OPINION: How I survived my first day in Kent

Nicholas Hunter

Rolling up to campus, cutting around the back to avoid the standstill traffic in the heart of campus, I scramble out of my brother’s beat-down SUV, stack of freshly framed posters in hand (barely scratched from making contact with the blacktop) and look up at the intimidating 12 floors of Leebrick Hall. My room was on top. 

My gaze drifted slightly to the left, toward the blinding sun. I was already sweating, and the trunk hadn’t been popped yet.

Families were pushing messy piles of stuff around the parking lot in huge, old laundry carts with “TRI” scrawled in permanent marker on the side. Dubiously, I ask if any more were available at the front desk and, after a long look at the “leave carts here” sign hanging above an open stretch of carpet, the woman tells me none are available. (They never are for the 10-noon wave of freshman.)

Unaware of the abundance of Flashguide volunteers around the corner ready to help, we begin the slow trek to the car, across the lot, through two heavy doors, up the elevator, down the hall, with arm-loads of furnishings, books and clothes, to the new room — my new room. Then back down again. Rinse. Repeat.

After an hour of this routine, we tossed the final trash bags of clothing to the floor, triumphant. 

As per residence hall rules (the most studied document I’ve ever laid eyes on), I escorted my brother to his car, and upon entering the elevator, couldn’t find my key card.

Dripping with sweat, arms heavy and legs weak, I drag myself to the desk, still rifling through my wallet, making sure I didn’t slip the key behind another card. It took me less than 10 minutes after moving in to lock myself out of the dorm; an omen, for sure.

After signing a logbook already full of signatures and being told I had until midnight to return the key, I scrambled up to the room to find it on the desk in plain sight. I looked at it in disgust, shoving it into my wallet and stomping back to the desk, quickly returning it before making a beeline opposite the Rotunda to Rosie’s. 

A big selling point for Leebrick Hall was the single dorm; in an imperceptibly close second place was the offering of a 24-hour diner and market inside the building. This is what college is all about, I thought.

I wasn’t hungry, but I was certain I was on the verge of dehydration.

Walking up to the register, I fervently handed my key card to the cashier. After spending a long time moving his stare from the card to me and back, he informed this was the wrong card. Fumbling through my wallet, I nearly hand him the wrong card again. 

I retreat back to my room, both cards gripped tight in either hand, and decide to never leave my room again.

Eventually, however, I received an email informing me of a floor meeting at 7.

If I’d learned anything from the Residence Hall handbook, it was that I couldn’t miss a floor meeting, so I broke my vow of solitude and sat in the lounge, quiet and avoiding eye contact in unison with the rest of the room.

Moments before the clock struck 7 p.m., a chipper and talkative student emerged from an obviously larger dorm — the RA. 

She began the meeting by insisting her boss required an icebreaker be held, so a foam ball was tossed around the room, and with it came a mix of timid, quiet descriptors of their interest in Nicki Minaj and The Office, and proud declarations from a fifth-year computer science student that he never sleeps and plays “Call of Duty” every chance he gets.

“Hi, I’m Nick. I’m a freshman English student, and in my spare time I like to read (obviously),” is probably what I said, eager to blend in with the wave of mundane self-descriptions.

Some of the more friendly people at the meeting began chatting and eventually planned a trip to the Student Center for dinner. Meanwhile, I searched “DKS” in my contacts to find the many close, lifelong friends I made at Destination Kent State to see if they wanted to go to the banger taking place at the library.

Arriving late after exiting from the wrong side of the building and circling all of Tri-Towers, I eventually meet with my nearest and dearest pals behind the rousing game of Rock Band unfolding against the back wall. We chatted for a while, questioning each other on roommates, RAs and lack of floor space.

We wander around the illuminated parts of campus a bit, eventually piling into the back of a stranger’s pickup truck for a trip to Sheetz.

After not even two minutes on the road, a police car pulls the driver over. As he approaches the vehicle, I’m wrestling with how to text my mother goodbye while putting my hands up and in plain view for the officer. He playfully knocks his flashlight on the plastic bumper of the truck bed, asking who has the alcohol.

Silence, all around.

Without stopping, he waves us off and tells the driver his headlight is out, and that if he’s driving with people in the back, someone needs to be in the cab with him. 

The driver tells his friend closest to the back window to come up front and, without hesitation, the friend slithers through the window, the officer too busy picking his jaw up off the pavement to say anything.

The cop lets him off with a warning, and I delete the emotional monologue I had written for my mom.

We continued onto what would be my first of many visits to the fine late-night dining establishment. (Chicken strips with cheese sauce was my first and, to date, most frequent, Sheetz order.) After spending a while there, talking to my newfound best friends, we were shooed out of the dining area by a grumpy manager for being too loud.

Heading back toward campus in the back of a different pickup truck, I looked around at who would certainly be my closest friends, and up at the stars, feeling I was in my element.

I haven’t spoken to anyone in that truck since then.

Instead, I returned to my dorm to find someone in the lounge watching YouTube on their computer. It was late, but I was fully energized from the wind and bugs blowing in my face from the truck bed.

With another kid, who happened to be my next-door neighbor, we sat up till 4 a.m. talking about Superman comics, RuPaul’s Drag Race and professional wrestling (among other things).

I’m still friends with one of them today, and the other slept with my ex. 

In hours, I moved from the certainty I had my found my people to getting to know one person enough they’d make a huge impact in my path at Kent.

Of course, I didn’t know that then. I also didn’t know what my major would end up being, that I’d have genuine life-altering events take place, that I wouldn’t know my best friend until my (second) sophomore year or that I’d be writing this for the same paper I tried to pay for the first time I picked it up.

College takes patience. Every time you begin feeling comfortable, some big change takes place and your life looks completely different in an instant. And college is built to let you run with those changes in a way that prepares you for “adult” life. 

Mistakes are lessons, and accomplishments are small steps forward. Hold on to all of it, from the first walk across the parking lot to the last walk across the stage.

Contact Nicholas Hunter at [email protected].