Saturday, September 12

There is nothing like a college campus when the students return.  The air fairly crackles with excitement and hope.

The first-year students, accompanied by their parents, are the first to arrive.  Most have met their roommates electronically, but in the days that follow some will have their first sustained conversations with students from another state or country.  A significant number have never spent as much as a week away from home; others have never shared a bedroom.

Parents exhausted by moving their students’ belongings into their rooms hover anxiously, trying not to embarrass their charges by appearing bereft. The upper-year students return a few days later, eager to re-engage with old friends, and  to share the real scoop with first-year students.

Courses start.  The hours worked by staff and faculty go from a rather sedate eight hours a day to a frantic twelve or more. Stories are swapped about the impending class, and how they differ from preceding ones.

So begins the magic of one of our civilization’s oldest rituals.  For nearly a millennium, students have left home and travelled great distances to attend university.  Even at a small college like New College, the cumulative distance travelled is staggering.  We have ten students from the Middle East.  That’s 100,000 miles in total.   The other students bring that total to well over 300,000 miles, more than the distance to the moon…