Upon my arrival to campus in 2017 I bombarded my brain with college vlogs and endless episodes of “A Different World.” Expecting some kind of “woke” utopia, Coleman love and a strong sense of community, my FAMU experience failed to check all the boxes. Due to warped expectations, my HBCU reality fell short of what it could have been.
The first thing that shocked me was the number of sexual assaults taking place on campus. At least one person knows another who has been a victim or sexual assault or sexual harassment. Yes, “A Different World” covered the topic in season 2, episode 20 in “No Means No.” Although it did expose me to the ins and outs of date rape, it did not do justice to the prevalence and how commonplace sexual assault can be. Seeing others suffer at the hands of the lax campus justice system, I noticed that this just wasn’t what I signed up for.
I ended my first semester knowing six victims of sexual assault, including myself. A ’90s sitcom provided me with the expectations of campus safety which in reality were not met. Movies like “Higher Learning” showed vivid, violent imagery of the matter. This also left a skewed perception that severe sexual harassment only happens at predominately white institutions.
Along with overall campus safety my expectations of a strong sense of community were not met. When searching for a community bond you may find clique mentality. “A Different World” touched on the loss of self-identity through joining campus organizations and Greek life. This has shown true from personal experience.
Community is not about changing yourself to fit in but bringing new ideas and perspectives to the table. As freshmen striving to find a new sense of identity I found solace off campus and in new-found friendships.
Making friends now is not as easy as it once seemed on television. Due to the evolution of social media, “A Different World” did not live to see the days of likes and shares. Yes, social media allowed me to create bonds before stepping foot on the “Hill,” but community was not what I found.
Cohorts like SBI made an effort to mold me into someone I am not. Collective thinking and a welcoming environment were found through changing my major.
Putting expectations on any show can lead to a false sense of reality. “A Different World,” although an amazing show, lightly touched on what college life is actually like. Due to a shift in times, college then and now are two different ballgames.