"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Sunday, September 2, 2012

We're now verklempt parents of a college student.

Our oldest went off to college last Thursday, explaining my absence here for the last month. She hates it when I blog about her, but she'll just have to deal. Preparing to send a kid to college is a lot more than just expensive. It's draining emotionally and physically. You shop constantly for a month, think you have everything and get to Madison and find out what critical items you forgot, like migraine meds, a bean bag chair and command adhesive hooks to hang up a calendar. I hate shopping, so this has been a month from hell just from that perspective.

We are so proud of our daughter for persevering through a challenging high school curriculum under duress of anxiety. She has already seen the advantage of being in an urban setting where she can go wherever she wants. "I'm never coming home!" She has discovered an internal strength she didn't know she had (I did, but she didn't) and already navigated some pretty serious roadblocks. She enrolled in classes that she's passionate about, which will increase the chances of her success. All in all, this has been an amazing time for her.

Our family also had the privilege of being ambassadors of sorts. Sarah has been in constant contact with her roommate from China since May. She goes by the name Echo because we gringos can't pronounce her given name properly. Echo texted Sarah on August 19, the day before she was supposed to fly to the states, asking her to find a hotel for her because she didn't know until that moment that she couldn't get  into the dorm until August 26. Good grief. How can a world-renowned university have such horrible communication skills? Failing to inform a young woman from half-way across the world that she has to get a hotel room for nearly a week far exceeds their poor track record with us. More on that later.

As soon as Echo told Sarah her predicament, Sarah said "You can stay here!" I was all for that, but two of our three cars were discombobulated, leaving only one for Bill to drive to work while I got the other two fixed. Echo had to stay at a hotel one night but we went up to whisk her away from Madison the next day. She told us she had never seen corn fields. Did she ever get a tour on the way home. She definitely has a sense for the American Rural Scene now, although we had to drive her to and from Madison most days so she could go to orientation and her placement tests. She got to move in on August 26 and we took a boatload of Sarah's gear up then too.

Echo is  an amazing young woman. She speaks English with an American accent that she picked up studying in upstate New York as a high school foreign exchange student. She has studied in Britain for a summer program. She has a biting sense of humor and self-deprecation. Our favorite remark of the weekend was when we reported to the Red Gym to retrieve her bedding to see a busload of mostly Asian international students being dropped off to get their bedding as well. "OH NO! I'm going to get lost in that sea of Asians. Not that I'm not one of them, but still!"

The best part of the whole ambassador gig was that the girls had a chance to get acquainted under a lower stress environment and found out they really like each other. Sarah introduced Echo to some other friends from Evansville going to UW-Madison and she already has a small group of folks to call friends too. A big plus.

Now, back to the lousy communication idiocy from the UW. These people seem hell-bent on insisting that your 18-year-old is a big adult with all the responsibilities therein, without factoring in the relatively low maturity level of most kids at 18. We have repeatedly been unpleasantly surprised about some policy or another on a regular basis, but the most egregious was the moped FUBAR. We purchased a used moped for Sarah in mid June to take with her to Madison. Some of you may have seen the recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal about the new moped policy enacted in June on campus. We were told about this at her orientation session on August 14, two months after said moped purchase, and I came out spitting nails.

Like cars, mopeds will now have to park in a designated lot between 8 AM and 4:30 PM, effectively making mopeds useless as transportation to and from most classes. I emailed the transportation department asking them why they didn't think it was important to inform incoming freshmen about this new policy. I got the boilerplate response from them stating that there had been public comment meetings, information was sent out to current customers, etc. "Where," I responded to the email,"in this laundry list of information dissemination have you included the parents of incoming freshmen? According to my resources, this is the largest incoming class of freshmen you have ever had and you have just managed to completely ignore 6000 potential customers." My husband, a UW-Madison alum, noted that the university also managed to hold their public comment meetings in May and June after most of the ones it effects had left for the summer. Nice, classic government maneuver. "These students are such a nuisance. Let's just change a policy while they're gone." I informed the transportation department that their response was completely inadequate and had they informed parents of this potential change, we would not have wasted the money on the moped at all. Also, please forward this complaint to somebody in charge of the transportation department since you are obviously a lackey. Maybe I was a little more polite, maybe not. Not really caring here.

A friend of mine noted that she was not a big fan of UW-Madison because of their overwhelming tone of arrogance and superiority in every communication. I agreed completely. Our daughter does not share this opinion of the university and never has. In fact, she considers it her consolation prize necessary to attend as the least expensive option on the table. I don't think she will think that way in the end after a fabulous liberal arts education, but her ability to challenge the status quo group-think already puts her ahead in my book. Yeah, verily. She does not feel indebted to the university for deeming her worthy to attend. Rather, her attitude is "I was accepted into 3 extraordinary programs and YOU are lucky to get ME, bastards!" You go girl. Note to UW-Madison: Standards are good, but they do not make you superior to any other big ten university. Get a clue and stop being so condescending. Kids nowadays are way too savvy to swallow their load of propaganda hook, line and sinker. So sit up and take note of the new world order, chancellor.

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