Voices

An Oregonian goes to Washington

By the

April 19, 2001


Being a transfer student can really suck. Even though I am a third-year student in college, I feel a like first-year. I know only a handful of professors and students, while regular juniors have a two-years head start on me building friendships, cozying up to the faculty, establishing business contacts from internships and moving up the student organizations’ hierarchies. It isn’t always easy being a transfer student, but I still wouldn’t trade my position for the world. Thanks to personal experience, I made a conscious choice as to what kind of I life I want to live. That is, I have been exposed to two ways of life by studying at two very different schools; because of that, I am fully aware of what I am getting into, and what I am giving up. Allow me to explain.

Take a moment away from Georgetown and think of a college where it rains eight months a year. It is nestled in a valley, blocked off from the rest of the world by hills and pine trees. Here, sweatpants and Birkenstocks, not leather knee-high boots and cashmere sweaters, are the pinnacle of fashion. It is a staunchly leftwing environment, identifiable by hippies and anarchists, with nary a Jesuit nor SFSer in sight. Put it together to get my old institution?the University of Oregon.

In my old dorm, Carson Hall, there was a girl next door to me named Erin. Erin was a senior last year, majoring in English, with the career goal of becoming a librarian. To put it bluntly, I was not intrigued by her career plans. But I quickly reversed my foolish superficial judgment once she invited me into her dorm room. Inside, the narrow room was filled with no less than 12 potted plants: they crowded the windowsill, towered from on top of the bookshelves and teased the indifferent desktop computer. The “boss” was one enormous potted ivy hanging from the ceiling, with deep green vines cascading down to the carpeted floor. As I stepped into the room for a closer look, I noticed that the abundant foliage competed for the visitor’s eye with Erin’s own oil paintings of water lilies. I also noticed birdwatcher books and a humming bird feeder just outside the window. The lush green room oozed relaxation and contemplation, and I suddenly felt very uneasy.

When I returned to my room I looked around to compare it with Erin’s. Instead of plants and paintbrushes, there were textbooks and food crumbs covering my desk and floor. My room was boring and sterile in comparison, but there was one point of interest. Over on the right-hand wall I had a poster of a particular university that filled the room with subconscious noise and stress.

Less than a year later, I transferred to Georgetown University. You can imagine the culture shock. The first major difference is the cost of living. At U. of O., you can rent a one-bedroom apartment near campus for $400 a month, including parking. Public transportation is free for all students. There’s no sales tax, either.

The second major difference involves academics. To be honest, Georgetown is more challenging academically, and as result of greater admission selectivity, the average student here is brighter. But the difference in academic quality is a merely superficial distinction. In comparison with Oregon, at Georgetown sometimes the substance is the same while the language is gilded with great skill. That aside, I admire the work ethic of most students here, even if means more competition.

The third difference has to do with the general campus environment. The left and especially the extreme left are very active at Oregon. On-campus protests for one cause or another occur every other week. Unfortunately, they don’t always know what they are talking about. But most student activists, and indeed most Eugenians, are incredibly friendly, down-to-earth, hospitable people. In contrast, Washington, D.C. is home to some of the most conservative, arrogant and rude people I have ever met. Most of them are in my classes.

In terms of conservatism, the prevalence of religion here is quite unlike my previous experience. It bothers me that Georgetown not only explicitly forbids its students from forming a pro-choice group but also prohibits the Women’s Center and student clinic from dispersing basic information on contraception.

In terms of arrogance and rudeness, I have seen quite a bit. Some students and non-students, when I extend a polite hello or how-are-you, promptly indicate to me my inferiority and resume their look-at-me-I-can-talk-on-my-cell-and-smoke-at-the-same-time routine. One student brags to me every time I bump into him; considering that we have shared four classes thus far, I am certainly impressed by his creativity, if nothing else.

After evaluating the net pros and cons of Georgetown, I know I made the right choice, though it was by no means an easy one. I could have graduated from Oregon, moved back to Salem and worked for Dad’s business … but I didn’t. Now, I reap the benefits of a world-class education. And I am lucky to have two fellow Ducks successfully transfer to here this year.

When I applied to Georgetown, I resigned myself from a life of just getting by; I will always be busy and work hard. I feel at home knowing that many of my peers would agree.



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