibly, amazingly, unbelievably full of gratitude.
Her scholarships covered most of the fees and living expenses, and family funds made up the little bit still needed. She wouldn’t have to take out student loans. She’d been given everything–a home, great role models, discipline, and belief in herself–from Case and Ira. She was ready for this, no matter how much of a challenge it was.
After unpacking her things and setting up her easel, after Case and Ira drove off to return the rental van and head home, Kiki stood before her new campus home. It as beautiful, and she was here!
A college athlete! The moment she’d accepted the position on the team, she began practicing with the ball. She could juggle it 88 times without dropping it! She wasn’t sure, exactly, how that would help her in a game, but it was an addicting habit.
Ira had advised her to check out the syllabi for her classes online and get started right away. “Once the term is underway, you won’t have time to catch up!” she’d said. “So start out ahead.”
She was taking all core classes, and studying music theory, art history, and photography was fun. She couldn’t believe this was what she was supposed to be doing, and not some guilty pleasure she was sneaking in between other obligations.
The next evening, Case dropped by.
“I thought maybe you forgot your book on medieval pigments,” he said.
“Well, I don’t think I need it at this moment,” Kiki replied. “I thought I’d get it next time I came back home, but thanks!”
“Of course,” Case said. “You let me know anytime you need anything, Kiki!”
She gave him the tour of the house.
“You seem settled in already,” he said. “How’re the roommates?”
“I haven’t met them yet,” Kiki said. “But the house seems clean enough, right? They must be decent!”
The next several days, pre-term, flew by. Kiki was busy with team practices, researching for the presentation she’d have to give by the end of the semester, and planning her term paper. She wanted to be so ready once the semester started.
She discovered that she loved being on the team. Her teammates and the coach were so focused on the plays, strategies, and developing skills that there wasn’t any time for socializing–it was all soccer, all the time. As the youngest trainee (and probably, because of being recruited through the special Inclusion and Diversity Incentive), she became something of the team pet. Everyone loved her. But it didn’t bother her. It felt cozy, somehow–like she was the little cousin.
They won the pre-season game. Since it wasn’t an official game, Coach pulled Kiki off the bench to get some field practice. She scored a goal and blocked a crucial pass. Everyone said they won because of her.
She felt like the star of Cinderella’s dream. Is this really going to be her college experience? To go from being an outsider in high school to becoming a member of the winning team?
On New Year’s Eve, she finally met her roommates. They said their names so quickly that she didn’t catch them, and she felt embarrassed to ask them to repeat them. She wasn’t really sure she could remember their faces, either, so if she met them on campus, she wasn’t sure she’d recognize them. She hoped that wouldn’t lead to awkwardness. Would they think she was cold in not greeting them?
Before she thought up any strategies for potential social situations with them, the doorbell rang. It was Ira.
“I couldn’t let the New Year roll in without being here to wish you a good one!” Ira said.
“You came all this way,” Kiki replied.
“Of course, darling,” said Ira. “I’d cross the world for you. And campus is really just a hop, skip, and a jump from home!”
Kiki had forgotten how close the university and home were–they felt universes apart.