Monday, April 16, 2012

Northwestern Bound: Emma's College Years

Emma at 14
Leaving home to go to college can be a scary proposition.  It's a lot scarier when you're only fourteen years old.  That was what awaited Emma Earl when she was accepted at Northwestern University to study geology.  Having thrown herself into her studies after her parents died, Emma wound up skipping a few grades, allowing her to graduate 3-4 years before the other kids in her senior class.

While that is a great accomplishment, it also meant Emma would be the youngest student on campus by a few years.  Making the situation worse was that before she left, her Aunt Gladys was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  Emma volunteered to go to Rampart State in the city so she could remain close to her aunt, but Gladys urged her to go ahead to Northwestern as planned to get a better education.  Reluctantly Emma agreed to go.

Having never left home, not even for a sleepover when she was little, it was a painful adjustment to find herself alone on a campus with thousands of other students.  Her roommate did little to make her feel welcome, openly complaining about being assigned to "babysit the little kid."  The situation was especially awkward when Emma would go back to her dorm room from studying in the library to find her roommate making out with her boyfriend on Emma's bed.  There was little Emma could do then but sit outside and wait for them to be done, all the while wishing she could be back home with her aunt and best friend Becky.

Some of the faculty didn't roll out the red carpet for Emma either.  One calculus professor in particular tried to prove the little genius to be a fraud by making her solve a problem on the board in front of the class.  He had deliberately written some of the equations wrong, hoping to fool her.  Instead, Emma pointed out where his equations were wrong and went on to solve them correctly.  While that might have proved she was as smart as her transcripts said, it didn't win the hearts and minds of her teachers.

Things took an even worse turn the next fall.  While studying in the library, Emma was approached by a girl who struck up a conversation with her.  The girl eventually invited Emma to a sorority party.  Naively thinking she might finally have a friend on campus, Emma went to the party only to find a line of frat pledges waiting to kiss her as part of a hazing ritual.  Embarrassed, Emma ran away sobbing.  She contemplated calling her aunt to ask to come home, but decided against it.  Instead she decided to persevere and complete her degree the next summer in spite of the adversity.

By the next fall Emma had gone on to Cal-Berkeley to get her doctorate.  Knowing the kind of reception she would receive, Emma kept to herself more than ever, focusing on her studies while trying to ignore the insults.  All the while she focused on returning to Rampart City to get a job at the Plaine Museum, where she had dreamed of working since she was a toddler.  That single-minded determination didn't make things easier, but it kept her going through the dark times, until at last she could move back home and be reunited with her best friend--her only friend.

O is for Order of the Scarlet Knight


  1. You've nailed the angst a kid goes through those first years on their own. Good job.

  2. Few superhero stories get inside the mind of the hero -- probably because comic books can't get too introspective, being essentially short films. One of the things I liked best about "Soon I Will Be Invincible" was it did to a little of this "peek into the head" stuff.

    The idea that superpowers -- or being supersmart -- can be kind of a curse is a neat one. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out in the book.

    I realize this comment is a little out of character for me in that I haven't said anything bizarre or plugged my own stuff herein. It's early on a Monday. I'll make up for it later on.

  3. Did she have a bicycle wreck before she had that picture taken? Nothing makes me more annoyed than folks who treat people unfairly. Poor Emma.

    1. The marks on her face are supposed to be zits. It's one of the add-ons someone made that I downloaded. It also included freckles, hickies, and green zits for aliens.

  4. It's always rough when you have to sleep away from home for the first time. Very creative stuff. New follower and a-z visitor
    - Maurice Mitchell
    The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
    @thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

  5. Poor Emma! I was much like her...except for the genius part, always the youngest in any class I took. I hope she gets to go "Carrie" on these bad girls and teachers who tormented her.

  6. The hazing ritual sounds like something I'd see on a college campus. College kids tend to make poor decisions when it comes to that kind of thing (and what they find funny isn't necessarily what everyone else finds funny).

    The math connection is really cool. My protag (Jordan) is also a math whiz. It's cool how our minds think alike when it comes to our writing.

    Maybe we should work on a project some day as co-writers.



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