As a freshman here at UD, I still remember what it was like to tour campus for the first time and fall in love with the tree-lined brick pathways enclosing the Green. In fact, I loved it so much that I came back for a second tour—and then a third, self-guided walk around campus—and the students I encountered on these three separate occasions all gave similar praise regarding the community I would soon become a part of. However, there was another commonality between each of these visits: every student I talked to, it seemed, had something to say about the train.
Whether it was a warning to leave earlier than I thought I needed to for class lest I get stuck at the tracks or a general statement about the inconvenience of having to wait for it to pass by, my tour guides never failed to mention something about that doggone train. Even during the first week of my fall semester, both RAs I toured campus with—because yes, I was that freshman who went on multiple tours during move-in—made some snide remark as we passed over the tracks. Despite not yet having seen the infamous train for myself, I loathed it already. I dreaded our inevitable first meeting and I scowled at the thought of having some big, ugly mass of rusted steel standing between me and a good meal on Main Street. It took a few weeks, but I did eventually encounter the legendary beast—and the experience was not at all how I imagined it.
As I stood there, mere feet away from the tracks as the thing hurtled past at whatever insane speed a freight train usually travels, I remember all of my previously held angst fading away into pure, unadulterated awe. I felt my eyes widen and my heartbeat quicken, as is typical when you’re standing next to something you know could absolutely destroy you in an instant and keep going as if nothing ever happened, that is, should you foolishly ignore the signage and get too close. And with the ground shaking beneath my feet and the shrill screeching of metal-on-metal ringing in my ears, all I could seem to think in that moment was: Wow, this is epic.
As someone who too often found myself consumed by overwhelming workloads for AP classes in high school, it was challenging not to fall into that trap again as I transitioned into college. I think the same is true for many other Honors students as well. After all, when there’s a scholarship on the line, you want to do well. But neglecting other aspects of your life and allowing schoolwork to dominate your existence is a tried-and-true method of accelerating what some internet users call “gifted kid burnout.”
Don’t get me wrong, my education is absolutely a top priority, but I’ve found that I am most successful when I find ways to balance my academic wellbeing with my mental wellbeing, too. It’s easy to spread yourself thin over one-too-many extracurriculars and even tempting for the sake of future job and graduate school applications, but what good is it if you spend all four years of your undergraduate education in a constant state of stress? Recently, instead of letting myself fall prey to the anxieties of looming assignments, I’ve begun setting aside a bit of time out of every day to simply sit in my gratitude and marvel at the little things around me, be it the splash of cold water on my face in the morning or the particular way the sunlight pours through my window late in the afternoon. I’m not a fan of cliches, but one I can get behind is the importance of stopping to smell the roses—or, in my case, pausing to watch the train.
There are so many things to love about UD, but I might be the only student who genuinely loves that stupid train. While I no longer live on North Campus or have any valid excuse to venture up that way, I know someday soon I’ll find a reason to revisit my old home and cross those tracks again as I did most every day last semester. Even today as I grabbed coffee from the Trabant food court, I lingered for a while hoping I’d catch a glimpse of it from across the street, unfortunately to no avail. But as I began my walk back towards Redding Hall—my new home—I heard the familiar call of the air horn blowing in the distance, and although I wasn’t there to witness it in person, I couldn’t help but smile.
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