Monday, September 13, 2004

On the Road Again

September 13, 2004

It’s September, and I’m on the road again: I’m a college admission counselor for Mills, and cyclical would be a good way to describe my life. Every fall, for about 9 weeks, I travel to high schools and junior colleges to recruit and hopefully counsel the next generation of prospective college attendees. A friend’s husband said to me last year, “So, you have a cool job! You basically get to hang out with high school girls and chat about college!” Yeah, I thought, definitely, when you put it that way, he’s right… at times it can be a pretty chill experience. Work travel in college admissions is so different from regular business travel. Rather than entering chilly boardrooms to meet with prospective clients, I meet with my prospective students in libraries, cafeterias, high school and college quads, sweat-infused high school gyms, and sometimes even in cafes. Often, if my visit is timed to unfortunately coincide with passing period—that jarring, eternal-seeming, deafening four minutes when students socialize, eat, vandalize, harass each other, scream in the hallways, all on their way to their next class—I of course get jostled and my ears get screamed in, as I attempt to find the career center or counseling office.

Today is a great kick off to this year’s travel season, as we admission folks call it. I leave my home at the unholy hour of 6:00 a.m. to get to Mendocino College in Ukiah. Though I am exhausted, as I have spent much of the previous evening and night getting my travel paperwork in order (organization is not quite my forte, to put it mildly), I am exhilarated as I drive. Freed from the office at last, and listening to Geeta Dutt on the portable car jack/CD player I have borrowed from my friend Nisha!

I don’t know what to expect as I have never done this particular college fair before, but am pleasantly surprised by the small and yet well-prepared group of students I meet in Ukiah. There is one girl, Mireya, who stands out. She is in her high school’s MESA program, and there is a spark in her eye as we discuss what she may gain by attending a women’s college like Mills. If I don’t meet any other students today, this one intelligent, curious student will have made my trip today worthwhile. She is the reason I do this. This repetitive job, where I sometimes, hearing myself reciting the same facts about women’s colleges, about the 76 cents that women--(still, still, in the year 2004—this is the same stat since I was in high school in 1988!)—make for every dollar men make, about the 25% of Congresswomen who have attended women’s colleges, while only 2% of the general population of American women have, where I, as I was saying, sometimes find myself having an out-of-body experience, hearing myself talk and talk and talk, saying the same things, it can be quite meditative, as well as, at times, sickening, if you feel that it’s not for a reason. BUT. Students like Mireya, they are lights that bring me back, that ground me. No matter how tired I will get later in the travel season, whenever I meet a Mireya, I will be happy and energized by her. And feel like what I do has a reason and purpose beyond finding the next high school gym on the next set of MapQuest directions. Thank you, Mireya!