Posted by: rcieri | November 15, 2009

Pushing ahead of the crowd: Senior shares experiences as youngest in her class

October 6, 2009

By Rachel Cieri


Amber Christino, Elon senior

For senior Amber Christino, birthday cake and gift wrap always signals the coming of unwanted attention.

“It can get awkward around birthdays,” Christino said.

At birthday parties, particularly the milestones like 18 and 21, the conversation often turns to the ages of the guests. And when it’s Christino’s turn to answer, as she puts it, “the record stops.”

Christino came to Elon at age 16. Now, as a senior who is graduating in January, she is just 19 years old.

“I skipped kindergarten, and I have a late birthday,” she said. “But it’s not something I advertise.”

The Hanover, Md., native has dealt with the stigma of being the youngest of her peers since she started school, so the attention is nothing new for her.

The hardest thing, she said, is watching her friends reach milestones she won’t experience for nearly another two years.

“It feels like I’m being punished for being young and smart,” she said.

In high school, Christino watched as, one by one, her friends got their driver’s licenses, but her age limited her from driving until the end of her senior year of high school.

Now that she’s in college, she watches as her friends turn 21 and can buy alcohol or go to bars for the first time.

“The milestones are definitely tougher,” Christino said. “It’s hard to see them all get new privileges. Soon, I’ll have two Bachelor of Arts degrees and be in graduate school and still not be able to legally go get a drink.”

In the spirit of completing things early, Christino will be graduating a semester short of four years.

She’ll be sticking around Elon in the spring, but in the meantime, she’ll be working hard. The French and international studies double major is currently completing her senior thesis on sex trafficking and AIDS.

“I never intended to graduate early,” Christino said. “I just thought there was no use in dragging it out.”

Christino came to college with AP credits and then took an overload while studying abroad for a semester in Paris.

An avid traveler, Christino visited Paris a second time while backpacking through Europe — alone.

“My dad made sure I watched the movie ‘Taken’ several times,” she said. “It helped that I had contacts there, but I’m more afraid walking the streets of Baltimore than I am of Europe.”

Christino said she may return to Paris again to study international relations and diplomacy in graduate school. She knows she’ll be one of the youngest students there as well, but she said her ability to handle the same work as older colleagues and classmates has always been a source of pride.


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