Falling In love With Carolina

Sophomore Drew Campbell's first memory of Carolina is the smell of buttered popcorn, loud cheers and a 107-64 men's basketball win over Cleveland State University.

Drew Campbell on Franklin Street.
Drew Campbell, a UNC sophomore from Chapel Hill, poses for a portrait on Franklin Street on November 19, 2019, in Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

A couple of months ago, I wrote about finding a home here at Carolina— about finding my place again in a town I had considered home my entire life. I wrote that it was a difficult process, but I eventually came to terms with everything that the University was for me, home being one of them. Then, I wrote only about how that came about. Here, I want to give a little bit more reason as to why.

Most stories seem to begin with an origin tale from long ago. 

This one is no different. It starts with a number, or more specifically, a score: 

107-64. 

That was the result of a Dec. 30, 2004, college basketball game where our beloved Tar Heels took on, and subsequently steamrollered, Cleveland State University. It was a quite insignificant game in an otherwise very significant season — that squad later went on to cut down the nets at the 2005 Final Four in St. Louis. However, the game was quite important to me, as it is the first memory I have that I associate with Carolina. I can recollect the loud cheers from the crowd, the smell of buttered popcorn along the concourse and, of course, the final score. My family occasionally gives me a hard time for remembering small, pointless details, but that score has nonetheless stuck with me all this time.

Fast forward 14 years. I’m at my first basketball game as a Carolina student. I’d always been jealous of the students in the risers, having always looked down on them from my seat above them. Their proximity to the game combined with the atmosphere of the student section looked electric. Tonight, I had Phase 1 tickets, and I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. We were playing No. 10 Virginia Tech in what was shaping up to be an all-time classic at the Smith Center. Before the game began, Coach Roy Williams walked out of the tunnel wearing a brand new pair of the Off-White Air Jordan 1’s. The student section roared with approval, loving the look of their trendsetting coach. With the arena already buzzing, I eagerly awaited tipoff. When the opening bars from House of Pain’s “Jump Around” began to play, I may have shed a tear (or two) of joy. It was a moment that I never knew I had waited all my life for, jumping up and down there in a sea of blue and white. To be a part of it for the first time was something truly special.

My fondness for the University extends past my love for its sports teams, of course. Although sports are certainly a major part of it, there is much more that I love about Carolina – though those various things don’t always present themselves as singular experiences and memories. There are so many aspects of the University that I find endearing that I’m sure many can relate to. You don’t think that you’ll ever miss the walk to and from class while living on south campus or adapting to the struggles of dorm life. Other things like walking down Franklin Street with friends to get dinner after a long week of classes or enjoying a random day of 70 degree weather in January (knowing full well the weather will be back in the 30s and probably raining the entire next week) are no less integral to the Carolina experience. 

What causes one to fall in love? Of course certain qualities can jump out at you, gravitating you toward something or someone. More often than not though, there’s something intangible that you just can’t explain, no matter how hard you try. Carolina isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have gorgeous weather all year round. The dorms might be a little old, and it might feel like you have to walk ages just to get anywhere. But all that doesn’t matter. I still love Carolina to death regardless. If you can relate to that, then you should consider yourself quite lucky to be (or to have been) a part of something as amazing as this.

That’s all for this time, y’all. Go Heels!