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GRCC: Is it for me?

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Teresa Russo feature

By Teresa Russo

I enrolled in community college with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was thankful I didn’t have to deal with moving out, never seeing my family, having no money at my fingertips, and major change. However, the other part of me wanted all of that and was annoyed that I was “missing out”. I wanted to complain about my annoying roommate, be a poor college student without a job, eat cafeteria food, go to big college parties on the weekends, go to Big Ten football games, make new friends, and live on my own. Instead, my life consisted of living at home. “It’s going to be a glorified step up from high school,” I thought to myself. Nothing special, nothing like the amazing stories I kept seeing unfold on Facebook with all my friends looking as though they were having the time of their lives. My newsfeed was blown up with posts about new roommates, dorm rooms, and big parties being attended by my best friends. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Cliche, but it’s true. Looking at just one picture of my friend and her new roommates, it felt like I had been replaced – especially without having my own new roommates, and a new dorm. In fact my life had pretty much stayed the same.

I made a lot of assumptions before even stepping foot on the Grand Rapids Community College campus. All of those negative feelings I had towards GRCC had nothing to do with the academics itself, but with the seemingly dismal social life surrounding the campus. At GRCC, it seemed as though not everyone was looking to make new friends.

After a few weeks, I finally talked to an interesting kid in my English class. He told me that he was off to Grand Valley State University next year. He felt it didn’t make sense to meet any new people at GRCC, considering he would never see them again. He made a point to be unapproachable and as invisible as possible on campus. He didn’t realize that his one simple conversation helped me to actually think about my own attitude toward this place. Is that what I wanted, to be unapproachable and invisible? To just “get through” these next two years as invisible as possible. To focus on only getting out and getting my degree? That guy made me realize that there is more to GRCC than “just getting through.”

College, I realized, is like starting fresh with a clean slate. No one knows any of your past, unless you choose to let them in. This doesn’t mean you lie to everyone and create this image of something you’re not. All it means is that you can choose what you want to share, and who you want to share it with. I decided then and there that it was time to get over the fact that I wasn’t at a  four-year university. It was time to embrace all that GRCC had to offer and make the best of my two years here. I decided to make an effort to try and enjoy myself in the present, instead of worrying so much about the future. The future can change in an instant and sometimes you don’t even notice you’re at a crossroads in your life. You can’t control your future, you can try, but no matter what, it’s going to be different than what you might have planned.

You control what you make of your current situation. You can either drag your feet around campus, or pick them up and smile at someone. Just talking to a familiar face every day in class, makes your experience that much brighter. Smile at someone sitting next to you. Say “hello” because you might need a friend to get through these long boring lecture’s at some point in the semester. Every day can be different, and interesting, if you let it. Eventually I started to find familiar approachable faces and it made my day when someone smiled back or greeted me.

Get out and explore our campus. The GRCC campus doesn’t just include the Main Building and Cook Hall, it also extends to the entire downtown of Grand Rapids. Walk past Division Street and see what you find. To make my day a little brighter, I invented Chinese Thursdays with a friend, and we walk to XO Asian Cuisine between classes every Thursday. All because we shared a common interest in food. We are so lucky to be in the heart of the city. Take advantage of that, because not all four-year universities are located in places as exciting and entertaining as downtown Grand Rapids.

Some college towns can in fact be quite boring and leave you with nothing to do. But GRCC is right in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. ArtPrize happens right under our noses! Learn how to navigate a city, see the sights, taste the food, and be involved. Don’t just walk to your car after class and go home. Take a walk downtown, you never know what you might find. Maybe try a new coffee shop or go ice skating at Rosa Park’s Circle in the winter. I have gotten to know downtown so much better because of my time here, I’ve learned all the ins and outs of downtown GR.

Utilize your opportunity to get better grades at GRCC and work hard toward your goals. Eventually you will have the chance to move on to a four-year university, but without the first two years of debt. The amount of money you save by going to a community college, versus a four-year university, is remarkable. If you think about how much just living and food expenses are to go away to school, its thousands of dollars. I’m saving roughly $18,000 dollars for two years, and that doesn’t include tuition. Whereas food and living expenses could potentially be free for two years if you live at home. While it’s not exactly gourmet, home cooked meals are a whole lot better than cafeteria food.

Living at home isn’t always easy, but it’s not always bad either. Go out of your comfort zone and start getting involved. Joining the Collegiate newspaper staff forced me to do just that. There was no getting out of going to school events that I normally would avoid like the plague. It turns out we have some fun people on campus. I met some great people while reporting and writing for the paper, which has helped steer me into my career path.

There are many different reasons why you might have chosen GRCC over a four-year university. Be proud of your decision. I chose GRCC because I knew it would be a less expensive option and I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I was hoping GRCC would help me decide. I wanted to take time and figure out my life before I jumped into it full speed ahead. This gave me a chance to explore all of my career options before I chose the best one for me. If you look up, GRCC has a whole lot to offer. It’s all about your attitude. If you want to make the best of it, you can. If not, it’s your loss.