Recently, I had the opportunity of heading back to the ole alma mater. I had expectations of being welcomed back with opened arms and warm smiles, but I was slightly disappointed. While I was sorely missed by friends and dear faculty, the general feeling I received was one of ambivalence. I was no longer a paying customer, and as such, for them, I had moved on. While some faculty were interested in my accomplishments, most did not want me to discuss them with their classes or recruit for my graduate school.
I knew that education was a business, but this felt more like a Rockefeller oil yard or a Carnegie steel mill, it was strict and confining. I write this post, not to dismay any reader or to advocate separation from one’s alma mater, but rather to illustrate that sometimes expectations of a warm homecoming can be misplaced.
Do not expect your alma mater to go out of its way for you. They have given you your education and piece of paper (diploma), and they do not owe you anything else. While this may sound rather blunt, the underlining principle is more important: people are people. Stay in touch with faculty you care about. These are the people that will go out of their way for you. Do not look at your alma mater as an institution; instead, look at it as a dorm housing your friends, colleagues, and favorite teachers. Return with happiness in your heart, and connect with those that really matter
I for one, when I returned, discovered some of the people for whom I cared about did not share the same feelings toward me. But, even as several teachers shunned me, many others brought me back into the folds with good conversations and caring advice. In fact, a department I once though disliked me, in fact, had nothing but respect for my ideas. I am very thankful for the trip, and I hope to stay in touch with teachers I no longer simply look up to, but instead, look at as friends.