A home away from home

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By Calen McKinney

I felt it the moment I stepped on campus. The fall semester at Campbellsville University had officially begun and something about the air just felt different.

I guess it was the sound of teenagers laughing while walking to dinner, seeing Stapp Lawn used as an Ultimate Frisbee arena or perhaps the most obvious sign was the lack of empty parking spaces on campus.

Each spring and fall, students from all over the United States - and even from several other countries - move to the CU campus and call Campbellsville home.

First as a student, and now as a teacher, I have met many during my travels to and from the CU campus, some of who speak English only as their second language.

When I went to the CU campus during Welcome Week to take pictures of activities planned to help students socialize, I saw the CU campus in a different light.

It seemed the campus had gone from being essentially empty during the summer to full of life and new energy in one day.

I saw hesitant teenagers talking and laughing together and a few students lounging on park benches.

I saw old friends catching up for the first time this semester and greeting each other with hugs and excited grins and laughs.

During this short visit to the CU campus, I began to remember my first day of college at Western Kentucky University. It was seven years ago, but I remember the day as it if were yesterday.

The day was a milestone in my life. But something just didn't seem right.

After only one semester at Western, I realized what it was - I was just at the wrong school.

WKU, while being a great academic institution that I later attended and graduated from with a master's degree, was just too big for this then 18-year-old.

I picked up my dorm room belongings and headed back home. I changed my career aspirations and enrolled at CU.

I remember my first few days as a student at CU, a place I had practically grown up around since both of my parents worked there.

During my most recent trip to the CU campus, I couldn't help but wonder if those students were feeling what I had during my first few days of college - a little bit of fear, lots of excitement and even a bit of dread having to go into a college classroom so soon after leaving high school.

It was at CU where I met my best friend and teachers I grew to look up to and greatly respect. I'm proud to say those professors are now my colleagues.

It was also at CU where I realized that I wanted to become a journalist.

I can only hope that students at CU have as good a college experience as I did. Their presence is certainly felt around the entire community and I hope they enjoy their college years.

All too quickly, they'll be worrying about finding jobs, paying their mortgages and sending their own children off to college.