Low-Cost Character Building

By The Columbia Chronicle

Sarah McNabb

Guest Columnist

College in Chicago: an epic journey through education filled with excitement, adventure. . . yeah, okay. Sorry, this isn’t an old episode of 90210. We college students don’t lead a luxurious life of (yawn) lazing all day at a spa or meandering over to Chanel to buy clothes on our days off.

On the contrary, we are the poorest of the poor. I can vouch for this: I AM POOR. I still wear the same batch of clothes as I did last year because it is either groceries for the month or that cool crushed-velvet dress from the Alley. Groceries? I guess I should rephrase that. Packages of Ramen Noodles. If you know what I’m talking about I’ll fight you for that coupon on the ground.

And so what if my boyfriend won’t touch me; I am sure I’m not the only girl who can’t afford shaving cream to shave her legs. Oh, and speaking of my boyfriend, why does he, a DePaul student, get to have a U-Pass while I shell out three-plus dollars a day for public transportation?

Well anyway, when us poor college folk need haircuts we do the smart thing and turn to our best friends to shear us, instead of paying $30 for a trim. Being a middle-class poor college student isn’t easy, especially when “splurging” becomes spending 40 cents for a cup of joe on the 11th floor of the Torco building. Every day beggars come up to me on the street and ask for money, but when I flash that college I.D. they lend me a buck (just kidding).

So, the question I pose is this: Is there an easier way to pry pennies from cracks in the ground without using a hairpin? Using a pencil, perhaps?

The worst part of starting school again is when you go to the class for the first time and the teacher says, “Okay, here’s a list of items you’ll need to buy for this class.” Last semester I ended up spending $200 on supplies for a class, of which we didn’t use half. It’s a conspiracy, I say!

Life is rationing out milk for the week so you can get paid on Friday to buy more. I find myself laughing when I am forced to bring my own soda to school; yes, I think people find that generic yellow, thirty-five cent can attractive. It says thrifty, not thirsty.

But we’re all in the same boat here, aren’t we? It is the beginning of the year that breaks us poor kids the most; between tuition, (gulp) books and supplies, we are tightening our belts. Not only that, but I personally have found Murphy’s Law setting in big time: just when you could really use that $10/hr. job that you interviewed for, your credentials look great. . . but your part-time schedule has such weird hours because of your class load. Looks like the family will be getting handmade Christmas gifts again this year, huh?

I used to enjoy going to the movies in high school because I was able to work and earn the money to do so on weekends. Now, entertainment is the NBC Movie of the Week. Pretty sad, I would say. Of course, I could always use the same VHS tape to record Monday Night Raw (wrestling) until it becomes warped and broken. Either way, it is the price we pay for a small piece of paper saying that we went to college.

What is it all for, anyway? All this sacrifice to maintain a 4.0 GPA, earn a degree, and then what? Everyone I know who didn’t go to college is working and earning the green stuff! Is it all worth it?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not playing the violin in a weepy-why-me way to complain about life. I am laughing at my lifestyle right now and am grateful too that (1) I could be far worse off than I am, and (2) It is a privilege to be alive and have come this far.

So kick back, use plastic grocery bags for garbage bags and savor the Preferred Card savings you get at Jewel. In 20 years, being rich might not be so much fun for us, ya think?