My nieces and nephew are starting University this week – hard to believe that the triplets have all left home to start the next stage of their life journey. It must be quite a shock for my brother and his wife to go from a full house to an empty nest in just a few days. As I look at their posts and pictures of orientation and dorm rooms on Facebook, I can’t help but think of my own first weeks at Mount Alison University, forty three years ago.

Life was easy for me back then – maybe easier than it ever was again. I was on full scholarship – with enough money to cover tuition, room and board, books with a few bucks left over to buy a stereo and some records. Okay, the latter were bought with my savings from work but at least I had savings. That first year I worked in a pizza place for 8-10 hours a week, so I was pretty much on easy street.

Orientation was perhaps a bit more robust than it is today. We went through most of a week of lectures on how to live at university combined with relentless hazing from the sophomores. It was never too harsh, though occasionally frightening. It culminated with a walk through a swamp chest-deep in mud, before we came out dirty and tired but in possession of our freshman tam. It was the last year for the swamp – it wasn’t exactly hygienic and a few people got some nasty infections. I still remember the joy I felt when we started chasing the sophomores who had tormented us, covered in muck and with bottles of ketchup and honey in our hands. I particularly liked having football players run away from me.

That first week or two was quite an experience. I’d never really been away from home for more than a week or so and I’d never had a roommate – other than when I shared a bunk bed with my brother when we were kids. Randy and I got along great – people thought we’d known each other for years when in fact we met for the first time in our shared dorm room. It was a friendship I kept for the rest of his life (he died much too early from cancer). There were lots of other friends made too – and a few sort of enemies.

At least I wasn’t trying to learn the dating scene. My girlfriend from high school was there as well and we married at the end of our second year. It didn’t last but it seemed right at the time.

But that didn’t stop me from learning how to party – those first few weeks were a wash of alcohol (and bad aftermaths) and eventually grass. I learned how to handle it though. At the end of the year, I retained my scholarships with an 80+ average while half of my first year friends were flunking out. But that’s a story for another day.

‘Cause that’s ten minutes.


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