I drove through UAH‘s campus today, like I do a few times a week. Typically I’ll drive around campus during or after eating lunch; I work right across the street, and well, the school holds a special place in my heart.
I first visited campus in the summer of 1996. Mom and I had planned two trips for me to visit colleges, based on the (grossly little for the amount of importance it truly had, if I am honest with myself) research I had done into prospective colleges. My plan was simple: two trips, visiting two schools each. I was interested in five universities overall, ranked as follows:
- The University of Illinois
- The University of Missouri-Rolla
- The University of Alabama in Huntsville
- The University of Tennessee
- Mississippi State University
State was my safety school: it had the major I wanted [although not the emphasis I was interested in] and would more than pay for itself. Honestly, I was interested in Illinois and Rolla because they were far away from home. UT interested me only because I was born there and thought that I’d enjoy going to a SEC school.
Our first visit was to UT and UAH. We drove out early to Knoxville and visited with two of my dad’s old cadets, who’d married and had kids and all that rot. They’re the cadets my folks talk about the most when they reminisce about our Knoxville years. I had a good time that night, but when I visited the department the next day, it was all wrong: poor computers, old books, etc. It was not on the cutting edge. I left there having mentally crossed them off of my list; I was only interested in their scholarship offers in an effort to extort more money out of potential suitors. [See also: how I used Mississippi State to get more money out of UAH.]
Our next stop was, of course, my now-alma mater. Despite the trip being hosed up eight ways from Sunday—I brought us into town down a route that is an hour longer than the most efficient, so we were late and there were all sorts of issues getting checked into the dorm for the night—something clicked. I’ve never really been able to express what it was that I felt—or what it was that I still feel, honestly—but it felt right. After a great visit the next day, I was sold. On the way home, I told Mom that we could forget the other trip. I’d found my top choice. I don’t remember what we spent the money she’d saved up for that trip on instead, but it was something worthwhile.
Anyhow, not long after that trip, I was accepted to UAH—yes, a full year before I graduated from high school. [As I remember it, they had to key things into the system to note that I’d start fall 1997 rather than 1996; subsequently working in Admissions that next year, I understood. It was a screwy system.] I tried to get other friends of mine to come with me, but I ended up being the only member of my graduating class there. [Alternatively, 25+ members of my class went to State.]
There were times when it looked like we weren’t going to be able to comfortably afford UAH, but in the end, some really good days taking standardized tests were paired with my hard work in school and I went to school pretty much only having to pay room and board. Mom made me a deal: she and Dad would pay for the first two years, but after that, I was on my own. I paid a lot more for my education than my parents did in the long run, because I went another three years and all that. They helped me out a fair bit with money and more than my fair share of moral support. But the taxpayers of Alabama are really who put me through school. Thanks, y’all. 🙂
As I drove through campus at lunch, I realized that today is the ten-year anniversary of the day I moved to Huntsville. I have lived in this area longer than anywhere else in my life, and it’s the first place that I chose to live independent of my family. [Yes, I’d left to go to school in Columbus prior to that, but I was restricted to being there because I was a Mississippi resident.] I have, at times, regretted coming here, but that’s when I thought that I was headed in the wrong direction. I think that I’m mostly headed in the right direction now.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for ten years. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but then there are many new things on campus since I started:
- A new University President.
- Two new dormitories.
- The University Fitness Center.
- Greek Housing.
I was but one voice of many in arguing for all of these things [save replacing Frank Franz; I love Frank] as a student. It’s great to see UAH making great progress as we go forward into the future. I was at UAH at a great time to be a student there, and it’s getting better every year.
I’m proud. To be. A U-A-H Char-ger.