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Small handwriting sample of C.J.'s First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page

Traci's favorite camera lamp

mural detail

5 December 2005

It’s officially over. This semester is over. I counted, and it’s been 108 days since I ventured along Interstate 35 and began to call this my home. And what a journey it has been. I went from not knowing what to expect to not being able to wait until what’s next. There have been struggles. Oh, the struggles. There have been laughs. Oh, the laughs. But most of all, there has been learning. Oh, the learning.


Saving my money. Who knew a spending limit would be so easy to break? Eating too much. There’s definitely not a maximum number of times you can use your meal plan a day. Avoiding reading. That’s all some classes ask for. Just read the textbook. But, of course, I managed to not open a couple of mine the entire semester. I try, I promise I try. There are distractions. There are plenty. I twirl my pen. I look around. I practice my signature (yes, yes, that is very lame, but it’s a habit). At times, I’d rather just sit there in silence, staring at the pages than just read a chapter.

Sleeping on schedule. I took six-hour naps. That is not a nap. That is misplaced sleep. Taking more pictures. I developed one roll of film while here. One roll. That is ridiculous. Sickening, even. There’s so much to photograph in this beautiful city and I’ve only captured 24 exposures. I need an expedition on film. And I need it fast. Keeping my room clean. Just ask my roommate. She’ll describe to you the tornado aftermath that was formerly known as my side of the room. Just walk in and I can guarantee you can guess which square feet I occupy.

Going to the gym. Come on! Gregory Gym’s like a football field away! I definitely do not have an excuse for this one. I guess I was too busy sleeping to realize how convenient this gym really is. Turning in these entries on time. I know the suspense of my next entry really isn’t killing some of you, but for others, there may be something relatable in my words and it’s my responsibility to update. It’s something I dedicated myself to and it’s an opportunity that I am very fortunate to have.

Venturing into the city. Goodness, there is so much to do here. But sadly, I only know this from hearsay. I’m making an educated guess that this city holds more than I can possibly imagine. So what am I waiting for? Do I need a permission slip to make something of my surroundings? No. I just need to get on a bus and ride. No itinerary. No map. No nothing. Just me and the road. Just me and the buildings. Just me and the unknown. Just me and Austin. It’s well past bonding time.


I’ll leave the laughs for another entry. It wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t collect some thoughts from those who experienced them with me. And besides, I’m not the best at retelling jokes or stories that were meant to be funny. I end up just looking ridiculous. And then no one laughs. And then that would defeat the purpose of the “Laugh” section. And then that entry would have no point. And then my career as a writer would be over. And then my point exactly.


I think there are two kinds of learning that occur here. There’s the obvious, chalk on chalkboard, classroom learning that some people don’t take advantage of and then there’s the subconscious learning that you get from everything you’re around and that you have no choice but to accept. The former is something either you encourage or you don’t. You don’t have to go to class. I promise, no one’s making you. It’s your grade, it’s your money (or maybe your parents’ or maybe an organization’s or maybe the University of Texas’, but the point is, it’s someone’s), and it’s your brain. You either retain what you’re given or you don’t. You either pay attention or you leave empty-handed. These professors want you to learn. I can guarantee they aren’t just talking for more than an hour just to hear the sound of their own voices. They have the power to tell you something that you may have never heard. They have the ability to remind you of something that you may have once forgotten. This, this is one of the reasons you choose to come here. It’s overwhelming thinking of what we could do with our minds in one semester if we were just willing.

The second learning is not your choice. Whether you recognize this or not, moving out on your own will drastically affect you. You may think you’re mature, you may think you’re fully grown, but trust me, there’s plenty left to go. There are too many years ahead of you to think you’re at your peak. What a life this would be if we knew everything we’d ever know at 18. The people who live with you, the people who wake up at 8 a.m. for the same classes you’re in, the people who sit with you at lunch, the people you pass on your way to lecture, we’re all going through the same thing. We’re all waiting to see where these four years will take us. We’re all hoping for the best. We’re all finding ourselves. We’re all letting our old habits drift away. We’re all on a road to somewhere. We’re all learning. One day at a time, we’re learning.

As I look back on the last few months, I realize, that yes, I did OK. I’m alive. I’m well. I’m determined. And I know I’ll do things differently next semester. I know that this, this was only the beginning.

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