the freshman*


The prospect of campus has always held a certain appeal to me. Perhaps four unpleasant years in high school have something to do with that. Still, even without the constant pains brought about thanks to what is surely the worst education system in existence; the perks of university would still be alluring. But of course, that may be due to entirely different factors. Preconception, for instance. Or, as in this case, motivation.

I remember a certain event in high school that may have subconsciously cemented my resolve to join university.

The annual inter school mathematics contest.

To our teachers it was the perfect opportunity for us to pit our minds against the very best in the country, and hopefully prove superior. To us, it was another generous provision by the school, another opportunity to hone our socializing skills, or, at the very least, to try out a few of those lines that made Shakespeare so famous. How hard could it be, anyway? The school was crawling with females eager to be chaperoned, and hosts were only too willing to share their firsthand knowledge of the school.

It was during one of my circuits around the school that I saw her. I almost did not recognize her. Even with the time that had passed since our last meeting, she still managed to command my attention fully. She must have sensed my penetrating glare, because she turned around and looked straight at me. Then, after a lengthy scrutiny, she traipsed over to where I stood.

It was a great feeling, being with her again, but the ambience brought back the same complication that had thrown us apart last time. Sure, we could spend as much time together as we dared. But at the end of the day, she would go back to her world and I to mine. And neither of us would admit it, but long distance was not something we wanted to attempt again. And yet, as we talked, it became increasingly apparent that time and distance had done nothing to alter our feelings.

It was only until our conversation veered to life after high school that the solution presented itself, and we pounced on it immediately. She had plans to study at Nairobi University. I had been uncertain as to my academic future, but Nairobi University did not seem so bad all of a sudden. Not if she was there. It was an idea that may not have had much in terms of promise, but the thought behind it was enough incentive.

We never got a chance to fine tune the plan. At that moment, a skinny girl materialized from nowhere and announced that all students were needed in the school hall. So we parted, albeit reluctantly. We did not meet again, despite my best efforts. The event eventually ended, and the visiting schools began to depart. I made a final attempt to find her, if only to say goodbye. And then someone slipped me a note, and I opened it immediately. I recognized her handwriting at once, though she had clearly scrawled the three words in a hurry.

“See you there”

And just like that, I made up my mind. I had to go to college.

Over the next few months I consulted with friends and realised that mine was the least laughable reason for wanting to go to university. For most of them it was all about freedom; freedom from uniform, freedom from irrelevant studies that had no impact on their lives whatsoever, freedom from all things high school. There were those who saw it as the ideal opportunity to get drunk and perhaps suffer their first S.T.I, then stumble somewhat onto their future spouse. Or at least the first few aspirants. Isn’t that how these things start? Those with genuine academic aspirations were very few, and even these agreed that they had their own expectations concerning higher education.

In hindsight, I realize that my motivation may have been a tad childish. It was almost as though I was basing my future on a girl. And yet when my parents asked about my selections, I simply reminded them of my dreams of becoming an engineer. Of course I left out the fact that these particular dreams had vanished as soon as the high school curriculum got tough and the teachers tougher.

Eventually, I resolved to adjust my perspective. True I was hoping to go to university because it would allow me to spend time with a girl who had always meant the world to me. But no one had to know that. University is the only way to have a life. Aside from the obvious fact that my future depends wholly on it, there are those priceless life lessons that can only be learned there. Therefore, I look forward to it. But I won’t lie about my reasons. Or my motivation. Because she is both.


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