You can tell Mills natives apart from its newcomers; they exude a seemingly effortless aura of Mills-ness, a confident familiarity with their surroundings, coupled with a sense of purpose and direction.
As a transfer student on my first day at Mills, this familiarity seemed out of reach, as the campus was still a whole new world for me.
That first day, I stepped off the bus outside the imposing iron bars of Seminary gate, and was completely lost, standing in the outside world amidst traffic and sirens, looking in at a sanctuary of Eucalyptus-shaded walkways and imposing buildings oozing with academic authority.
Not knowing how to get in, I looked around uncertainly and noticed a girl purposefully walking towards the pedestrian gate. I approached her with my Mills ID out, and she helpfully showed me how to key in the code. Her friendliness and helpfulness saved me the trip around the perimeter of campus to the main gate, which I was about to undertake with a Mills map in hand. It was instances like that, where a total stranger offered advice or directions.
Through experience and interaction with the Mills community, I slowly began to find my niche and get into the rhythm of things. Between classes, I discovered the little corner in the library with upholstered benches perfect for curling up to read the hundreds of pages assigned by my various professors each week. The library is just cozy enough to be comfortable while still being academically conducive, and the librarians, especially Michael Beller, are amazing. I remember when I first walked in there expecting the usual host of dour librarians and came across Michael, whose distinct style and subtle wit are the antithesis of dour.
When I’m not catching up on reading or writing papers in the library, I usually head over to the busy Tea Shop to pick up something to eat in the commuter lounge. I make sure to free my hands by dropping off my load of textbooks at the nearby commuter locker. In the commuter lounge, which had seemed cold and empty during orientation, I discovered a warm place to kick back with fellow commuters, and learned that the fuzzy couch by the pool table is far more comfortable than the brown leather one on the opposite end of the room.
At first, I wasn’t sure how to take advantage of the commuter services at Mills, but when I made my way to the Office of Student Activities over at Rothwell Center, the fabulous Kendra Caesar was more than helpful. Her energy truly captured the helpful spirit of the Mills community, which I noticed everywhere I went, be it within the hallowed halls of learning or the lush expanses of greenery outside.
Shaded hiking trails and peaceful fountains are always tempting me to explore, but there never seems to be enough time in between classes, which works for me because the classes themselves are my favorite part of the Mills experience. The smaller class sizes were an adjustment, but made for enhanced interaction with my professors and peers, whose diversity and broad knowledge base make Mills a true hub of academia.
As a part of Mills, I realized that the process of truly transitioning into a Mills student was not only knowing who you are, but how you fit into your community and world. That aura of Mills-ness exuded by those who have been at Mills for a long time can be described as the perfect blend of individuality and community, the embodiment of the Mills motto, “One destination, many paths.” As a Mills student, I am now able to navigate campus with relative familiarity, and the days where I carried the tricky campus map around with me are long gone. There are still a myriad of Mills experiences that I have yet to explore, but I am well on my way to achieving my Mills-ness.