Robin Jones Kerr: Remembering the Vern’s charm in somber times

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Students make their way on and off the Vern Express, on their way to class.

When I found out the University had assigned me housing on the Mount Vernon Campus for my freshman year, I was outraged. I had never imagined living anywhere other than Foggy Bottom for the duration of my GW career.

I thought the campus had few redeeming qualities. I didn’t see how I could possibly find my place in the cool crowd if I was miles away from those wild nights in Thurston Hall. I emailed dozens of strangers who had been lucky enough to be assigned to a main campus residence hall, begging them to swap rooms with me.

But my grandmother, with her steadfast wisdom, predicted that if I stayed where I was assigned, I just might end up loving it. At the time, I wrote her off. I knew she was ill-informed about GW, and besides, I was a bratty teenager, and I had convinced myself this housing assignment was the end of the world.

Now I’m not going to tell you that you should always listen to your elders, but damn, did she know what she was talking about. After just a few weeks of living on that 23-acre campus, I grew to love the Vern in a way I never could have imagined.

I often take these feelings of adoration for granted. But after the Vern was dealt a blow last week in losing its third student in as many months, I felt I needed to be intentional in recognizing them publicly.

I wanted to take some time to remember why I love that place, to remember all the amazing things it did for me and continues to do, in the hopes of shedding some light on the Vern in the midst of a dark news cycle.

The first time I ever set foot on the Vern was move-in day. As my mom drove our over-stuffed car up the rolling hills, past the flowering trees and red-brick buildings, she said, in a reverent tone, “Oh, this is very Robin.”

Media Credit: Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Staff Photographer
West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus.

That’s where my GW experience started. Since then, my time at this University has been tied to that little campus up on Foxhall Road. I got a job there that I’ll hold for four years. I made friends there that I’ve kept for three years. I fell in love with and for two years dated a boy I met there.

Even if I wasn’t a student staffer at Eckles Library, which requires me to take the Vern Express twice a week, I think I’d go to GW’s other campus just as often. There’s too much about the Vern that keeps me coming back.

There’s the immediate comfort I feel when I get there. As soon as I step off the bus, breathe the fresh air, feel beams of sunlight touch my face and see real green grass and trees, my shoulders drop and my jaw unclenches.

I’m also greeted by some of my favorite memories, like trudging from Somers Hall all the way down to Pelham Commons in West Hall for dinner almost every night of freshman year. Or the time I burst into my friends’ rooms and ripped open their curtains because it was snowing for the first time. I made us run out to the athletics field to play as if we had never seen snow before.

Some of my best memories are of just sitting around Somers’ second-floor common room on a Saturday night, when our Thurston counterparts were probably out getting drunk and buying greasy food at Carvings. We were content to just order good Chinese food and watch bad action-adventure flicks.

More than the memories, though, I think what keeps me coming back to the Vern is knowing that everything that was so comforting my freshman year. From the scenery to the campus staffers to the classic hang-out spots, it’s always right where I left it.

On Foggy Bottom, the campus changes with the seasons: New buildings rise each semester, conflicts with neighbors boil over, and with so many city and University employees traversing campus every day, it’s hard to keep track of which faces are familiar.

After what has been a tough semester for this campus and this school, we shouldn’t sideline or forget great stories about the Vern. Most students have at least a small connection to the campus, even if it’s just that they had to take University Writing there.

And I know I’m not the only one who has fond memories of the Vern. In fact, so many of us who have lived there insist passionately that no experience on Foggy Bottom can quite compare.

It’s hard to make sense of this place that at first isn’t anything particularly remarkable and that I once tried desperately to avoid. But what I can say is that even after living away from it for more than two years, going to the Vern today still feels like going home.

Robin Jones Kerr, a junior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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