native of Scarborough, Ontario, Beena Ahmad, editor-in-chief of
the Spectrum in 1999-2000, received her B.A. in English from UB
in May. Her goals include pursuing a newspaper internship, magazine
feature writing, and a life spent "soaking up experiences."
By Beena Ahmad, '00
years ago, they arrived from all over. Like love notes from suitors
wooing the belle of the ball, glossy packages of varying shapes
and sizes saturated my mailbox every day. Invitations requesting
my presence at special functions, enticing me to take weekend
It's a rite of passage of sorts, receiving
one's very own junk mail. The first time the world noticed me
was the spring before my junior year of high school. Brochures
piled high on my desk and spilled over the floor, carpeting my
room with a patchwork of college logos.
in this sea of debris, my mother would find me wading through
cities, campuses and happy smiling faces caught up in moments
photo by: Frank Miller
I lived vicariously through those pages,
seeking the possibilities-adventure? comradeship?-I'd never realized
in high school. And somehow I felt those photogenic faces held
the answers to what I might become if I just picked the right
Through my college search, like a search
for shoes, I tried on several schools for size, appeal and comfort.
I imagined myself in NYU's lecture halls, in the giant chemistry
laboratories at Columbia, in Cornell's wood-paneled library; flanked
by friends at a Michigan football game, or meeting someone in
Central Park between classes or at a New Brunswick corner near
Rutgers for ice cream.
Strangely, while the sophisticated waterfront
pictures from Boston University's catalog and the holographic
emblem on Duquesne's high-end brochure remain fresh in my memory,
nothing out of the ordinary comes to mind when I try to recall
UB's promotional material. I'm sure I found places like Baird
Point and Hayes Hall charming with their classical Roman and Greek
elegance. The shiny pages probably glowed with inspiring professors
unveiling the secrets of complex molecular reactions to intrigued
students; culture and art captured in a moment of motion on a
university stage; the requisite snapshots of happy college students
just, well, being college students. What was it about UB that
captured my imagination?
Looking back, I realize my college career
reads like a personal success story. I learned I didn't need to
strive to become a mediocre scientist because I found out I belonged
in the English department. I joined the Spectrum to pursue a hobby
and ended up finding a career. But when I was a freshman, I didn't
know the great things that lay ahead. And I didn't know I might
one day question whether I would lose something by gaining more
than I ever expected out of college.
Earlier this year, a friend and I were
walking along the UB spine on our way to my Hadley Village apartment.
As we paused in Capen Hall, I looked up and one of the giant photographs
on the wall suddenly caught my eye. I found myself thinking, Did
I lose sight of my one goal?
The fleeting thought startled me. In a
sense, I sacrificed my last year of college to the Spectrum by
assuming the position of editor-in-chief. (How many "normal"
students spend their days talking to the university administrators
about the school's budget and their nights scanning for commas
in stories about parking lots?)
As senior year winds down, I've been asking
myself whether I've experienced my fair share not just of college,
but of UB in particular. Joining the Spectrum was never part of
my initial plan, but it's become such a part of me that I can't
help wondering if it's replaced something else, something more
simple-and desirable for that simplicity.
Gazing at that Capen Hall photo of three
girls cheering wildly in their UB sweatshirts, I remembered a
few football games my friends and I had attended in our sophomore
year to combat our own apathy. We'd realized we didn't have the
right to whine-from the confines of a Governors dorm room-about
being bored on campus, complaining there was nothing to do around
here. As a UB player tackled the other guy, I found myself on
my feet screaming with my friends. I don't even like football.
A fellow chemistry student and I once
attempted to memorize the structures of all 21 amino acids in
the beautiful Health Sciences Library on the South Campus. We
accomplished little, but we must have looked the picture of diligence.
I've been to enough Center for the Arts events to appreciate the
beauty of college theater. I still make time to lounge around
with a few good friends, doing nothing in particular but, well,
In brief snapshots, my "moments of
experience," I've still played the average college kid in
khakis, a hooded sweatshirt, or "going out" clothes,
at Alumni Arena, in a Milton class, or in my dorm room. Maybe
what I was hoping for, back when I was knee-deep in college logos
in my room at home, was just what I've had here: a series of moments
where we play the part until we mold ourselves into the role so
well that we can't even see ourselves as the camera sees us.
All I ever wanted was the average college
experience, which I think may be why I chose Buffalo and UB-a
fairly typical state university in an "All-America City."
Somewhere along the way, certain key decisions made UB become
so much more than just another typical university to me. The PR
photos came to life, and now I'm the one who's smiling.