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Suckered by the dangling carrot of the American Dream and Horatio Alger, I spent my senior year anxiously filling out FAFSAs and college applications, in hopes of escaping the stifling milieu of small-town Florida. I sweated blood and spent many a sleepless night wondering if I'd ever get out, and when I finally found myself unpacking my things in my dorm room, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, I said to myself, it's over.

I arrived in Tampa with $60 in my pockets, and two garbage bags full of my few personal possessions. I cautiously allowed myself to dream, but caution soon gave way to reckless abandon. I dreamt of vacations in Shanghai and Prague. I dreamt of studying in Berlin, graduating with honors and going off to medical school, finding the girl I would marry and being a general all-around success story. I thought all the errors of my childhood would be made right in college.

I was dead-wrong, on all counts.

Instead of Berlin, I stayed right here in Tampa. Instead of medical school, I flunked out of my intended undergraduate major in biology, spent a year as a German Lit major (by that point, I just wanted out and didn't care how, as long as I got a degree) and then settled on anthropology, which I promised myself I'd graduate with. Instead of spending my days browsing art galleries and studying up a storm in furious all-night marathons in the library, I found myself working 35 hours a week just to make ends meet and collapsing dead-tired on my bed at midnight, only to get up at eight the next morning to make it to class on time. I did find a girl, and we both thought we would marry each other at the time, but eight months later, we both realized we were wrong.

Dead-wrong, on all counts. But four years later, here I am. I stand to graduate by this time next year with a B.A. (with honors) in anthropology and plans to go to graduate school at some point to become a real live anthropologist (with an planned detour in the developing world courtesy of the United States Peace Corps). I couldn't be happier with my choice of major or career, and snort at the thought that I once wanted to be a doctor. I have it great. I'm still poor and mostly dateless, but I have a few good friends and the respect of my classmates, professors and coworkers. I putter around on a moped, and cheerfully endure the chuckles of the rich kids who tailgate me in the Priuses and BMWs their fathers bought them, and who never worked a day in their life and probably never will. Something changed, and it was not my conditions...

College sucks for a lot of people. It sure sucked for me. I'm just glad I'm not the only one suckered in by the soothing reassurances of our high school guidance counselors, and others who should know better, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who seems to have come out okay at the other end.

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