I turned 34 two weeks ago, by the way.
If these young people joke about my age, what must college freshmen think of me?
This thought occurred to me Friday as I participated in a book discussion for new students at the University of Nevada, Reno. In concurrence with wondering how old I looked to them, it amazed me how young the students on campus looked to me. They probably thought I was the lost parent of an incoming freshman.
As I arrived at my assigned meeting place in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, I found I was early — another sign I am old — so I bought a cup of coffee.As I stood there drinking it I absorbed some of the energy that buzzed around me as the campus geared up for the fall semester. New Wolf Pack members familiarized themselves with the campus and pondered their wide-open future while upperclassmen strutted around their newly found place atop the collegiate pecking order while trying to ignore their impending uncertain future. I yearned to relive both perspectives.
For the book discussion, I was paired with sports history professor Rick Davies. A 30-year veteran of teaching at UNR, Davies is about to retire, which made me feel less old but also made me jealous. Davies recently published a book called “Rivals! The Ten Greatest American Sports Rivalries of the 20th Century.”
Being a huge sports fan, I will be putting his book on my to-read list -- a list that I started thanks to my reading assignment from UNR for this discussion.
The book of choice was called “Outcasts United,” by New York Times reporter Warren St. John. It is the true story of a youth soccer team made up of refugees from all over the world and their coach, a woman who immigrated to the United States from Jordan. Taking place in a small town in Georgia, it is the story of where these foreigners came from, what they experienced in their native lands, what they are experiencing in their new home, how they are coping with America and how America is coping with them. I found it compelling both from a human perspective and from a reporting perspective. I hope I get to meet St. John when he visits the UNR campus in November so I can get a glimpse into how he writes and researches.
But getting back to the students: As Davies and I shared our thoughts with the students and peppered them with questions, it occurred to me that while I would trade places with those students I wouldn’t go back in time to do it. I’d want to start college over again with the knowledge and experience I gained from going through it once and then living life for another decade-plus afterward.
When I went to college for the first time, I had to go to class. If I got to do it again, I’d get to go to class. I’d study harder (at times party harder), sit in the front row, listen attentively, read every assignment, participate in every discussion, drink in every bit of knowledge and then look around for more. As long as I could do it all and be in bed by 10 p.m.
As I encouraged the 20 or so freshman to appreciate the four years ahead of them, I made myself feel even older. Maybe my words will resonate with one or two of them, but I have a feeling they won’t understand how good they had it until about 12 years after they get their diploma. I know I didn’t.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to finish a book before turning in.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.