Every high school and college student knows the oft-repeated criteria for choosing which college to attend: reach schools, match school and safety schools. Prestige. Location. Reputation. Major and minor choices. And, of course, the elusive “click” you’re supposed to feel the moment you first step onto campus. No one ever tells you to choose a college because it looks pretty, but that was a big part of why I choose my college.
Of course, I listed other reasons when people asked me to explain my choice — and true to form, it had to do a lot with major and location as well. It also had to do a lot with the flowers on campus, the stained-glass windows of the campus church and the architecture of the ancient books room.
After months of being at college, I’m no longer ashamed to admit that a large part of why I chose my college was, yes, for its aesthetic. I’m not ashamed to admit that the beauty of my college is a large part of what’s sustained me during the rough first months of college.
Truth be told, I’ve never been an outdoorsy gal. I’m born and raised in the heart of Silicon Valley—I’ve been bred to freak out about the smallest speck of dust on my sleek iPhone screen. Don’t expect me to get down with the dirt and the bugs, but something about the beauty of my university’s flowers pulls me outside. I eat my three meals a day outdoors, even when the sun’s barely peeking over the cityscape, as I watch it rise or set, leaving me shivering without its full warmth.
My university’s on a hill, so I have an uninhibited view of San Francisco below me, the sky turning oranges and yellows above me. The meticulously planted roses and daisies around me quiver in the wind, the fragile stalks bending but not breaking. Remember the girl who couldn’t stand a speck on her electronics? Now she studies outside for hours, not even minding the tiny bugs that land on her laptop and the bees that occasionally mistake her for a flower.
Let me tell you, as a serial procrastinator, I definitely wouldn’t have the stamina to withstand six-hour study marathons if it wasn’t for such a serene setting. Also, as a shy introvert I would never leave my room if it wasn’t for the fact that being alone is a lot better when you’re surrounded by beautiful nature instead of ugly dorm walls.
Another picturesque setting is an ancient books room at my college that’s referred to as the “Hogwarts Room.” The ceiling is soaring, the chairs are tall and padded and oak-brown tables litter the room as dimly-lit manuscript shelves create tidy rows across the space. When I’m finally frozen out of the outdoors, I come here to feel like a serious academic, even if all I’m doing is busywork.
This setting inspires me, makes me feel like my work is important and makes me envision myself in the future, doing research about a topic I’m passionate about. Rather than make me dread finals week, the prospect of spending a few intense days holed up in this room, papers and books strewn about the table, is actually kind of inviting. We’ll see whether I regret saying this once I actually experience a finals week.
I could tell you a million other things about the way my campus looks—the church spires stretching tall, the gray modern-looking and minimalist patio where I sunbathe or the wall of uniform vine-green leaves that I’ve taken a million shameless food pictures in front of.
None of these things fall within the criteria for choosing a college that was drilled into my head as a high school student. None of these things have to do with academics, with my major or with the amount of students in my classes. As someone strongly resistant to change, I knew college was going to be a hard transition no matter what.
The beauty of my college campus has been an unexpected saving grace, the one change that’s been easy to stomach. Whenever I am homesick or overwhelmed or anxious, I simply walk to the flowers, the bees and the books. They remind me that there are always beautiful things in the world, and I’m lucky enough to be living with them.
Lead Image Credit: Pixabay