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  Written by
  Rachel Anne Dion,

  Photography by
  Dan Dry


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Campus of the Big Ideas
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You Go Girl!


You Go Girl!
In its second annual future alumni essay contest the Magazine invited graduating fourth-years in the College to write about what they'll remember most. For anthropology concentrator Rachel Anne Dion, the answer was easy: girls who just want to have fun.

I was hypnotically deep in my readings when there was a knock at my door. "Come in," I called without raising my head. The door swung open and hit the wall behind it with a shuddering bang.

IMAGE:  Rachel Anne Dion (center) and the rest of the gang (clockwise from bottom left):  Amber Staab, '04; Meredith Durkin, '03; Nora Friedman, '04; and Amy Althoff, '03.
Rachel Anne Dion (center) and the rest of the gang (clockwise from bottom left): Amber Staab, '04; Meredith Durkin, '03; Nora Friedman, '04; and Amy Althoff, '03.

Meredith, the self-proclaimed "walking distraction," stood in the doorway without entering, her full, flame-colored hair highlighting her pale, serious face. "Five hundred dollars round-trip Chicago to Paris. Pack your bags, ladies. We're leaving the country tonight." She spun on her heel and returned to her room without closing the door.

Two weeks later I returned from a weekend at home to find another dramatic pronouncement on the wipe-board outside my room: "Join the Surly Girls' World Tour Spring Break 2001." I snorted, unloaded my luggage, and hurried to get dinner before the dining hall closed. Meredith was on her way out as I entered, and her face took on an even more smugly feline aspect than usual when she saw me.

"Have you talked to Amy?"

"About what?"

She looked even smugger. "Talk to Amy," she intoned with a Jedi mind-trick gesture.


Again, the closed-lip smile and the Jedi hand gesture. "Talk to Amy."

"Does this have something to do with the note on my board?"

Her eyes to one side, she demanded in a slightly higher voice, "What note?"

I laughed. "Oh my gosh, it does. Where are you planning on going?"

She grinned. "London!"

I laughed again. "Have fun."

"Uh-uh. You're coming with us."

"Yeah, right. I can't afford that."

"See, this is why you were supposed to talk to Althoff! She could make it sound reasonable. Talk to Amy. Talk to Amy." She waved the hand again rapidly.

I grabbed her arm, and, clutching my tray with the other arm, dragged her into the dining room with me.

While I'd been gone, Meredith had been surfing the Net instead of reading, and she'd come across a $250 round-trip airfare to London on Virgin Atlantic for the week of spring break. She'd told Amy, Nora, and Amber, and they had all decided that the opportunity was too good to miss. They'd researched hostels and museum admissions and figured out that the trip would come to $1,000, including airfare, a stay at a hostel, food, and sightseeing.

"Wow. Have fun."

"No! You don't get it. You're coming too. Rachel Anne, $1,000 is really cheap for a week in London."

"I'm sure it is, but I only have $52 in my bank account right now, and I need to pay tuition and buy books." Meredith had some savings, and Nora's parents were willing to pay. Amy and Amber had savings they hadn't had to use because of scholarships, but I was struggling to make ends meet with my job at Telefund, grants, and loans.

Nora interrupted. "Can your parents help?"

"Sheesh, no. I wish I could afford to help them. I mean they aren't in trouble, but-"

"Can you get more hours at work and save up before spring break?" Amy asked.

"Not $1,000. I'm already working as many hours as I can, and you need the money for the plane ticket soon, right?"

Nora suggested selling my nonexistent valuables. Meredith told me to hit up my grandparents. Amy, the pastor's daughter, resident master's assistant, and Community Service Center employee, suggested that we hold a bake sale in front of Cobb.

"A thousand-dollar bake sale?"

"We could have a bunch of them. Or-we're all creative. We could sell scarves and crafts."

I raised my eyebrow.

Later that evening Nora and Meredith burst into my room after house meeting. "You're going to London. We're blackmailing Zeke," Meredith announced.

"No blackmail!"

"It's Zeke! It doesn't count!"

"No blackmail!"

Nora stepped toward me. "Rachel Anne, I respect your morals, and normally I'd agree with you, but it's Zeke! I mean, this is the guy who was standing under Meredith's window an hour ago yelling 'Show us your tits!'"


"Yeah," Meredith chimed in. "It might even do him some good. Teach him a lesson."

Apparently, Zeke [name changed to protect the guilty], a.k.a. "Cancer man," "Candyman," "The Camel," "The Cigarette Smoking Man," had announced in house meeting that his parents somehow hadn't found out yet that their son smokes two packs a day, so he'd appreciate it if no one called him by any of his nicknames or "er, mentioned my other extracurricular activities during Parents' Weekend."

"I will not go to London on blackmail money."

"Fine." They trailed out.

By noon the next day I felt I'd finally convinced them that I wasn't going to London. I would be overjoyed to live vicariously through my friends, but I simply couldn't afford the trip. They needed to buy the tickets on Tuesday, so the question had to be settled by then anyhow.

Monday evening, I returned from work to be greeted by Amy and Meredith. "We need to talk," they said, pulling me into Meredith's room.

"Guys, I can't go! I'm sorry. Come on, you know I would if I could; I've never even been to Canada. I yearn to travel, I just can't afford it."

"Shut up. We talked to Pam," Meredith said. Pam Bozeman is our fabulous Resident Head. "She understands that you need to leave the country, and she's willing to pay us way more than our lazy asses are worth. If Amy and I split a job at her consulting firm, she'll pay us $500 by March, so all you'll have to come up with is the other half."

I stared at them.

"Um, she said you have to have your parents' permission; she won't send anyone under 21 out of the country against their parents' will," Amy added.

"So, do you still want to go?" Meredith asked, almost meekly.

I nodded. I laughed. I screamed. "We're going to London!" We cackled maniacally, then all spoke at once, interrupting each other and, I'm sure, driving anyone within half a mile running for earplugs.

I've met lots of crazily fun people here, and I've had a wild four years, but that evening, without a doubt, qualifies as my most memorable U of C experience, something I try to hold onto when the rest of the world seems bleak.

Rachel Anne Dion, AB'02, an aspiring writer and globetrotter from Wheaton, IL, hopes to work in publishing or education.

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  JUNE 2002

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