First-years recall ‘back home’

Jens Krogstad

Rhonda Schwalbe walked through the halls of Centennial Hall like a politician working the crowd.

“Hey, how are you? Still studying for that test?” she asked her neighbor.

Moments later, she offered a similar greeting, using the person’s name. She repeated this for every person she passed in the hall.

Last month, Schwalbe said she was overworked and stressed about grades. This month, things remain the same, though she decided to drop a few things from her schedule. Overall, she said, she is happy with her college experience so far.

She casually mentioned she knows the names of everyone on her floor – a skill she picked up at high school marching band summer camps.

The camps are one of the things she misses from high school because of the great friendships she made. She said she got to know everyone in the 260-member band, and she carried that mindset to college.

Sitting in her room with the door open, Schwalbe said she does not miss her hometown, Manitowoc, Wis., much – considering this is the longest she has ever been away from there.

“I kind of miss my friends, but not my parents as much. It’s probably because I’ve been living with them for the past 18 years,” she said, laughing.

Suddenly, two students bolted out of the room across the hall, giggling mischievously.

They stop to explain, gasping for breath, “We just TP’d the room!”

Schwalbe said wrapping rooms with toilet paper and cleaning the rooms up for the room residents after they get back is her floor’s current craze.

Just then, a yell reverberated down the corridors of the hall, “I’m going to kill that little brat!”

Rhonda said the floor is now like a family, so not many people bother locking their doors.

“It’s an open-door policy – it’s one of the house rules,” she said.

Though she said she loves the family atmosphere of her residence hall floor, her busy schedule and academics are stressful.

She studied late into the night the day before, which is not unusual for her. At 4:30 a.m. in a chilly laundry room she studied math and history while waiting for her clothes to dry.

“My hands were purple. I think (the cold) was the only thing keeping me awake,” she said.

While schoolwork keeps her busy, she still finds time for activities such as intramural volleyball and serving as a hall representative to the Minnesota Student Association.

While these things take up a lot of her time, sometimes her late nights are caused by a problem common among college students.

“I’m a compulsive procrastinator,” she said.

She usually puts off things she enjoys least, typically papers and readings.

The most difficult thing about college classes is that she is not a good test-taker, which creates a problem because most classes depend on them, she said.

But all this work does not dampen her spirit. Working long days and sleeping short hours is second nature for the farm girl from Wisconsin.

She is the first in her family to go to college, and as a result, she said, she thinks her brothers look up to her, even the older ones.

“We all have a really good work ethic, but I put it into school because I know it will to something good,” she said.

Joey Torke

Joey Torke sat in his residence hall room to tell his Halloween adventure and noted the comfortable temperature.

He said the heater was broken until this week because he did not bother to get it fixed until he was nearly seeing his breath.

Torke said he got a ride to Madison, Wis., with a friend to go to a Halloween party but quickly changed his story.

“Actually, he didn’t even drive me – I did. He said he was too tired on the way (there) and too hung over on the way back,” he said.

Last month, Torke seemed to take the life changes college brought in stride. Today, Torke continues to be level-headed, not getting too stressed over anything, including broken heaters.

But he is having a great time at college. The University has become his new home, and he is not looking forward to going home over Thanksgiving or winter break, he said.

“Everything’s the same back home,” he said.

Things were anything but boring in Madison for Torke. After being dropped off, he went to meet a friend arriving from Milwaukee, Wis. When the friend did not show up, Torke tried calling him on his cell phone, only to find it did not work. He figured out that he had to walk over to the lake to get reception.

It was then that he realized he was the only one in Madison without a costume, he said.

Eventually, he made it over to his sister’s house, who is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She issued an ultimatum: No costume, no party.

So Torke dressed up in one of his sister’s short skirts and some feminine accessories.

“I put some little flowers in my hair and had big boobs to make me look like a girl,” he said.

Properly outfitted, Torke walked to the party on State Street. He said he saw a Duffman costume, lots of “girls dressed in short, short skirts” and lots of police.

Saturday night, he had dinner with his parents. Now that he is at the University, they shared their college experiences with him, which is where they first met, he said.

Torke discovered that his parents did not like each other in college, because they were so different.

“I guess my dad got drunk all the time in college, and my mom would get pissed,” he said.