High school, college students meet during holidays

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2001

I hear adults say the vast majority of high school seniors return to the state they grew up in, if not their hometown. I also hear that Alaska has the highest number of students fleeing after graduation.

So, what's the explanation for the recent alumni wandering about the community in overbearing cliques this holiday season?

Graduates from the last few years show up at local sporting events, our trusty Big Kmart and even hair salons. Are all these college kids back in town due to the annual Christmas holiday, or because they miss going out a half hour early to start their car in the frigid wintry temperatures? It's hard to imagine desiring to revert to these conditions.

It's true that the ringing of bells, clamor of cheerful Christmas shoppers and the dazzle of shining lights put us all in a joyous state, urging us to visit our friends and families. Some might argue that this is the reason for all the returning, familiar college faces. After dishing up cafeteria food and studying half the night for the semester's finals, they must long for some good home cookin'.

Recognizing my elders, those graduates who were once the ruling juniors and seniors of my intimidating school, I automatically shrink to the size Santa's smallest elf -- as if I were still a naive and sheltered freshman.

Memories and remembrances spread before my eyes, and I flash back to the life of yesterday: my first high school experiences and the beginning of that critical development stage.

Just seeing those university men and women, wrapped in professional and enlightened poise, reminds me of giving up my chair at lunch to the same people years ago. Their dignified glances and educated appearance inform us once again that we are but the younger ones, and I still put them on a pedestal.

They reappear during this joyous season to let us youngsters hungrily sneak a peek at the world beyond our exposure, perhaps beyond our intelligence. This year more than ever, we yearn to catch a hint of that lifestyle outside our current limitations.

Some of us are seeking to escape that immature high school demeanor, while others ask what college is really like -- the part outside the classroom. The teachers invited one college sophomore, a former student, to a senior classroom to highlight the tales and explain the truths of the college experience.

We were filled in on vital topics, from what the professors want to the downright simple fact that no matter how hard you may try, an A in high school doesn't mean an A when it comes to college. He also didn't mind mentioning that playing hooky in post-high-school education can be beneficial when used wisely.

So, what's the hurry in returning home from college? You can always catch up over the phone or through a few lines on paper. But according to the older generation, many of those students who seek adventures away from Alaska soon yearn for their home sweet home. On Christmas break, they have the opportunity to jump out of crazy, college plans and to catch up with old friends and sleep long hours.

As for now, we high school seniors can continue along the path toward that approaching graduation day, wishing and hoping that May would be the month following December. The anticipation will persist, while thoughts of getting out of here dance in our heads.

Maybe a year from now we won't be so stubborn, and we won't have all the answers. Instead of assuming the grass is greener on the other side, perhaps we will focus on altering ourselves to fit the real world.

Shamra Bauder is a senior at Kenai Central High School who has worked as an intern at the Peninsula Clarion.

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