By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern
I came to Pittsburgh for the first time when I was about 14 or 15 years old. My father is a Steelers fan, surprisingly there are a lot of Steelers fans strewn about New England, and my mother had gotten him two tickets for a Steelers’ home game. So the three of us drove the 8 hours to the steel city. While my parents watched the game I was in our hotel room playing Pokemon Emerald using an emulator on my phone. We did all of the touristy stuff that weekend, we took the bus tour and visited the incline, and then we made the 8-hour trip back home. I never thought I would see Pittsburgh again.
My senior year of high school I had no clue where I wanted to go to college. I knew I didn’t have the grades to go to Fordham, my number one pick, and I knew I wasn’t going to wrestle in college, though I still held onto the hope that I might. I really was lost in the sea of college recruiters. At the college fair in my high school’s auditorium, a recruiter from Duquesne talked to me. I didn’t know anything about the college, and I didn’t really care. The recruiter seemed nice enough, the photos looked cool, and one of my friends was a freshman there at the time. Why not add it to my list of applications?
Of all the colleges I applied to, three were affordable enough to be reasonable. Fordham and Drexel wanted upwards of 70,000 dollars, so that was just a non-starter. What was left was Elizabethtown, some college in Virginia whose name I can’t remember, and Duquesne.
I visited the Virginia college. They had a decent D3 wrestling program, but the vibes of the campus were just…off-putting. The campus was on a multi-hundred-acre piece of property in the woods, but apparently if you ventured too deep you might run into some moonshiners who wouldn’t take too kindly to your explorations. This came straight from my tour guide, and as he said it I could hear banjos playing in my mind. I don’t like banjos. Worst of all, this college did not have any majors that I was interested in. If I were to have chosen this nameless college, it would have been solely to continue my wrestling career and there was no guarantee that I would ever make it on the team. Of my three options, I knew this would not be a real contender.
I visited Elizabethtown, or E-town as its students called it. E-town seemed nice. It was a small campus, but all the buildings looked up to date. It had some good programs that I might have been interested in. It had a low-tier D3 wrestling team that I thought could use a heavyweight. Truly, the only downside to E-town was that it was smack dab in the middle of Amish country. I don’t have anything against the Amish, they seem like nice people, but when I thought about where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life, my four years of true personal growth and development, cornfields didn’t seem like the optimal place. I left E-town less dissatisfied than the Virginia college. It was a real contender.
Duquesne’s acceptance letter came later than all of the others. I had forgotten that I had even applied to Duquesne, but the acceptance came with a scholarship on par with E-town’s, so it was worth a look. I think it was near St. Paddy’s day weekend that my father and I took the trip west to Pittsburgh. We did the tour of the college, I thought it was a nice campus even though it wasn’t as big as the Virginia college’s nor as clean looking as E-town’s. The programs looked better than E-town’s, how could a rural college ever compete with a city college in the areas of multimedia production? Everything seemed good, but Duquesne didn’t have a wrestling program. That was a pretty big con to me. I left the official tour leaning towards E-town.
My father and I departed once I got to St. Anne’s hall. I was going to spend the night with my friend who was already enrolled at Duquesne as a freshman. Our plan was to chill and watch the D1 wrestling championship that was being televised. The night went as planned until he got summoned by some of his frat bros. He was a pledge at the time, and whenever the frat brothers called, he had to answer. Thus ensued a wild night which, with the hindsight of a 22-year-old was not that wild, but to a 17-year-old from a rural town in Connecticut was an absolute ball. I left that weekend with a sense that I had found where I’d spend the next four years of my life. I never thought that Pittsburgh would be where I’d end up, but life has a habit of taking you where you least expect.
I came back to Pittsburgh a week before classes started my freshman year. I was a part of the multicultural program that let freshman come in early. It was scary at first. I’d been away from home and amongst strangers dozens of times before, but this was different. I had anxiety doing the most basic things like going to the meetings that they had set up for the multicultural students or going to the dining hall. I was kind of a wreck just waiting for my roommate and everyone else to arrive.
My roommate had been a part of Duquesne’s Spiritan program, so with him came a connection to a bunch of people that I would have otherwise never interacted with. Immediately, I was fortunate enough to start the year off with a strong group of friends. Freshman year was an adventure. From the fights me and my roommate would get into, the shenanigans that we would find ourselves in all throughout the city, there wasn’t a single day that was boring. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.
My sophomore year, nearly all of those friends had left Duquesne. All that remained was one or two people from that initial squad, but we persevered. We still found ourselves fighting and getting into shenanigans. By the end of that year, they had left too.
Junior year I got an apartment off campus. That whole year seems like a blur. My friends at that point came from outside of Duquesne and college had solidified itself into being the place of learning that it always should have been. Senior year came, with the second half being the you know what. I had to take another year to finish up my classes, and here I am.
Barring any failure on my part, of which I never rule out the possibility of, I’m going to graduate in two weeks. The stories and experiences I have from my time at Duquesne could fill up a whole book. I have my regrets and I have my cherished memories. I don’t know what’s next. In many ways, I am no different from the boy I was playing Pokemon in the Hilton at the Waterfront. Maybe some thread of my life in these past four years that I never thought would be important again will play a major role in my future. I am no different than that boy who went to Virginia, or E-town, or Duquesne for the first time. I have so many possibilities before me, and I have no clue which to choose. I am no different than that boy who came to campus a week early. I’m nervous about this new stage of my life and I don’t know why. What I do know is that I love this city, Pittsburgh will always and forever be the place I draw my love, my creativity, and my hope from. I know that I chose correctly in coming to Duquesne, not because of the classes (though my professors have all been wonderful people), not because of the deep Christian roots (that was never even a part of the equation for me), but because of the growth that it allowed for me to have. Finally, I know that the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had with them, whether good or bad, are more valuable than any degree on the planet.
So with this last blog post I say: sayonara to Duquesne. It’s been real, it’s been fun, it’s been real fun, and you and I will always be back then.