Carolina on my mind: College senior contemplates her college days, future

Teens & Twenties writer Lenzie Purcell is graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill soon and although she will miss college, she says it has prepared her for “the real world.” / Photo submitted

Commentary by Lenzie Purcell
Times-News correspondent

For the past 16 years, all I’ve known is school. I’ll graduate in a few weeks from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with bachelor’s degrees in English and Communications and a minor in Creative Writing; then, I’ll finally put the studying on hold.

I’m so grateful for all the opportunities college has opened up to me, but I’m most thankful for the position it lead to after college. In a few months, I’ll begin my term as a Peace Corps volunteer. I’ll spend 27 months in Southeast Asia teaching English — but of course, I’ll be sad to leave my beloved university.

This school has a way of sinking into your veins. First, you dress only in basketball T-shirts, then your memory card is full of pictures at the Old Well and soon, you’re covered in war paint, swinging from the rafters of the Dean Dome, realizing that you “bleed blue.”

I’ll soon move far away from this “little slice of heaven,” exchange my grits for rice, my argyle for long skirts and my air-conditioner for a mosquito net. My Southern drawl won’t be nearly as colloquial in the Khmer language as it is here at Carolina and I’m sure many of my new friends won’t understand why my eyes twitch at the mere mention of the word “Duke.”

Looking back four years ago, after Carolina swallowed me whole, I thought I would never leave. But Carolina has a way of spitting you back out because, well, she has to.

First, 8 o’clock classes start to wear you down, then constant deadlines and exams gnaw at your brain and sleep schedule. Between work, extracurricular activities and school, junior year leaves you breathless. Senior year is packed with relentless job applications and upper level classes, all of which start to make “the real world” look a lot less scary.

Carolina doesn’t leave you empty-handed, though. She teaches you that there is so much more out there and it’s your job to see it all. She fills your brain with possibilities to make changes and carves dedication into your soul. She shows you that what makes life wonderful is that it’s made of strands from many different experiences all woven together to create one complete and beautiful braid. I can’t wait to take what she has taught me and spend the rest of my life continuing to grow and learn outside of a classroom.

But no matter how far away I go, I’ll never forget my yes ma’am’s and no ma’am’s, “y’all” will forever be a word in my book, my tomatoes will always be fried, my peanuts always boiled and my tea always sweet. And even though I might not always sleep under the same stars (depending on what hemisphere I’m in), I’ll always be able to look up to Carolina blue skies and down to my feet at my Tar Heels.

Lenzie Purcell is a senior at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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