So goes the cry from coast to coast as millions of college kids return to campus for orientation, summer classes and of course, bocce ball tailgates. With mom and dad (or other parental guardian/authority figure) in the dust, whatever will little Billy Joe Patty Mac do to occupy his/her/their day?
The freedom that comes with being a college kid is a complicated bag of cats. On one hand, you have the academic freedom to decide what you will study with unlimited access to a plethora of scholarly articles and books throughout our library. You also have the economic freedom (sort of) which comes from being able to spend your well-earned allowance money on whatever you see fit — like lawn chairs, a Steam subscription or boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but therein lies the rub, for what snacks may come when we have shuffled off from mom and dad’s house must give us pause.
If you’re not careful, the freshmen 15 can sprout into the sophomore 7 or even the dreaded junior jiggle. When you’re given almost unlimited amounts of food every day in the dining halls, it can be hard to hear, much less heed, that little voice that whispers oh-so-softly, “Maybe three scoops of ice cream is enough. Maybe I should try a nice salad instead of this pepperoni pizza meatball sub I’ve concocted.”
Eating healthy on campus is difficult but possible. The most important thing you can remember is not to try and go it alone. Having an accountability partner is essential to keeping our appetites in check. After all, another person’s voice is much louder than the voices in our heads.
That is not to say you must abide by a strict no-carb, all veggie, tofu-smoothie diet. After all, where’s the spice of life without, well, spice, and eating grits without cheese or bacon is just silly. Life is all about finding that balance. Living in the moment and practicing that mindfulness we’ve heard so much about through pop culture and Student Nutrition Services. These are just a few of the many clichéd phrases you can use to mollify yourself when you feel the cravings calling.
Beyond gastronomic freedom, there’s the freedom of mobility, of action, which comes from being a college kid. True, you can choose to use that freedom to attend music festivals, head out to the bars and clubs downtown has to offer or spend all night in the library playing Sardines. However, college kids exist in that unique, not-quite-adult space that makes them perfect for volunteer action.
So, we challenge you. Use your freedom like you mean it. Volunteer for a political candidate you support. Find a cause you’re willing to devote some time to and seek out those organizations that align with your values. In the interest of fairness and covering our own behinds, I won’t list any here, but I’m sure you could name a couple.
In any case, freedom always comes tied with responsibility. Those of us on an urban university campus may feel this more acutely than those out in the boonies, hanging at the liberal arts colleges. The sheer amount of diversity in the student body is a perfect breeding ground for political activist groups. Beyond that, we see the social ills discussed about in the ivory tower whenever we walk to class or pass by Auburn Avenue. Plus, there’s just the amount of responsibility that comes with living in an urban environment. You have to keep your wits about you, being aware of your surroundings and making sure you know where you’re going at all times. It can be too easy to fall asleep on MARTA and wind up at Five Points, when you meant to get off at North Avenue. (Not that we’ve ever done that.)
Of course, sometimes freedom can be a burden, too. The lack of externally-imposed structure can lead to poor eating habits, increased social anxiety and a tendency to list things in threes. Some poor souls, so drunk on freedom, even take to painting themselves in their school’s colors on game day, making a mockery of the proud tradition of wearing suits and evening gowns to sporting events. (Kids still do that, right?)
Now, the great thing about an urban campus is there’s always plenty to do. With no shortage of activities on and off campus, movie nights, concerts and other head-bopping-type thingummies (very technical term there), boredom is just a memory. Look around you. There are bulletin boards plastered in ads for events just aching for your divine presence. And of course, there’s all those ads for sketchy concerts on every telephone pole in the city. Why not check some out?
Compare that to life on a rural campus, with plenty of trees, open spaces and…nothing really of note. No movie theater. No real bookstores. No restaurant bigger than a McDonald’s. Everything closing at 7 p.m. on Friday and reopening on Monday at 9 a.m. Having to make your own fun at 2 in the morning with nothing but a stretch of twine, an inflatable tube and a lake. It’s freedom of a sort, but not quite the same as the pedigree you find in the big city.
In addition to political activism and fun-type entertainment venues, Atlanta has a rich arts scene. Mainly centered around Little 5 Points and Midtown, Atlanta’s hippest neighborhoods are…okay, I’ll admit — I know nothing about Atlanta’s hippest neighborhoods. I live in Roswell, for crying out loud. Canton Street is fun, but you can see it in an hour if you walk fast. The point is, there are lots of opportunities for young up and coming artists. (I even know a couple.) Drop us a comment down below, and I’ll see if I can’t get you some names of some local artists making a go of things in the metro area.
That’s part of what makes Georgia State such a great place to be. No matter your definition of freedom, there are almost unlimited options to express yourself artistically, politically, economically or any other way you can think of. (Just don’t go too crazy on the pizza.)