By Brian Sherrill, Staff Writer

The Millennium Student Center (The Current archives)
The Millennium Student Center (The Current archives)

“UMSL sucks” was what I thought while touring the campus three years ago. As a freshmen, I went to Mineral Area College, a tiny community college in Park Hills Missouri, and I did well. I woke up for my freshmen eight a.m.s, aced my Trig final, wrote my Eng Comp 101 research paper, and made my Spanish flashcards.

However, something was missing. I was not getting the college experience Hollywood had promised me. I was not getting the American Pie epitome of partydom. When it came time to transfer, I had two choices: return home to attend Southeast Missouri State University, where I knew I could slide right into college party lifestyle, or I could transfer to University of Missouri–St.Louis in a city where I knew not a soul.

I chose SEMO because, well, “UMSL sucks.” I thought that “UMSL would be less fun.”

I moved back home, transferred to SEMO, joined a party fraternity, and drank too much beer, because, as Abby N. Virio put it nicely in last week’s publication, “everybody was doing it.” And yes, students at SEMO, more often than not, are coasting on their studies, and ardent about their drinking.

After losing a year and two GPA points, I left the Redneck Stifler Clones’ Frat and took a break from classes to collect my thoughts and figure out what I really wanted out of life. I even began to journal again.

Sidenote: Are you that 4.0 honor student with a healthy dose of self-esteem, who isn’t fazed by what the cool kids are doing, who’s involved in clubs, and is saying, “well college is what you make of it and you’re just a idiot with a drinking problem … loser”? If you answered yes to all of these questions then good, smarty-pants, you are completely right. Now stop reading this because it is not for you.

This is for that freshmen and sophomore idiot like my past self that is thinking, “man, UMSL really is boring,” and is having a hard time making friends within a student body that generally doesn’t socialize as much as other non-commuter colleges. If you are thinking about transferring to SEMO for the party scene and the hot girls/guys/both, then keep reading.

First off, yes the parties were fun, for a while. Then you start to see the same old drunkards that can not remember your name from the last party they have seen you at but still spend ten minutes stumbling over trying to guess it. You begin to make friends that have nowhere near the same interests as you, or hardly any interests at all, other than in themselves. You will never have those conversations about math, literature, art, revolutions, or history or anything worth talking about.

“You are a combination of the five closest people around you,” is what someone said somewhere, and I’m telling you to chose those five carefully.

And Baby-Einstein/amateur D.A.R.E. officer, yes, you’re right again, “just say no” is the right thing to do. But like I said earlier, if you are that kid having a hard time making friends then it is hard not to do “what everybody else is doing.”

My friend Bria Mcghee, also a transfer here from SEMO says, “the students [there] just wanted to party. I wanted to meet people that could study and then party later. They had that mindset and I just couldn’t do that.”

The reason why  SEMO students do not fail is simple. It is because their professors do not care. SEMO has big attractions, like the college town atmosphere, Greek life, athletics, and low costs, that get them their enrollment numbers. If  SEMO professors actually challenged their students, then the university’s retention ratings would go down the tube. Consequently, students never find their true interests. They become lost wanderers, depressed and searching for a reason to enjoy waking up early.

It is depressing, not knowing what you enjoy, not being pushed intellectually. Is it not? Are those long, idling hours not the ones that you regret the most?

UMSL however, has professors that actually motivate, spark ambition, and create interest within their student’s minds. UMSL students wake up eagerly to continue that short story they were working on the night before, continue the Calculus homework, continue analyzing that psychological theory.

Bria also said, “I think the classes at UMSL are more in depth. I feel like the teachers care more about their students. At SEMO I felt like they were just getting us in and out and not really trying to push us to excel. I also feel more challenged here.” And that is exactly it! UMSL challenges its students. This is what will help you find your passion, help you meet people with similar interests; it is the key to  lifelong happiness.

Last but not least, the culture of Cape Girardeau was a huge problem for me. Cape Girardeau is inherently full of racists. A myriad of Trump signs cover the yards all over Cape. Although, I would like to make a point that over half of the people down south are very nice people with good hearts, but I’d be a fool to tell you that Cape is not more divided than St.Louis. I hated it. I always have and I always will, and it was the main reason why I decided to leave the rural for the urban lifestyle.

Bria, a black woman from Ferguson that lived in Cape during the riots, said, “A lot of the locals were racist and had a stereotype on African-American people. I tried to enlighten them on the issue but mostly all of them would just argue and no matter what, have their minds made up.”

I had to leave. I had that moment in life where one thinks, “if I don’t get out now, I’ll never leave and then I’ll end up like that fat football player’s dad at every practice.” So like an animal with my leg stuck in a bear trap, I chose to amputate that dying part of myself in order to live.

I transferred to UMSL, and I am telling you kid, this place is beautiful. The professors are passionate about their student’s education. The staff members here create almost 20 events a week in order to help commuter students meet people on campus. Urban ambition infects this place like its heavy humidity. It is like a surge of spreading energy. Strangers here talk to one another no matter what race and discuss families and memories and heartache and desires. People wake up early here.

Even the hobos at Soulard wake up early. I talk to them at the Metro bus bench every morning. I share poems with them and they share stories with me. I remember having a conversation with one man who told me he has been having issues with his schizophrenia. I asked him if he has any family or friends, and, thank goodness, he said yes. Then he said he has family down in Sikeston and I told him I am from Cape, and he looked at me as if he knew every hateful slur I have ever heard. Then I reassured him that I moved because most of the people are terrible down there. I told him Cape is like a poorly done parody and this place is paradise.

“Really?” he asked. Yes, this is paradise. UMSL is paradise. Even though the parking can be hell.