Bucket List: A Reflection on My Miami Experience

My friends and I on our run with President Hodge
My friends and I on our run with President Hodge.

Written by Marissa Stipek

A few weeks ago, my housemates and I went for a 6 a.m. run with President Hodge.

Before getting started, we stood in a semi-circle and he asked us to go around and share our names, majors, hometowns and what we would be doing after graduation.

Hodge told us he was speaking at one of his last-ever “Make It Miami” sessions later that afternoon, and asked us what we seniors would say to potential students to convince them Miami was the right choice.

I try to recall what it was like to visit colleges. I think back to the excitement of opening my acceptance letter. I remember feeling so ready to embark on this new adventure.

However, when I think back to my first few months at Miami, I have to admit that I didn’t immediately love it here.

I remember going back up to my room and unpacking my things after my parents drove away, thinking, “Well, now what?”

I remember walking around campus, feeling like it was so big. Everyone assured me that eventually I would know my way around, and that the more people I met, the smaller the campus would seem. But every time I walked to class, I felt lost the sea of people.

But then I remember going home for Christmas break, after struggling most of first semester with a homesickness I could have never predicted would hit me, and realizing for the first time I actually missed Miami. I was excited to come back to my school friends and the chaos of dorm life.

Now, when I walk across campus, I am greeted by dozens of people — I wave to a girl from one of my classes last semester, I say hello to a neighbor, I stop and talk to my housemates and tell them I’ll see them at home later.

When I first left for school, my older sister (a Miami alum) gave me a sealed up envelope and told me not to open it until I arrived.

Inside, was a letter — a survival guide for life in Oxford.

It outlined where to eat: “Brick Street food is nasty, 45 is classy for Ox, and Chipotle is always a safe bet.”

It told me where to go out and where to avoid: “The Woods is fratty and fun. Stadium is also known as Shadium — I think that one speaks for itself.”

Of this list of tips, some were funny.

“Don’t pee in public. This applies to walking home from uptown at night. There are police everywhere and you will get a ticket. I swear, it is more common than you think!”

Some were sweet.

“Also, don’t walk home alone.”

Some were cliché.

“Don’t step on the seal. Rumor has it, if you do, you will fail your next test.”

Some I followed.

“Frequent Club King. King Library is the best place on campus. Go in between classes, at night, on the weekend, etc. But if you actually want to get things done, don’t sit in the café.”

And some I didn’t.

“Don’t eat Bagel and Deli after every night out. This is how you will gain the freshman 15. It always seems like a good idea at the end of the night but you will regret it in the morning.”

What’s interesting is that my Miami experience, though guided in part by the advice my sister gave me, is completely unique to me. She and I lived in different dorms, made different friends, chose different majors and got involved in different organizations. When we talk about school, yes, we have a little bit in common — like a love for Skipper’s waffle fries — but mostly, our experiences are each our own.

There is no certain way to have fun or be successful here. There are hundreds of opportunities that can take students down a million different paths.

Maybe that is why my friends and I had such a hard time answering President Hodge’s question about what he could tell the high-schoolers on their “Make It Miami” tour.

President Hodge had a final question for us — what was our favorite memory at Miami?

He said his favorite was at Miami’s Bicentennial Ball — there was a celebration where bands played and choirs sang, red and white balloons floated through the air and confetti fell from the ceiling.

I don’t have a single moment like that. I have millions of moments.

It’s standing outside Erickson dining hall at 10:58, because it opens for brunch at 11:00 and we want to be the first ones in.

It’s biting into a blueberry cake donut from the Oxford Doughnut Shoppe, after pulling up just in time to see the owner flip the sign from “closed” to “open.”

It’s singing “You Are My Sunshine” at the beginning of Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) sessions.

It’s going to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and talking to the vendors.

It’s walking through the halls of an academic building, and having a professor from three semesters back greet me by name and ask how my year is going and what I’m up to.

As the semester winds down, I find myself trying not only to finish up final papers and start filling out job applications, but also to squeeze in some of the last items on my senior year bucket list.

Over the past few weeks, I went to Steinkeller and heard “Accordion Dave” play for the first time, I got Graeter’s ice cream and I went to my first trivia night at Top Deck. But I also wonder if any of it even matters.

Maybe the Miami experience isn’t about following certain rules or checking off items on a bucket list. Maybe it’s not about that perfect cascade of confetti. Maybe it’s all the seemingly mundane, everyday, moments that don’t seem special until they have passed.

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