In the Suburbs: Glimpsing my grandson's academic future...perhaps

For the past four years, I have been working with the Chinese coordinator at Fairfield Prep to identify and tutor Chinese exchange students in areas like theology, English and history. I was happy to learn from the coordinator that there will be 14 students in the exchange program this year.

As part of the Chinese student orientation, the coordinator invited me to a Chinese luncheon this past Tuesday and I brought my grandson Lucas, who is originally from China, with me to the lunch. He loved being with the students, listening to their conversations in his own language, Mandarin, and learning more about a culture that he left behind when my daughter adopted him in 2017.

He is delightfully curious and listened intently to the many conversations among adults and students. I was very glad Lucas came along. The informal lunch lasted barely an hour, but before we left Prep, Lucas insisted on seeing more of the school and I was delighted to oblige. “After all,” I thought, “Lucas’ school in Beacon Falls is a small elementary school and a place like Prep can seem somewhat overwhelming.”

While he will be 10 this coming weekend (he came to us at 6), in a few short years he will be through fourth and fifth grade and may be in middle school as early as sixth grade. So, glimpsing his future is more real than not.

As we walked through the empty halls of Prep, soon to be filled with young men, Lucas was in awe of the size of the school and loved peeking in and out of classrooms. “Could I go here some day?” he asked.

I looked at him with a smile and said, “If you are interested in applying here in a few years, Lucas, there is always a possibility,” I said. “But I have no idea what the requirements are for admission and there is tuition, which means the school isn’t free. Maybe we can explore that down the road, and I think they award scholarships to some students.”

When we reached the school entrance, Lucas commented about all the buildings he saw as we were driving in and about how big Fairfield Prep is. He just kept saying, “Wow! This is big and there are so many places here.”

“Actually, Lucas,” I said, “Fairfield Prep is just one building that happens to be part of the campus of Fairfield University. Do you understand what a university is?”

He looked at me quizzically. I tried to put things in perspective for him by explaining the big picture and talking with Lucas about the various colleges within the university. When I asked if he wanted to see the rest of the Fairfield University campus, he couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough. Within 10 minutes we had parked in the campus garage and were walking toward the Barone Campus Center.

The construction that is happening at the university is amazing. The main parking lot in front of the Barone Center is torn up to make way for a huge new athletic and convocation center. Lucas was snapping pictures on his phone of new buildings and dormitories. I couldn’t believe I was giving my nearly 10-year-old grandson a tour of a campus he may someday visit for college consideration.

When we arrived at Barone, Lucas was fascinated by all the mailboxes in the main hall. When we arrived at the Stag Spirit Shop bookstore, I introduced Lucas to my colleagues at the store, Barbara and Chloe, and Karen, my manager when I work on campus.

Once we had navigated the bookstore, I walked Lucas up the steps to the eating areas. As we were walking downstairs, Lucas asked, “How do I get into this university?”

I chuckled and told him that he’d have to apply online and get accepted. Then I reassured him that he would have plenty of time to be concerned about college and that was years away. He looked relieved.

We ended our little tour with a ride around campus, past areas like Bellarmine Hall, the museum, library and Dolan School of Business. Lucas kept snapping pictures and just couldn’t get enough of this university and Fairfield Prep experience. On the way home, Lucas was totally animated about all he had seen and was busily texting our daughter.

Of course, our little tour was just a fantasy, but it still gave me an idea of what Lucas might be like as a high school student and eventually a college student. To him, all of these experiences were a newfound wonder and this grandpa (AKA Loyeh in Chinese) couldn’t get enough.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.