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Why I Love HoCo

By Kirsten Bruell '11

I'm hesitant to admit it to myself, but it is my senior year at UNH. I've enjoyed so many things about this school that I can't even imagine how much I'm going to miss it. And as I move closer to my graduation date, I'm absolutely terrified—of eating my last meal at Holloway Commons . My last homemade waffle, last trip to the extensive salad bar, my last bowl of fro-yo? It's too much for me to handle.

When I first stepped foot on the UNH campus in the spring of 2007, my tour group got coupons to eat at Holloway, now affectionately known as "HoCo." When I entered the dining hall for the first time, I was immersed in the most confusing room I had ever seen—it seemed to go on forever: a drink station, a grill station, a dessert area—I felt like I had never eaten before in my life. Now, I'd be lying if I said that the UNH dining halls didn't play a role in my choice to come to UNH. But let me back up and explain what my high school cafeteria was like. They made everything out of the same floury mix: the bagels, the fries, the rolls, the pasta, the grilled cheese, and I swear even the trays: it was pale white and all of it tasted roughly like a piece of construction paper. So as you can see, the sensory overload of HoCo fully drew me in, just like Dorothy entering the land of Oz, minus the Munchkins.

But even when the novelty wore off, the dining halls became an important part of my UNH daily life. I love the way that they know to serve breakfast until four p.m. on weekends. Because sometimes, breakfast just happens at 2 p.m. After a long day of studying on a Sunday, my friends and I could reunite and talk about our weekends. And on a Monday morning, when you're still half asleep, Holloway always knows to perk you up with the best pop songs of the '90s that you sort of wish you forgot about. I'll be devastated when I can't mix up my bowl of Kashi, Honey Bunches of Oats, Rice Krispies and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and enjoy it to "Livin' La Vida Loca."

The memories are as numerous as the items on the menu. Every fall brings the Harvest Dinner, Ghoul Fest on Halloween, and the late night pancakes during finals week. It was great when they put in the star rating system of our food. I love knowing that the delicious cheese lasagna has zero nutrition stars and that only the soupy lump of boiled spinach has three. And back in 2009 when they pretended that we were no longer going to let us take out an apple or a cookie when we left—that just made stealing food the most fun game on campus. I'm guilty of taking an extra apple here and there, but I also know people who have taken entire pies, and even a bag of bagels. And on the occasion that someone does get caught sneaking out with an extra banana—it's a great chase scene to witness.

As much as I'll miss the food, I'll miss the dining staff. Sure, they took away our salt but they run a tight ship. If something goes wrong, all hands are on deck and you hear shouts of "WE NEED MILK IN AREA TWO STAT" and "These desserts need to go out NOW." Shirley, who sits in the front, is always willing to wish us a nice meal, and also to remind us we can't sneak our friends in by having them slide in behind us as we scan our hands. The nice little lady who works at the salad bar is good at following me around and picking up the lettuce I drop as I make my customized salad creation every day. But most importantly, the head of dining knows that when the power goes out, the baked ziti and paper bowls are going to come out ASAP!

When my friends and I pulled an all nighter before our organic chemistry final, we sat in HoCo, practically brain dead, for four hours. When Thanksgiving was over and we could all use a little holiday cheer to push us through the end of the semester, HoCo provided the Christmas music and decorations to make us smile. And when, after a long morning of tailgating since 7 a.m. and my friend and I were too tired to eat, the HoCo staff quietly respected the nap we took in the booth upstairs.

When else in my life will I be able to choose from 30 cereals every morning? When again can I have custom stir fry and pizza in the same meal? When will I be able to go lunch in my pajamas and not be judged, because everyone else is in sweat pants too? And the little kid in me still gets a thrill out of using as many sprinkles as I want when I get a bowl of froyo from HoCo. Sure, I can come back after I graduate if I want to get a UNH meal, but it will never be the same.

So, as the days of my senior year count down and the Last Meal approaches, I won't be excited. But I'll savor the friends, memories and familiar food that UNH dining has provided me all these years, and enjoy my Last Meal for all it's worth.

Kirsten Bruell '11 is majoring in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. This essay was her final speech for a public speaking class. Originally from Massachusetts, Bruell does biochemical research in the Hrabak Lab, is co-vice president of Alpha Chi Sigma (the professional chemistry fraternity) and enjoys running, snowboarding and photography.

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