College Tourcation (sic): Teens & Papa in Tow


This summer marked the first college tour/vacation (or as I am calling it now “tourcation”) for Family Jacobsen plus grandpa. My husband and I were blessed to have three children within 15 months: twins and a singleton. Seventeen years later we now have two high school juniors and one sophomore. Therefore, as any hopeful couple who ever wished to be empty nesters, we are taking our West Coast family on an East Coast car trip from one college campus to the next. Thus, wishing to instill our college yearnings and hopes into our sweet but clueless teenagers. And because we are inveterate tourists — gluttons for historical sights, we managed to pack in some American History along the way. Who knows maybe they will use their experience for a college admissions paper or scientific experiment e.g. What earplug brand works the best to drown out Papa’s snoring?
We started our grand tour in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home of Duke University, University of North Carolina and many more. (This would be a good time to note that as wonderful as our children are, we did not visit colleges that we necessarily thought our children would a. be applying to or b. be accepted by.) The purpose of this trip was meant to expose them to rural, suburban and in-city schools, small, medium, and large, state and private, liberal arts and technology institutions. It was also a chance to expose them to the North Eastern and Southern culture.

Day One

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Duke University – We have a cousin who attended this school which made us feel some sort of connection to it. The Duke family of tobacco fame originally founded the school. Gray stone is used in all the gothic style buildings we saw, very cohesive. The “chapel” (sort of an understatement — more like a cathedral) dominates the landscape. There are many charming covered passageways leading from one building to the next. A beautiful, sprawling garden runs through the campus with a little deli in the center where we lunched on the shaded patio. The students who had stayed for the summer appeared to be serious demeanored and ethnically more diverse than we were to see elsewhere in the Southern schools we visited. Duke was one of the smaller populated schools we saw, but the campus was enormous and maybe, in our kids’ opinion, too decentralized. It took us quite a while to locate the charming admissions building. Duke’s admission office has kindly included fliers about all their various departments and majors for the visiting hopefuls. I sensed the anxiety and intimidation a place like this can unintentionally create from my fellow visiting parents. Grandpa, however, having attended a very fancy school himself, and as a retired professor, was quite at home and enjoyed imagining his nephew going to school there.

The following was my son’s commentary: cool garden, quiet, too quiet, heavy and overwhelming.

Daughter’s comments: beautiful, large, intimidating.

Most-like-Hogwart’s or H factor, as we came to call it, based on a scale of 1-5: 3

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill is a charming town, beautiful old southern architecture and quaint shops surrounding part of the campus. Even though it was summer there were tons of kids on the campus. The architecture consisted of red brick colonial as far as my uneducated eye could see with some buildings appearing romanesque or greek and also a few contemporary. In general, it was a cohesive and charming campus with gardens and an old well. The few staff members we ran into were friendly and helpful. We found the admissions building and took our self-guided walking tour, short one teen who would not get out of the car. In her defense, we were all exhausted from plane delays the night before resulting in 22 hours of travel to get from Seattle to Durham, but that is another story. The historically significant campus was compact but still had lots of open green spaces. The student body seemed Rah Rah UNC, high energy — I think what you would expect from a sizable state school.

Son’s comments: interesting, lots of trees, liked that food sources (restaurants) were nearby.

Daughter’s comments: definitely a state school, lots of kids, spirit, tradition, liked making a wish at the well, humid.

Hogwarts factor: 1

Day 2 entry tomorrow . . .


Hotels on Tourcation with a Family Room on

Holly Jacobsen


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