The Chronicle

What I'll miss about high school

eastern exposure

Ah, high school—that wonderland of brick walls and linoleum floors, of clocks that tick too loudly and fluorescent lights so unflattering that every blackhead on a student’s face is painfully visible. For some of us, our high school years are our most enjoyable—for others, time spent in a chair while the dentist sucks their saliva (and soul, it seems) through a vacuum straw is more pleasurable than their four years of secondary education.

I am lucky because I spent my four years at a good, private, all-girls school in New Jersey, where I had an incredibly positive experience. And yes, I did enjoy spending six hours each day with girls—I could even go so far as to say that I owe much of my acceptance to Duke to the motivation and focus that my classmates provided me. The only complaint I have about my experience is the nervous twitch I’ve developed when I see a male my own age in the daylight, a sight so rare that I have asked said boy to leave and come back during our brother school’s football game, one of the only environments in which I am used to seeing boys. Let's hope this will go away before orientation.

I want to be at Duke more than anything right now—living on East, going to games and experiencing Shooters. Meeting other incoming frosh at Blue Devil Days and a meet-up in New York City made me even more excited to be in Durham. But since hibernation until mid-August isn’t an option, I’ll just have to wait out my final days of high school and my last summer before college. But I’ve been told that I shouldn’t wish away high school, so I’ve decided to reflect upon the aspects of it that might make me want to come crawling back to New Jersey some time during first semester.

1. The Uniform

Putting on a pleated skirt, cotton polo shirt, knee socks and crewneck sweater in the morning is as automatic for me as breathing. That being said, I warn my future hallmates—I may or may not accidentally yell into the hallway on the first day of classes asking my mother where my khaki skirt is, out of exhaustion and denial that the days of uniforms have passed.

Even more, I will miss the uniform’s infallible versatility, which allowed me to wear it pretty much anywhere and still look presentable. School? Obviously, as long as the skirt hits two inches above the knee. Mall? Absolutely. Our brother school’s basketball game? Roll the skirt’s waistband a few times and you’re golden.

2. The Omnipresence of Food

Was it only at my school that whenever anyone was hungry, food seemed to simply appear? Some girl happened to have a bag of Goldfish or box of Munchkins to share. On particularly good days, someone’s birthday was celebrated with Oreo brownies, cookie dough cupcakes or some other delicious, fattening combination of desserts. (For this, I thank you, Pinterest.) Food from the Marketplace will never top a homemade cupcake, especially one strong-armed from a table of unsuspecting freshmen.

3. Driving to School/The Parking Lot

Maybe my appreciation of driving stems from my New Jersey roots, but there was something about my routine in the car to school each morning—listening to a morning radio show, sipping coffee, being tailgated by Jersey drivers and crawling behind Pennsylvania ones—that I will miss. The bond made between my classmates and I as we sat in our parked cars each morning, scrolling through Twitter and finishing homework, waiting until the last possible minute to trudge inside to homeroom, is irreplaceable.

4. Nuns

My school was Catholic and housed a nursing home for retired nuns. Needless to say, little old ladies wearing glasses the size of their faces and sensible, beige orthopedic shoes were a common sight in the hallways. The nuns at my school were not the nuns who smacked wrists with rulers and perpetually scowled. These women had two callings in life—to serve God and to care about whatever students did. When I got into Duke, I placed an order for multiple Duke T-shirts to give to the nuns, who were happy to tell me that they wore them to lunch. At least once a week during the winter, one nun would sit down at my lunch table, take a swig of coffee from her Duke mug and ask me what I thought of the Duke basketball game last night. I can’t imagine what it will be like without fifty supportive surrogate grandmothers in the halls.

I guess this is growing up—dressing myself, eating at regularly scheduled mealtimes, not avoiding class and knowing that not everyone is endlessly interested in my life. It won’t be easy leaving the comforts of home for one of the world’s top universities—a place where I will learn, meet brilliant students and faculty and cheer on national championship-winning teams—but someone's got to do it.

Mary Ziemba is a Trinity freshman. This is her second column in a biweekly series during the summer.