Life at 'ZooMass' was sweet, but Utah State feels like
By Rebekah Bradway
September 18, 2007 | Welcome to ZooMass.
Above the couple thousand heads, many dizzy with drunkenness
and smiling with delight over their welcoming back to
school, I read these words of truth. The University
of Massachusetts, or UMass, was definitely a zoo. And
for now, I was only a tourist, coming to the show of
animals as a sophomore from good old Utah State University,
in which there was never such a large and loud gathering
of people who would likely have only a blurred and vague
recollection of the night when morning (or likely afternoon)
Although they may remember one word from that courtyard
at the Townhouses: cops.
Cops? Oh no. But I only had one beer! And my new friend
from today was just standing right there! And where
is everyone going? How are they leaving? Where's JT?
"Oh, hello officer."
But nothing happened.
And then there I was, leaving the huge welcome party
with JT, my feet crunching on another shiny beer can
every few steps. "We are so lucky we didn't get MIPs.
I was so scared!" I was definitely breathing easier
than I had been, but my heart rate was still worthy
of at least five Red Bulls.
"What's an MIP?" JT asked.
And as I explained the fees and meetings and community
service a couple of my friends had dealt with in Logan
for drinking while under 21, JT's face also explained
some things to me: There was really no punishment in
Amherst, Mass., for underage drinking. Except maybe,
as she questioned, "a slap on the wrist?"
I probably shouldn't have learned such a carefree
lesson on that first night of pure nervousness. But
then maybe the earlier, the better. It was something
easy to get caught up in, drinking, especially at one
of the top 10 party schools in the nation. I met lots
of friends, and did lots of partying.
I noticed when I went out the masses of girls who
actually showed their cleavage, and how five of them
would sometimes surround one collared-shirt-wearing,
gelled-hair guy -- without them all being his wives!
And I noticed the prevalence of excitement and alcohol,
the two most likely correlating in amount.
Shots were my favorite, as my friends and I would
share a bottle of Seagram's lime-twisted gin constantly,
and then there were "Weekends of Wine," or WOWs, full
of giggles and red faces from me, my new friend Laura
and others I met from the volleyball team I had made.
My volleyball team, along with the men's team, kept
our drinking going by playing another sport as well:
beirut, or beer pong as it's called here in Utah. We
would shoot ping pong balls into cups of beer for hours
to make each other drink and become dizzy and outgoing
ourselves. I knew and enforced every small rule in this
game, making it somewhat of a hobby of mine. And the
faster the drinks went down, the more satisfied I was.
Simply put, I loved the Zoo. I loved my team, and
I loved the parties. My enthusiasm for my new school
could be put into just three words that I often use
when talking about my time there: It was sweet.
But it definitely wasn't home. Obviously I was in
a different state, thousands of miles away from the
easy-going and simple Cache Valley, but it wasn't just
that. There was nothing even like home -- from my crazy
weekends to my lesbian roommate to the leafy hills for
"scenery." And hunger started putting me to sleep. Not
hunger for friends or hunger for things to do. I was
plenty full of those. But it's like when you're so full
from your chicken and broccoli dinner, yet there's still
room to squeeze in that brownie for dessert. I was eager
to fill that small pocket with something homemade and
So I thought Utah thoughts. I kept thinking of Logan
and Salt Lake, but there were no mountains for me to
look at, and I had to make my own fry sauce for lunches,
causing a few strange looks my way.
Then I remembered when I had first arrived in Amherst,
driving with my dad. He showed me that if you got onto
the main campus drive, there was a left turn next to
the Shop-N-Go at the corner. From that street, two more
lefts would lead you straight to the LDS Church, which
happened to be five minutes from my grungy dorm, yet
it was the closest one for a radius of about two hours.
My first time there, I was thawed; I went from hesitation
to engulfing warmth within minutes of meeting the other
10 students from four other colleges in the area --
none of the other students were undergrads at UMass.
But several of them were from Utah, one even knowing
my neighbors and talking about my hometown Salt Lake.
We talked about high school rivalries and who we knew
from one another's schools back home.
And the word "home" was finally present. My craving
was satisfied, and I was instead put to bed by a content
feeling of peace.
Yes I drank, and yes I continued to attend church
as often as my hangovers would allow. And as hypocritical
as it sounds, living my life with these two extremes
-- I love alcohol and alcohol is not allowed -- actually
kept me balanced, possibly more than I am now that I'm
back in Logan for my senior year of school. Here I get
enough Utah to never feel the need to even look at a
church, although I'm pretty sure I could hit one if
I threw a rock from my house in any direction.
So I'll keep searching for balance here -- could I
say at Zoo-tah State?