A farewell to North Dakota

Graduating student remembers learning experiences.

Illustration by William Rerick/The Dakota Student. 

I’m almost done. With college, that is.

In 10 days, I will be wearing a ginourmous black gown and shaking hands with UND President Robert Kelley as he confirms that I’m not stupid. I’ve learned a lot from UND, and much of it actually has nothing to do with my communications major.

These last four and a half years have been some of the most fun and productive I’ve ever had, and they’ve not been without their fair share of surprises, including the biggest one of all — being totally happy at this school.

UND was not my top college choice during high school. I’ve lived in Grand Forks for 17 years and have been dying to go out-of-state.

My mom is a UND alumna though, and we had both heard many horror stories about student loan debt, so she ended up convincing me that UND was the best deal.

I registered in July 2009, two months after my high school graduation and was immediately accepted.

I’d heard rumors that UND attracted a wide variety of students from around the world because of its aviation programs, but since Grand Forks Central High School was about 98 percent white Norwegian, I figured the rumors had to be false. Though UND could certainly be more diverse, I was impressed by the amount of out-of-state students who call this campus home.

Still, I was worried for other reasons.

I wasn’t super popular in high school, so the thought of attending college with most of my former classmates freaked me out. This ended up not being a big deal though. I had no problem avoiding those who I was hoping to never see again.

I learned that in most cases, what someone did in high school means nothing in college, at least in a large college. All that matters is whether or not they finished. A student body of more than 16,000 allows everyone a fresh start, whether someone was bullied every day or was Homecoming Queen.

Of course, that large student body also meant there was an endless pool of UND hotties to choose from. Seriously, everywhere I looked, there were hot guys! They were in the Wellness Center, the Union, in my classes and at parties in fraternity houses. I trained myself to be pretty confident around them — to not be afraid to make the first move on those I especially liked.

I learned to treat dating the way I do job hunting: If I see an ad for a cool-sounding job, I’m not going to sit around waiting for it to recruit me; I’ll fill out an application myself. When I apply this principle to dating, I end up wasting a lot less time on a guy who may not like me. If he says no when I pop the question, I can quickly move on to the next one.

This skill came in handy once I began working journalism jobs. Throughout my five semesters at The Dakota Student and my three interning at Studio One, I talk to strangers constantly to get quotes for stories. If I’m not friendly and confident, they won’t enjoy talking to me, and my story won’t turn out well.

Although I’m grateful for everything UND has given me — like an exponentially higher amount of confidence than what I arrived with — I don’t want to miss it here too much. I’m the kind of person who would much rather enjoy the present and plan for the future instead of dwelling on the past.

After I cross that stage in the Chester Fritz Auditorium on Dec. 20 and celebrate one more Christmas with my family, I will be heading to the Twin Cities to look for a job and an apartment in order to start a completely new adventure.

I’d eventually prefer to move farther away — maybe to somewhere with palm trees instead of blizzards — but this feels like a great starting point.

So, peace out, UND and Grand Forks. Try not to miss me too hard. I’ll make you proud someday, I promise.

Jaye Millspaugh is the multimedia editor of the Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].