The Real Jersey Shore?

I’ve been bombarded lately with the amount of Emails I’ve received on a daily basis, detailing East Carolina University’s upcoming graduation—submit your graduation application—remember to purchase your tickets—save the date—order your cap and gown—senior yearbooks on sale! With as many as up to three new Emails every day, I sometimes forget to stop myself from immediately and habitually clicking the delete button from wherever I open the message, sometimes forgetting to remember that I ever read the Email in the first place. Except—oh wait, it’s my own graduation.

It’s hard to imagine in a few, short months I’ll be out of college. Yes, graduated. With that little, coveted piece of paper that says I am educated in the field of journalism, mastering the craft to the best of my ability, and I am now credible and granted the right to pursue a successful career in it. Yes, a degree. And yes, ready to venture into the so-called real world. Could it be so soon already? Has four years down here in good old Greenville, North Carolina, really gone by that quickly? With my recent experiences on campus in my last semester as an undergraduate student, I’m beginning to realize that those four years came and went like those long anticipated Wildwood summers—shortly and sweetly.

I notice the difference mostly every time I’m in class now or on campus for one thing or another—the difference between the majority of everyone in my own classes and myself, since I’m taking mostly elective, introductory courses after finishing up with my journalism studies early. And the main difference is my age and year level.

I was in such an introductory English class the other day during my first full week of the semester. And since I’ve been in majority of my journalism workshops with the same peers pretty much my whole four years of school, allowing us to skip over formalities and greetings on our first class meetings, it came as a shock to me when we gathered in a circle and spent a half-hour introducing ourselves to the whole group.

The room was silent as we patiently waited for each person to stand up and state her name, year level, major and hometown. “Okay,” I thought to myself. “I remember how this goes. I bet that girl over there is a freshman. Oh, and that girl—she’s probably an English major. Oh, and all of them are probably from somewhere in North Carolina.”

The first girl stood up—a tiny, timid girl with red hair and freckles and wearing an ECU hoodie that fell down to her knees as she tugged at the strings that pulled her hood tighter around her neck. Her name was Mary. She was a freshman from Greensboro, North Carolina. “Score,” I thought. “Let’s see about the others.”

And right I was—everyone in class, aside from one other girl who was a junior from Maryland, was either a freshman or sophomore English major from North Carolina. I mean really, it’s not that hard to play fool the guesser when you attend a university in North Carolina to assume that a lot of the students are going to be from—you got it—North Carolina. I chuckled to myself as I pictured myself standing up and informing the class I was a senior, and better yet, from New Jersey.

Although expecting to be flooded with questions of what it’s like to be a senior, what I plan on doing with my degree and with the rest of my life when I get out, and how I planned to go about doing so, “What made you come down here?” is the question I was asked–and is the question I have been asked since my first class at ECU when I got up and told everyone I was, in fact, from Jersey. And I’ve pretty much had my same, no-brainer response prepared since then, which I nonchalantly spat out to the class over the years, and this time as well, without hesitation. But this time, the class asked me a new follow-up question. Mary, the same girl tugging at the strings of her sweatshirt, raised her hand and quietly and shyly proposed to me a short, simple question: “Where at in Jersey?”

“Wildwood,” I said. “The beach.”
“Oh. Well, do you know Snooki?”

I couldn’t help but laugh, and I couldn’t help myself for thinking that I didn’t blame her for asking. So I simply gathered my composure and, instead of introducing myself, spent the rest of my short, allotted five minutes enthusiastically promoting Wildwood and all there is to know about the island and all the good things my hometown has to offer, and how I couldn’t wait to go back for the summer to indulge in these offerings. Back home to Wildwood. Back home to the real Jersey shore.

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