If I had known in high school what I know now, I wouldn’t have come to this university.

I’m a Meridian, and during my weekly afternoon shift, I have only been picked once for a tour in the last three months. That’s because my spiel about being an English and Anthropology major, paired with my oh-so-impressive extracurriculars, is basically never enough to attract the future photonics and computer science students of UR. Most everyone gravitates toward tour guides in STEM disciplines, and part of me is always left wondering—if English majors aren’t applying here with any frequency, why did I?

I applied to UR pretty much on a whim, believing until about midway through my freshman year that this was a liberal arts institution. Turns out, UR is actually a research institution that does its best to act by liberal arts philosophy—open curriculum, red brick buildings.High school visitors gawk in admiration. I’m not a research student. The open curriculum left me floundering.

My choice to come here was based on a “gut” feeling, inspired by two days in the city and the novelty of the ivy-decked Northeast. So, treating this as my first big life-adventure, I left the sweltering heat of my alligator-ridden neighborhood in South Florida for the seasonal splendor that is Rochester, NY. And, it would seem that since the day I confirmed my enrollment, I’ve been justifying that decision to myself (I’m paying almost full-tuition for a school that maybe wasn’t the best fit…why?) and to others. “You’re studying English?” they say. “Why did you come to Rochester?” they say.

Every time I get that question, I see the shadow of my idealistic, 18-year-old self. Lighter hair, tanner skin—the product of lifelong summer—cartwheeling across the academic quad for a photo.

One person on a tour I gave wanted to study journalism and named a few other schools she was considering, schools I wondered if I should have considered. One was Syracuse University, which has one of the best college newspapers in the country. And, while I could have told this person to run for the hills (probably at the expense of my job), the sentimental, meaning-searching reserves of my brain stopped me. I’m not saying that this a bad school for English majors—not that at all. In fact, I would encourage people (as I always end up doing on tours) to come here and take whatever they want, especially English classes. What I am saying is that being an English major here hasn’t failed to elicit the frustrating questions I’ve mentioned. Nonetheless, the argument I made to that student, and the argument I’m making here, is that being in a smaller field of study gives you the chance to expand the things you care about.

While I could have gone somewhere different, I like that I’m not somewhere where all of my choices are reinforced by people exactly like me. I like that I’m thrown into the choppy waters of self-doubt, that I am at a place with under-used, but incredible humanities departments. I know I’m not alone in my reservations about coming here. I know there are other people who look at their tuition bills and feel the desperate need to take advantage of every. single. experience. But, I’d like to argue that life isn’t about making the exact right choices at the exact right times. That’s unrealistic. It’s more about figuring things out about yourself that you wouldn’t have, had everything just been peachy. Square pegs in round holes make more self-aware squares and circles (excuse the bizarre twist on the metaphor).

So, yes, had I known in high school what I know now about myself—my interests, my strengths, my weaknesses—I wouldn’t have come to UR. But, I and anyone else out there who might wonder if they made the right choice in coming here would have missed out on all of the random, particular happenings that have simultaneously thrown my identity into flux while teaching me who I am.

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