The Last Dance: What a Senior Must Do
With This Ring…
Sunday was the big day. I got my class ring! I was giddy about it all weekend. My roommate had to get surgery unexpectedly last week, so we weren't sure she would be able to go. But she seems to be recovering quickly (I think she forced herself to) and convinced us that she would be well enough to at least go and watch. I was just glad she would be there with me. We have been counting down the days since we made the order in September.
The ceremony started with a video called Carolina Is… that the GAA created. Sharing the points of view of many Tar Heel alumni, including even Roy Williams '72, the video was a great tribute to this place we all love, and hit some sentimental part in me that is realizing I only have a little over five months left here.
Then we heard a speech from Fred Kiger '74. And never have I agreed more than with the speech he gave. Every sentence about what it means to be a Tar Heel and receive this ring rang true with me. Even as a writer, I have always found that describing Carolina is something that is hard to put into words. No expression can really ever come close to matching what it is you feel in your heart about this place. But Kiger's speech came pretty close.
Then it was time to get our rings and walk the stage. I was a little worried about my roommate making it up there, but it was mind over matter for her, and she did it. They had asked us not to open the ring boxes and look at the rings until we could all do it. So when I got back to my seat I felt like a little kid on Christmas. I was fidgeting and itching to take a peek. But I resisted — I didn't want to ruin it. Then after the rest of the students received their rings, we all opened the boxes on the count of three. Honestly, when I saw my ring a lump caught in my throat. It was beautiful and I couldn't believe it was finally here. I have been experiencing some buyer's remorse lately because of its cost, but once I slipped it on my finger those feelings vanished. And then, of course, we finished with the Alma Mater.
Mine is the traditional ring with a Carolina blue stone and a silver interlocking NC setting on top. I have the Old Well, 2010 and a banner that says Tar Heels on one side, and BA, the school seal, and a Tar Heel on the other. I have only taken it off a few times since I got it, and even then it was only for a few minutes. I can tell it's going to become a part of me. And since my dad was the only one in my family who could come to see the ceremony, I now get to go show it off to the rest of them during Thanksgiving break. I have taught my 7-year-old nephew to love UNC, so I think he will share my excitement about it. To any Tar Heels who have gotten a ring before, I would absolutely love to hear any stories you have about it.
And I want to wish you all safe travels for the holidays and a Happy Thanksgiving!
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…Basketball Season
For any of you who have read my earlier posts, I already mentioned that I'm a big UNC basketball fan. But I want to use this post to elaborate on exactly how big of a fan I am since the basketball season is under way (and there will probably be many more basketball-related posts in the future). Let me just start by saying that my schedule revolves around basketball season. To say that I am a huge fan doesn't accurately describe my passion and devotion to Roy's Boys.
When the basketball schedule is released, I sit down and copy into my
planner every game of the season. It is a necessary action to make sure
that my roommate and I don't plan anything on a game day. I am even in the
process of comparing my class schedule for next semester with the
basketball schedule. My last class on Wednesdays ends at 2:00, so I should
be OK to make it to the Duke game if I get a ticket. Most of our friends
know by now not to try to get us to do something on game day because it's a
lost cause. I don't think people even ask us anymore, unless it's to come
over and watch with us.
‘Bracketology' for the NCAA tournament is a subject my roommate and I take
very seriously. As our love of basketball extends to watching other teams
play (mostly to see certain teams lose and to see our competition), we
usually know enough about the other teams to make knowledgeable decisions.
When we are given the 64 teams who will be in it, we plan out a time when
we can both sit down and fill out our brackets. We definitely had UNC going
all the way last year (who didn't?), but then again I think we also had UNC
going all the way the previous two years. When it comes to Carolina
basketball, we just can't consider the option that we won't at least make
it to the Final Four.
So you can imagine my excitement that basketball season has begun. I find
that it is easier to overcome the mountains of work I have when I know I
will be watching a game soon. I am still mourning the departure of some
amazing players who stuck around long enough to take Carolina all the way
to the national championship, but being given new players is being given a
brand new opportunity. They are eager to prove their value to the UNC fans
and live up to all the greats that have played before them.
I was worried that even with the presence of seniors Marcus Ginyard and
Deon Thompson, it would take a while for the team to reach the point when
they stop playing as individuals and start playing like a unit. But last
night's game against NC Central gave me some hope. I know, I know. It
wasn't a huge game and there's still a lot more to come. But they looked
cohesive and confident. And no matter what any critics say about our team,
I have an unshakable faith in our boys. I can't wait to watch this new team
develop and to spend my last year here cheering them on from the student
I honestly could not think of a better Homecoming weekend. There was beautiful weather, basketball (always good), a football game where we beat the Dookies, and a concert with local-turned-national rising star, Anoop Desai.
Almost immediately after we got out of our last classes on Friday around 3:30, my roommate and I headed toward the Dean Dome. The exhibition game didn't require tickets for students, so we thought we would take advantage of the one time we knew we would be able to go to a game together. For those of you who may not know the student lottery ticket process, Carolina Athletic Association just changed the policy this year to allow students who win tickets to receive only one, in an attempt to use more tickets.
But now this means we have to try harder to find someone to go with who may have the same phase or even a close phase, or you have to go alone. (The phases are part of the current ticket distribution policy — first, students enter a lottery to get tickets, and only one ticket is given to each student chosen through this process. More about that in a minute… Each ticket is marked for one of five "phases" and indicate a different entry time. If you're in phase one, you get to enter first; students with phase two tickets enter next, and so on.)
My roommate and I have gone to every game together that we have gotten tickets to since our first year, except when there were circumstances where one of us couldn't go. So the new policy has kind of bummed us out because we don't know how many games we'll be able to go to together. Used to be, students chosen through the ticket lottery received two tickets, so you knew could go with a friend. Not anymore. Now when you receive a ticket, you receive only one ticket so you either go alone or find a friend who also got a ticket. You can enter together but can enter only in the phase that is the later of the two — if you had a phase one ticket and your friend had a phase four ticket and you wanted to go together, you would have to wait until phase four to enter if you wanted to sit with her because they do not allow you to save seats.
So it was great going to the Belmont Abbey exhibition game and sitting three rows behind the risers.
Saturday, of course, was the Homecoming football game. I went onto campus early to go to the tailgate at the Bell Tower, where the GAA was kind enough to give us barbecue sandwiches (free food is probably one of the things I will miss most about being a student). We also got to take a picture with the real Rameses (that's another thing to check off my to-do list). Basking in the beauty of a Carolina-blue sky, we found ourselves getting to the game later than expected.
It was SO crowded in the student sections, with everyone excited to see us take down our rival on Homecoming weekend. But what a perfect day for a game! It was beautiful weather, and there's nothing like sitting at a football game — or any event, really — and cheering with your fellow Tar Heels.
Sunday I went with some friends to see Anoop at Memorial Hall. My roommate is a particularly big fan of his. We loved him when he was part of the Clef Hangers and freaked when he made it onto American Idol. It was just so cool to see a UNC alum who is achieving something so amazing and then comes back to where he started to give us a concert. I can't wait to hear the new music he comes up with.
It was definitely a homecoming for Anoop since he recently moved to L.A. And that got me thinking about six months from now, when I would no longer be considered a student at UNC. What will that first return to Carolina be like, that first homecoming (Chapel Hill will always be my real home)? It's not something I want to think about, but it gives me comfort to know I will always be welcome back, and when I do come back I will be surrounded by people who love this place as much as I do.
Photo by Sarah Arneson '96
An MP3 Experiment comes to UNC
Carolina students never cease to amaze me. They study hard and participate in so many extracurricular activities that they are constantly putting sleep on the back burner. But they also know how to have a good time.
In October, right before Fall Break, Charlie Todd '01 brought one of his MP3 experiments to campus. He was approached by a department on campus because they knew he did similar events with his company in New York, called Improv Everywhere. But Todd created one specifically for his alma mater, combining some of the activities he called his "greatest hits of New York." There seemed to be a lot of excitement about it; my roommate was talking about it all week before it happened.
For the event, Todd created an MP3 that the participants, mostly students, downloaded onto their iPods and were asked NOT to listen to it until the activity started. At exactly 12:00 p.m. on October 15, the students hit play and the adventure began. The outside world watched, some of whom had no idea what was going on. And the group was hard to avoid since the experiment was happening in Polk Place, one of the most crowded places on campus as hundreds of students have to walk through it daily to get to class.
Thanks to a cruel twist of fate, I was unable to participate in the experiment. On the morning of the day it was supposed to happen, I downloaded the MP3 onto my computer and plugged my iPod in to sync it. Then this big ugly box popped up with a red X that told me that for whatever reason my computer wasn't reading my iPod and it couldn't sync. I retried many times but had to give up eventually and resigned to just following along with my computer and watching it.
At first the activities started out mellow: waving to the people watching, taking intermittent "naps" on the ground, skipping around the quad. Then it started picking up. There was one point when my computer froze and I couldn't tell what the students were being told and fell behind in the MP3. It was around this point when the participants started racing away from the quad, toward the people standing around the outside observing. I was a little nervous because I didn't know what to expect, but it turns out they only wanted a high-five.
One of the directions that the Facebook event gave beforehand was to come in a green, blue, red, or yellow shirt. Being divided into these groups would later dictate what activities they would do, including the largest game of Twister I have ever seen. Later they would try to create a dartboard. Red was asked to form the bull's eye, then green around the outside of them, then blue as the final ring. That left yellow standing around the outside wondering what their role would be. Their task? Be the darts, and find their way to the bull's eye. Many people could barely make it through the first ring of students. But one of the students wouldn't be stopped – people lifted him up and he crowd-surfed his way to the middle.
But my favorite part? The epic battle. At the end, the voice on the MP3 asked the students to separate into two groups. At one end of the quad near South Building stood the red and yellow students. At the other end near Wilson Library stood the blue and the green. The two groups were facing off, and preparing their weapons: balloons. Then all at the same time the students began marching toward each other, knees high, balloons raised toward the sky. A battle cry came from a student in the blue/green group: "For Narnia!" Music was playing, but again only in the heads of the students involved. So you can imagine how comical it looked to those of us watching. Anyone trying to walk on the pathways through Polk Place had to move quickly or become a casualty of the battle.
The two groups met at the flag pole, remaining about ten feet apart. Then the real fight began. The students ran at each other, jabbing the balloons at their enemies. The students who died were acting out very dramatic deaths. And everyone died; not a single person made it through the battle; not even the creator, Charlie Todd, who was participating alongside the students.
After the 25-minute experiment was over, everyone got together to sing the Alma Mater. Watching it being sung after such a simple activity is a unique Tar Heel experience. I love how much pride everyone has in this school and how often that song brings us together. I also love that Carolina's alumni are so diverse and that one of our very own came up with a social experiment that joined people in such an enjoyable and amusing way.
View a video of the MP3 experiment
Trailing the Gimghoul on Halloween
Ever heard of the secret society Carolina has called the Order of Gimghoul? It's a fascinating story. I love to hear about it because the idea of an old society existing at Carolina excites me. Freshman year my friends and I went to see the castle. It was late, dark, and we took the longest path through the woods. My imagination was getting the best of me as we were walking there. But when we made it to the castle I was glad I went – it has a certain beauty.
And I have always heard that at 12 a.m. on Halloween the members of Gimghoul march across campus and into the Forest Theater, where they have a short ceremony and move on to their castle. I had never seen this before, but my roommate talked me into it. I figured that as a senior, this would probably be my last chance to witness it. We heard that they were going to start at Carroll Hall and walk across Polk Place, so we camped out in front of South Building to watch. Then 12:00 came. Then 12:05. Then 12:07. I kept looking at my cell phone constantly, wondering where they were.
A couple minutes later we got a call from a friend who said they had changed up their path and were spotted in front of Kenan residence hall. So we all took off into a mad dash. I haven't run that fast in a long time. And of course I chose that night to wear a pair of cute new shoes that I had just bought and were giving me blisters. So I took them off and was running across a muddy open field. We saw the members of the Gimghoul right as they were heading into the Forest Theater, so we went in the back way.
They were wearing robes and had candles. You couldn't see anyone's face as they marched down the aisle and onto the stage. They lined up and were chanting – it struck me as a little creepy. One of my friends had dressed up in a Halloween outfit and was trying to get onto the stage with them, but they had people guarding it. When the chanting was finished, they blew out the candles and made a run towards the castle. The whole thing was a little bizarre, and a perfect start to Halloween 2009.
Of course on Halloween night I went to Franklin Street. I felt obligated, even though I hate trying to get through that crowd. But we had been working on our costumes ALL day and were ready to show them off. Seven of my friends and I went as the MarioKart characters. When we reached Franklin Street, we started racing each other and running through other people who were joining in the festivities. People seemed to love our costumes and we got a lot of requests for pictures. I have seen myself in many pictures on Facebook from people I don't even know.
So what I can say about my last Halloween at Chapel Hill is this: It was a definite success. Thank you, Chapel Hill, for giving me a place for four years where I can go all out with my costume since I am too old to go trick-or-treating (that would have been my first choice if it had been socially acceptable).