Call me Irresponsi-Bill

A trip to Orlando to see a college campus yielded more turkey legs than information

I’ve been in the parenting game for about 16 ½ years and I’ve picked up a few notable skills, including unlocking the coveted “Preeminent Fish Stick Chef of the Northeast” achievement.

As impressive as that may be, I’ve upped my superpowers a bit. For example, I’ve learned how to make any obligatory task feel like a trip to Walt Disney World.

The trick, of course, is to actually make it a trip to Walt Disney World.

My daughter is a high school junior now, so we’ve started to investigate her post-high school future. We figured we’d visit campuses both near to home and further afield, which would give her a feel for a variety of different options. So we scheduled her first visit. It would be just she and I on this exploratory venture. Her mom would stay home and tend to the dog while I heroically offered to make the sacrifice and take her to the University of Central Florida for the weekend.

We chose to visit this campus for several valid reasons: it’s huge, it has a wide variety of programs, and if we could establish residency, in-state tuition is a fraction of the cost of most New England schools.

But there was also a secondary — and some may argue more predictable – reason we boarded the 6 a.m. flight out of Manchester. It comes right in the name of the school — “Central Florida.” See, that’s where they keep the Disney.

I am a Disney dad. I’ll take any excuse, any opportunity, and turn it into a trip to our (my) favorite vacation destination. And this was one I simply could not pass up. In my mind’s eye, UCF was just on the other side of Epcot. I could probably walk there from the Boardwalk Resort, I surmised. In reality, it was about an hour away from where we were staying — a detail I learned the day before we flew to Florida. I should probably stop surmising things. It’s not one of my superpowers.

Upon arrival, we headed straight to the UCF campus. Here’s our take-away from the tour: Having one chicken and two pizza stops near the main quad is a major recruiting tool. The place is certainly huge, and the school has a highly regarded aerospace engineering program.

However, we didn’t learn much about the music program there, her potential course of study, because in all the excitement, I hadn’t thought to seek out someone who could tell us more about it. My wife had, but she was about 1,300 miles away at that moment. Campus visits are a new thing for us, and it’s a skill I’ll need to improve on.

But thanks to the “dad-fu” I did possess, we had just enough time afterward to stop-in at another campus — one with a castle and a Mouse. So we spent the next two days together, talking about college, what she might like to study and her future. And the gigantic turkey legs in Frontierland.    

IrresponsiBill Burke is a writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. He is also Managing Editor of Custom Publications for McLean Communications.

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