Syracuse University Magazine

Accent on the College Experience

One of my college friends took great pleasure in doing impressions of my accent. Accent? What accent? I didn’t have any accent; I was from Central New York. We spoke normal here as far as I knew. Besides, we were in Boston (talk about top-ranked accents to parrot), he was from New Jersey, and we were surrounded on our dormitory floor by guys from all over the place: more from New Jersey, plus every borough in New York, downstate, Long Island, Philadelphia, Michigan, D.C., and New England, especially the Boston area. There was a kid from Spain and even a couple guys from Tennessee. The place was rife with material for accent impressions and yet, funny guy that he was, my friend worked up a fairly amusing routine of me talking. Years later, a well-traveled Texas native told me his belief that the Midwest starts in Central New York. “You sound like you’re from Cleveland,” he said.

While the collection of accents on that dorm floor was diverse, so were our majors, backgrounds, religious beliefs, races, ethnicities, interests, and, of course, our sports teams and our opinions. We had a blast, too. We worked hard, played hard, goofed off, and grew up together. Many of us forged lifelong friendships—and that’s a part of my college experience I’ve always valued.

Now, decades later here at Syracuse, I enjoy hearing alumni and students share similar tales of their college experiences. For instance, in our feature on Orange game-day rituals, Bruce Waltuck ’73 gave me a flashback when I read his opening lines: “In my junior year, I moved to the seventh floor of Booth Hall. I met the amazing guys who became and remain my friends—the ‘Zoo Crew.’” Likewise, in conversation with Tomas Smith ’16, I marveled at his description of the SU Boxing Club as a “melting pot” with members from all sorts of places and backgrounds. “That’s what I love about it,” he says.

In an article on the University 100 organization, student ambassador Jared Birchmore ’18 reminds us how a big campus can be personalized and made to feel smaller by getting involved in organizations. There are hundreds of groups and activities that students can join, finding like-minded travelers exploring the same path. For some, the transition to college can be mind boggling, instilling thoughts of “What have I gotten myself into?” and the plague of homesickness. Orientation activities and friendly upper-class students can often ease the introduction to campus and help freshmen acclimate to their new surroundings as they learn to bond together and get an idea of the adventures ahead. Heck, I even discovered that a lifelong Yankees fan can become friends with Red Sox fans (though there are limits).

As new students arrive on campus from across the country and around the world in a few weeks, I hope they embrace the opportunity to meet each other, learn about their lives, discover their commonalities, and make friendships that they will cherish throughout their lifetimes. It’s one of the great benefits of college, a priceless gift that can lead to so much more.

Jay Cox