In September of 1995 I said goodbye to my parents at Pearson International Airport and flew west to start my freshman year at Trinity Western University. I was excited and nervous, hopeful, but unsure of what was waiting for me in Langley.
I remember the lady in the seat next to me asked where I was going. When I told her I was going to school she asked if I had flown out ahead of time to tour the campus. I said that I hadn’t I but I had a brother out there who was meeting me at the airport. I can still picture the look of incredulity she gave me. “You’re headed out there for four years, sight unseen?” she asked, aghast. “Well that’s . . . . .um. . .brave.”
We didn’t speak much for the rest of the flight. I tend to worry and her words raced through my head for hours. What was I flying toward? There are 22 universities in Ontario. Suddenly flying out to the coast to go to school instead of staying closer to home didn’t seem like such a great idea. Ontario felt very, very far away.
It makes me sound about a hundred years old to say that it was a different time in ’95, but it’s true. The campus had just been wired for internet the summer before. We didn’t have Facebook or Skype to shrink the distance. I didn’t know anyone who owned a cellphone. All I had was the phone in my room, mail and a plane ticket home at Christmas. I desperately wanted a community at Trinity but I wasn’t sure how to go about finding one.
O-Week turned out to be the answer.
I’ve always looked forward to the beginning of a new school year, but I was not looking forward to O-Week. I’d heard stories of orientation in other schools where students were dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and hazed with cafeteria leftovers and spray paint. I remember wondering if O-Week activities were mandatory. Maybe I could just sit the whole thing out?
I don’t remember who convinced me to join in. It might have my brother, Mark, or my roommate Marcie (Milec) Cooper or my RA, Melanie (Wilks) Ackerman. Whomever it was, thank you. Showing up and joining in was great decision. O-Week was a long time ago, but I remember laughing a lot that week.
O-Week turned out to be the starting line to four incredible years at Trinity. The things we did¬—the silly games, the photo scavenger hunt in Stanley Park, three-legged up hill roller balding in the Banana Challenge¬—were small and silly, but they tilled the ground for the friendships that were just starting out.
Later that Fall, Jars of Clay released their first full length album and it seemed like Love Song for A Saviour was always playing somewhere on campus. Listening to it now, I can still feel the echo of the raw emotions of that first year. That song carries the excitement and the fear, the hard work and the heartbreak of starting out in a new place a long way from home. It makes me smile and it makes me wistful.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect at Trinity. I packed too much. I asked too many questions. I had a lot to learn about sharing my space and budgeting my time. But during O-Week, somewhere in between the sumo wrestling and Hootenannny, I took a breath and decided that this could be home too.