I didn’t figure out that Elsewhere University was anything other than a place filled with shivery-but-ultimately-harmless traditions until I’d already started my second year.
It wasn’t anything too exciting - I stumbled into the wrong part of the library, came out and realized I hadn’t missed my afternoon classes after all. I went to class, came back to my dorm room, had a panic attack, and went on with my life. Oh, and I changed my safename. I think I ended up going through half a dozen in the next few weeks, trying to find one that didn’t actually mean anything to me. (I remember Toucan was one of them, though I think I got anxious over what if it somehow offended the crows.) Sunny was the one I stuck with that year, mostly because my TA for Intro to Statistics sat me down and told me to just pick one so he’d know who to give the assignments back to.
I already knew most of the lore by then. I’d thought it was just fun bits of knowledge, traditions and legend-building, but I’ve always collected that kind of thing. After that initial panic (having made sure the horseshoe was securely over my doorway, and stuffed salt packets in all my pockets, and turned my underwear inside-out, and written and deleted several emails to my parents) I remembered that according to everything I heard, Bio majors didn’t usually interact much with the Fae. I’d actually been disappointed by that, back when it was just a story not quite close enough to touch, but it was a comfort now. So once I’d settled on my new safename (and stopped side-eying my poor roommate), I caught up with my assignments and moved on, just a little bit more careful than before.
I fell in love with lab work that year, and on the advice of a professor shifted into the tiny Molecular Biology concentration. Elsewhere University doesn’t do much research, but there’s lab space available for fourth years doing a thesis, and you can use it earlier if you have a Prof willing to supervise and sign off for you. The Molecular Genetics professor was full of ideas for what I could do with the reagents left behind in the fridge and one big freezer, and between us we managed to get me an internship the next summer, to stay and start on my own project.
I spent those months sharing a tiny apartment in the next town over with an English major going into her fourth year. (I don’t know why she was staying for the summer. I asked, but she gave me a different answer every time - she needed to hang teardrops on the rainbow, or count crow’s teeth, or find the door out of the laundry room. After a while, I stopped asking). In the mornings she’d drive us both into the university, and in the evenings I’d either wait for her in the library (always near the front) or I’d take the single late-night bus that ran from the university to the middle of town.