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Early grads adjusting to college life

By Walter Villa

Just a few weeks ago, Cassidy Vaughn was a high school senior, surrounded by loving friends and family members at every turn. Everything was familiar, and everything was fun.

But after her decision to graduate early from Bowie (Austin, Texas) and enroll at Boston College for the spring semester, she’s had to make some major adjustments.

Start with the cold weather -- not what she’s used to back home -- and a few people she encountered that weren’t much warmer.

Vaughn, a 6-0 outside hitter, flew to Boston in early January and took a cab to campus. The cabbie dropped her off at the wrong location, forcing Vaughn to walk a long way to get to her dorm.

“Campus was like a ghost town,” Vaughn said, referring to the fact that many students had not yet returned from holiday break. “I was dragging two huge suitcases up five flights of stairs; and the people I did see didn’t stop to help me.

“I guess they thought I had it under control. But I was thinking, ‘Dang, I hate this. I don’t want to be here.’”

Not all early graduates have difficult adjustments, however. Mackenzie Mayo and Amy Rosenbaum, two of Vaughn’s best friends from the Austin Juniors club team, have made a smooth transition to Baylor.

“I love it,” Mayo said. “I haven’t met anyone who isn’t welcoming.”

Of course, Mayo stayed a lot closer to home -- a two-hour drive -- so it stands to reason that Vaughn’s transition will be a little tougher.

While Vaughn adjusts to a stranger as her roommate, Mayo shares her dorm with her buddy, Rosenbaum.

Even the tougher college workouts have failed to dim Mayo’s sunny disposition.

“There have been times when I should be dying,” she said. “But instead, I’m just saying to myself, ‘This is so cool. I’m so lucky to be here.’”

Paulina Prieto, who graduated early from Palmer Trinity (Miami, Fla.) to enroll at Penn State last month, has had a culture shock more in line with Vaughn’s. In high school, she would walk from class to class with friends. At Penn State, getting to where you need to be is -- for the moment, at least -- a solitary assignment.

And for her first week at PSU, Prieto stayed in a hotel with her mother.

“She was my life-saver,” Prieto said. “She knew everything I had to buy for my dorm room. We went shopping every day, and she helped me clean the room and get everything settled.”

Like Vaughn, Prieto said she has struggled with the frigid temperatures. But once her mother returned to Miami, she bonded with the other five freshmen on the team, all of whom started at Penn State in August.

“It’s not hard to connect in volleyball,” Prieto said.

Volleyball, too, has been Vaughn’s salvation. She was gratified to discover she could handle the rigorous Boston College workouts.

“I thought I was going to throw up three times during my first conditioning session -- but I didn’t,” Vaughn said. “I think my high school and club teams prepared me well because I feel up to par with everyone else, physically.”

Vaughn said the BC strength coach does a great job of motivating players, who compete with each other on every drill or lift.

Academically, Vaughn has switched from her first idea for a major -- political science -- to communications.

“There’s a lot of reading in all my classes,” she said. “But unlike in high school, the reading is relevant.”

Vaughn said she has felt homesick at times, but, usually, she doesn’t have time for those emotions due to volleyball and school work.

Overall, Vaughn believes she made the right choice coming to Boston College.

“I could have gone to other, more successful volleyball programs,” she said, “but I didn’t really come to BC for volleyball. I came for the academics.

“The volleyball program is going to get better. Hopefully, I will be an impact player right away.”

As for the homesickness?

“It will blow over,” Vaughn said.