Guest Column: Lessons To Be Learned From a Southern State School

In traveling to any foreign destination, culture shock is a universal sentiment that most likely will strike the hearts and minds of any newcomers. A dear friend of mine can attest to this puzzlement since his matriculation from a traditional private school in the heart of the south to the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. Likewise, my choice of higher education led me to the North as well, but not nearly to the extent my pal went.

Traveling from the southwest corner of Tennessee to the northwest corner of Arkansas, I too had some adjusting to do. However, as I reminisce on my past weekend endeavors, I realize my experiences were in stark contrast with those of my friend at Penn.

Not to be presumptuous of the weekend atmosphere among students at the University of Pennsylvania, but I would guess that sporting events are lacking in turnout and that students do not prioritize them as social outings. The status quo is probably marked by spending an inordinate period of time behind closed doors lulled by the next season of Black Mirror or getting ahead in one’s academic studies. The purpose of this article is not to discourage scholarship or even the occasional Netflix binge but to convey the sense of unity that can be found in cheering for your team alongside your friends.

Despite the frigid temperatures, why not bundle up around a bonfire prior to kick-off or tip-off to catch up with friends and talk about something other than school? All alcohol aside, there is genuine bonding that transpires in these moments. I am not an avid football fan, but I do enjoy the tailgating scene quite a bit. I understand how absurd this may sound, but it really is therapeutic to pollute one’s body with fried food and cold beverages prior to the commencement of the game.

To set the stage for a Saturday football game day at the University of Arkansas, all the fraternities gather in their front yards or at their designated tents among others close to the stadium. To complement one another’s company and the platters of fried chicken strips, the fraternity will usually hire a local band to perform. Alumni, family, and friends are always welcome to join in the festivities, and you will usually see people playing corn hole or tossing the pigskin in the grass.

These activities could be viewed as a waste of time, but I believe it is imperative to the health of stressed-out students at any university, especially an Ivy League university, to set aside at least a single day to decompress and socialize. This isn’t a tip but a prescription to keep one’s sanity.

My call to action for the Penn community would be as follows:

Build a real community around sports. This sense of community could be created by anything, such as tailgating, watch parties, etc. Penn takes pride in the diversity of its student body. After all, the nation’s strength is found in its diversity, and what better way to foster bonding among people of all backgrounds than to gather beneath a 10’ X 10’ tent and get rowdy before a football or basketball game.

Learn about the teams. Sports may not be for everyone, but the sheer rush of adrenaline from rooting on your team is an exhilarating experience for anyone that loves their school. Knowledge of the Penn rosters will guarantee a much more fulfilling experience.

Remember who you are—a kid! Sure, from an early age, we are ingrained with the notion that we must graduate as soon as possible and count the mistakes we have made in our lives on two thumbs… at most. This mentality of being professional in all settings of our lives is pervasive across campuses nationwide, but being responsible and enjoying ourselves should not be mutually exclusive. My point is not to promote going around and breaking the law, but instead not to second guess every move one makes and enjoy the fruits of life with others.

Sports can be a great way to bring any community together, and that is especially true on college campuses. But the atmosphere you want won’t be given to you—you have to go get it.

(Photo by Brandonrush/Wikimedia)

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