It was a lovely Monday Morning at the University of Maryland Baltimore. It had taken George Kinloch twenty minutes to trek to the Center for Information Technology Services, where most of his lessons will take place.
He was 17 years old and had applied for admission here because his senior brother had recommended the place for him. So here he was, at the campus site and going to face his first course.
But something about the environment felt off.
He looked at the building. It was all glass and marble. People, mostly students, were entering the door for one of the several classes hosted here. It was his first day of the lecture here, and he knew he looked and acted like a freshman.
He stood hesitantly before the enormous building. Then he adjusted his baseball cap and shirt and went to find his lecture room.
George entered the rowdy class. It was still early in the morning for the first lecture, and all the students, who seemed to have known each other previously, were throwing a leather ball and playing pranks on each other and shouting without a care in the world.
George found the first and pew to be nearly empty, and he chose a seat here. He brought out an exercise book with the name of the first course stenciled on it. Economics 101.
He kept this in front of him and looked around. Strange faces stared back at him. His eyes met with the boy in the upper row. He sat straight and looked ahead, almost like a frightened animal. So George nodded at him, but the boy looked away and George felt embarrassed.
He turned to his front and waited for the course to begin.
Then he noticed her. She had unblemished skin and the clearest blue eyes you ever saw, and a mane of blond hair that fell in waves up to her shoulders. She was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and carried her books in a bag.
She came in, took a cursive look around the class, and came straight to where he sat and sat down in the empty seat next to him. He watched her bring out her books.
She looked at him and smiled. “Hi, I hope you don’t mind?
He smiled. “It’s a free world.”
She laughed easily at that. “A free world, right?”
She reached out her hand. “I am Jane… Jane Dowdle.”
He introduced himself. “George Kinloch. It’s good to meet you.”
She looked at him, trying to place him.
“You not from around here, are you?”
He shook his head and laughed.
“I’m an African. My mum is from Texas, though.”
“Wow… you have a long way.”
Just then, a lecturer came in and George’s face fell.
Jane was looking at him and laughed. “You look kinda crushed. Tell you what, George, you take me to launch and we could get to know each other?”
His smile came back, and he nodded at her.
“You have yourself a deal!”
Then they concentrated on the lecture. He was smiling throughout.
Everything feels great now.