If you have ever lived in a college town, you know what I’m talking about when I describe Athens, Georgia.
If you haven’t lived in a college town, I hope you’re enjoying my thoughts so far.
Without further ado, here are the last three lessons I learned while living in Athens as a University of Georgia student and reporting for the independent student newspaper, The Red & Black.
(This is the final post of a two-part series. If you haven’t read the first part of the series, you should. It includes chicken sandwiches and DUIs.)
3. The weekend starts on Thursday afternoon. As a university student, I had homework and tests and a job, so all those pesky little things (you know, being a student) ate up a lot of my time. You may think the weekend begins on Friday, but that isn’t true in Athens. Weekends start on Thursday, and as a crime reporter, I knew people weren’t just saying that. Every morning, I checked the police logs to see what crime from the previous day to report on and who had had the most fun the night before. Not much happened during the week, but during the weekend, there was always an upswing in crime — starting Thursday night. I don’t know what everyone else was doing, but I had class to attend on Friday morning. This weekend trend isn’t even true at all colleges. When I talked to friends at other schools, their weekend started on Friday. Crazy.
4. Fraternities and sororities are another world. I think Greek life varies by school. It seems like at smaller, private schools, people don’t make as big a deal out of it. At a big southern college such as the University of Georgia, Greek life is serious. I could tell many people in fraternities and sororities thought I was a little off when I didn’t know the different characteristics of Phi Kappa Psi or Phi Kappa Tau or Phi Kappa Theta. Because those are three different fraternities. But Greek life was a big deal to a lot of the people in it. I knew this because The Red & Black had (and probably still has) a reporter who just covers Greek life. An entire job just to cover fraternities and sororities, who are at their core social clubs. If people thought an article was negative toward fraternities or sororities, we heard about it. They seemed more than social. They were a way of life.
5. Don’t assume. This is a universal lesson, but one I learned in a way that could happen only in Athens. I was working on a story about a fraternity who had banned its tradition of wearing Confederate solider clothing in its annual parade. While I was interviewing random students on the street about the story, I saw a black student. Perfect, I thought, I’ll get a good reaction from him. I approached the student and asked him for his opinion on the banning of the Confederate soldier uniforms. Contrary to my expectations, he proceeded to give a well-thought-out response on why the fraternity should not have banned the uniforms. I was wrong for assuming. I guess I should have picked up that lesson in Friday’s class.