Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Greetings and salutations!

My name is Kevin Caldwell and I am a freshman in the Levine Scholar’s Program here at UNC Charlotte.

College gets a little overwhelming at times...

On that note, I’m actually from Charlotte – I’ve lived here all of my life. I often get asked how I like going to school so close to home; many people find this concept appalling. There seems to be this misconception that, in order to truly “go away to college,” one must travel at least 100 hundred miles away. While I certainly understand this idea – and I’ll admit that I struggled with it in the weeks preceding school – I’ve come to completely reject it.

Going to school so close to home is one of the greatest things that could have happened to me – I love it. I’ve always appreciated Charlotte as a whole, but now that I have the liberties associated with being a college student, it’s one hundred times better. Not only do I get to experience college just like any other freshman, but I also get to have dinner with my family every now and then, which I really enjoy. I have the advantage of knowing where the good restaurants are, along with all of the good events to attend throughout the year. I’ve also grown to appreciate the internal GPS I’ve been developing over the years in the city – that is a priceless skill, my friends, as the roads in Charlotte don’t always make sense. (Correction: they rarely make sense.)

A lot has happened since school has started, though, and I’ll try and encapsulate as much as possible in this post. I’ll start with one of my favorite memories of this year – the beach trip over Fall Break.

Over our Fall Break, the Levine Program rented an oceanfront house for the freshmen and sophomore classes to spend some time together away from all of the daily stresses of college. Twenty-six of the thirty of us went, along with a few faculty members, Dr. Zablotsky and Kelley (the directors of the program) and Dr. Mike Richardson, a member of the Levine Foundation. (Can you say “perfect?”) The trip was simply fantastic.

We had a lot of fun cooking at the beach.

First of all, the beach is awesome. It just is. Second of all, it’s even more awesome when you’re with a group of really groovy, swell people. We got to splash around in the water, play cornhole on the beach, lounge around under the sun and take long walks up and down the shoreline. (These were my favorite…) After these long walks, re-nourishment was of the upmost importance, but that wasn’t at all a problem; after all, Dr. Mike bought over half of the grocery store. In fact, I think I still have some leftover cookies in my dorm room right now from the beach. (I don’t even think they’ve even been opened yet. I’ll attend to that issue later this week.)


Two things in particular stand out to me when I look back on that weekend. One of them occurred spontaneously when Anna S., Elizabeth, Bethany and I were walking along the beach around 10:00 p.m. Saturday night. As we were walking, we began to hear really loud dance music – we walked closer to investigate and stumbled upon an older couple’s 50th anniversary party. Since the party was a pretty lively one, we decided to host our own little dance party (using their music, of course) on the beach right where we stood. We were having a good ol’ time when we noticed a few partygoers begin to maneuver to the edge of their dance floor to watch us. (I guess we did look rather strange…) We didn’t mind the attention and just kept on dancing until we saw a bright flash – the event’s photographer had spotted us and had promptly taken our picture. I suppose he wanted to capture this unexpected occurrence as a unique way of documenting the event – this is the best guess I have. Regardless, it gives me a certain sense of pride to know that, somewhere, this couple might be laughing about the night they watched the goofy group interpretive dance outside on the beach. That gives me immense joy.

We had fun with the house's elevator.

The other particularly memorable thing (at least for me) about that weekend comes in the form of a personal epiphany – I secretly want to become a barista. Done. I’m not even kidding: it seems like the perfect career. Making different flavors of coffee, experimenting with different spice combinations and bringing the goodness that is a hot beverage into someone’s hands brings untold levels of happiness into my heart: I love, love, love it. Over the weekend I managed to perfect my signature beverage – hot chocolate. I would whip one up for anyone who would accept one and repeatedly caught myself offering one to anything that moved. (I wasn’t kidding when I said that I loved making them. Simply being in the kitchen excites me.) Now the secret to hot chocolate, you see (drum roll, please) is to add a little bit of vanilla coffee seasoning syrup, purchased from a local coffeeshop. Once this has been added to the mixture, it gives brings the beverage from the realm of “good” to “fantastic.” Add a sprinkle or two of cinnamon and you’re sailing!

My speciality beverage.

School continued after Fall Break like usual until, one week after we got back from Fall Break, we had an extraordinary opportunity placed in our hands. Our freshmen common reading author, Dr. Moustafa Bayoumi, came to campus to present a lecture on his book, How Does it Feel to be a Problem? This book is centered on Arab-American relations in the post-9/11 era, focusing specifically on the way these relations have affected young adults; it’s very relatable and I would strongly recommend it. I was fortunate enough to be able to have dinner with Dr. Bayoumi before his lecture along with the wonderful Bethany, Jake and Samantha. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to engage one-on-one with him. We were able to ask him a lot of personal questions (which I never thought I’d be able to do) and were able to hear his story about trying sushi in Korea – it was presented as a whole fish and was served to him when it was still alive!

Bethany, Jake, Dr. Bayoumi, yours truly and Sam after the lecture.

Before I conclude this blog, I’d like to write about one final thing– the Florida roadtrip. Two weekends ago, Caitlin, Jon, Kelsey and I drove down to Tallahassee Florida! Caitlin’s sister plays in the marching band over at Florida State and she had extra tickets for the FSU/Maryland game – she offered us tickets! We all decided that’d be an interesting way to spend the weekend, so we clambered in the car and set off! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the weekend.

There are very few occasions when a solid six-hour car ride can be described as fun; this was one of them. For the entire 300 or so miles we jammed out to straight-up country music… and it was perfect. (And, yes: I’ll admit that I was guilty of singing loudly and proudly to some good ol’ Taylor Swift. No shame.) On the way down we stopped at a Cracker Barrel, feasted on some Southern goodness and actually rolled into Jacksonville (where we were spending the night) at around 9:00 pm.

The next day was a lot of fun. We got up at the crack of dawn (which wasn’t really the most enjoyable experience) and had breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. Jon bought us all coffee and delicious circles of sugary goodness; afterwards, we drove another three or so hours along I-10 into Tallahassee. When we got to FSU we went to Caitlin’s sister’s band practice, which was spectacular, I must add!

I was completely floored by the marching band – I’d never experienced something like that before. You see, from 6th to 12th grade I attended Northwest School of the Arts – a fantastic school I might add – which, as you may have guessed, didn’t have sports. I loved every second I was there, but I did miss out on some of those “quintessential” high school experiences, namely: football games. As a result, I never was exposed to such things as marching bands at that close of a level. I’d attended college football games before, but I’d never been so close to a marching band. (And there is something to be said about being so close to the band: it was really, really cool.)

All of us at the game!

The game was pretty fun, too! We had excellent seats and enjoyed the whole game, particularly the arm-waving “ooohhh-ooh-oh-oh-oohh” motion that all Seminole fans prescribe too. (That was a lot of fun, I must admit.) The rest of the day consisted of a delectable dinner at Olive Garden and a long drive back to Jacksonville, followed by some more driving the following morning – six hours straight, if I recall. So that was the weekend! We drove… and drove some more, but it was well worth it and we all had a ton of fun.

This is one of my favorite pictures. Ever.

As I conclude this blog post about my freshman year so far, I have one thing to say: I really love college. It’s fantastic. I can’t summarize my thoughts in any better way, but I know I’m in the perfect place right now. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

So until next time – Kevin’s signing off. Thanks for reading!

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