By Brian Nelson
Staff reporter

Sometimes a place unexpectedly becomes part of your life.

I did not know where to go to college. Nothing was a perfect match, so I started out at the community college in Garden City. The choice was easy, the education was practically free and my instructors were the best, the fruitiest flavors out of a Skittles pack, excluding a couple sour ones.

Then I graduated with my associates, and still had no idea where to go.

“Have you looked at Southwestern?” my adviser asked. “I think it would be perfect for you.”

I had never heard of the school, but something about the name sparked my interest and I scheduled a visit.

After a wrong turn and an hour delay, I was walking up the 77 for my first time. Then up the glass elevator of Christy Administration, I found myself sitting in front of Dr. Scaggs desk in the English department. His Irish accent was cool, and as he informed me of the English department, my only thought was, “This guy really knows his stuff.”

I was impressed that such a cultural person was teaching at a school in southern Kansas. When our visit was finished, he took me into a classroom to show me the stretching view of Winfield from the window. I was hooked at that moment.

In August I left home for the first time in my life. I was born in Garden City, and had lived in the same house all my life. My roots were deep, for my great grandparents had moved to Garden City in the 1910s. Leaving was hard, but I was ready for a new adventure.

Adventures were hard to find, because for the first time in my life, I knew no one. But friendships formed. And while trying to swim through homework, we found time to walk in the rain. We went to the park, had movie nights, carved pumpkins and also may, or may not have, accidentally dropped our pumpkins at the top of the 77 staircase to see whose would reach the bottom first. If we had, by chance, done such a thing, the broken pumpkin shells would have been cleared away before morning. No harm done, though Cinderella may have had trouble getting to the ball that night.

Unexpectedly, the 77, The Mound and the cafeteria food, which made me mourn for my mother’s cooking, became home.

I doubt any other college would introduce me to something called Stau Bau. Not many universities have an instructor who schedules class at the coffee house down the street. Surely, there are not too many newspaper advisers who invite the staff to her home once a month for “Second Sunday Soup at Stacy’s.” And I’m sure there are not too many colleges with professors who will hint that the view from the roof is amazing.

There is no other college like Southwestern.

I feel slightly cut short on my time here, having taken the two-year transfer route. Then I remind myself that if I had not attended Garden City Community College, I would not be here. I would not know it exists. I would have never been asked “Have you looked at Southwestern?”

Southwestern has become an important part of every student’s life who has earned their diploma here. While enjoying their stay here, they often forget the importance of the place they came from.

Most of the students I talk to do not plan on going back home after graduation. They believe there are bigger and better things out there for them. I only hope that bigger and better does not refer to the size of someone’s wallet.

I have always believed that we are put where we are for a reason. This is why I’m going back home after I graduate. Though I’ve enjoyed my time here, I miss the vast open sky of southwest Kansas, where the tallest landmark is a grand, but decaying 1889 hotel.

Maybe there are greater things somewhere else for me, but there is only one place I want to be. Home.

Leaving is going to be hard, and I can honestly say that I now know what it was like for Dorothy Gale to say goodbye to the friends she met in the land of Oz. She waved goodbye and was gone.

Now I’m waving goodbye. And if you’ll excuse me, I believe there is an old hotel in southwest Kansas that is waiting for my help to be restored.

Goodbye.

Brian Nelson is a senior majoring in English. You may e-mail him at brian.nelson@sckans.edu.