I was scared to step into the new wing of Armstrong. That sounds a little silly, and maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s true that I avoided the new addition like the plague for the first two weeks that I was back in Oxford.
I’m not particularly welcoming of change in my personal life. I don’t like when my routine gets interrupted. So I pledged to stay away from the unknown and stick to the parts of Armstrong that I have, somewhat begrudgingly, grown fond of for the past two years.
But eventually I made my way over, staring disgustedly at the spot where I’m used to seeing a plain wall. Instead, it was open and bathed in natural light. It was also quiet — I felt like I was in a library, prohibited from disturbing the peace.
The Lux Café was host to activity and slightly more noise as students ordered drinks and sandwiches for lunch. But even those who had laptops set up at the tables with friends were quieter than I expected (I suppose they’re better studiers than I).
I will bitterly — due to my strong opinions of the namesake behind the café, having just returned from studying abroad at the Luxembourg campus — admit that I do like the vibe of the café. Its dark paneling and counter setup make it feel more like a local coffee shop than one of many options in the student center.
That was a major takeaway as I wandered through the clean, almost too-white halls and peered into the pristinely set-up study and meeting rooms: Things in this part of Armstrong are much more individualized and sectioned off. The Lux Café is completely separate from the Red Zone on the second floor, and you can’t always see across or below to other areas.
And everything is too new. It’s as if I’m in a house that doesn’t feel like a home, where I can’t sit on the couch for fear of messing it up. The themed furniture and game tables in the Red Zone are too bright. It’s not the red-brick picture of Miami that I fell in love with when I was young, the Miami I still love today.
So maybe this is what getting older is. Maybe this is what my mom, an alumna who reminisces about all that’s changed in Oxford since her time here, feels every time she visits.
I must look lost as I meander around the near-empty new wing because the students working there stare at me. They stare like I’m a freshman — I know because it’s the look that I, as a junior, give freshmen, or tour groups that take up the whole sidewalk.
But maybe their looks aren’t completely off base. I don’t belong here.
I look around at the people with their notebooks sprawled to mark their territory and feet propped comfortably on a table, and I think about my own “spots” on other parts of campus. I will never have a spot here. I will probably always refer to is as the “new” part of Armstrong, and it’s likely that I won’t ever venture here again.
I make it back across the bridge that connects to Armstrong as I know it, back to the familiar sounds of feet on the stairs, smoothies being blended and the “tap” of an ID.
I prefer to live out my last two years here in the comfort of what I know. But for those more welcoming of change, first-years and students to come, I do hope you find your place there.