Good bye and good luck
So I graduated exactly a month ago (May 18), but it honestly feels more like a year. And I've been wanting to--and successfully putting off--writing some kind of final thoughts/ farewell post ever since. But saying goodbye for real meant acknowledging that I actually graduated, and that didn't really happen, right?! Sadly, as the purple tube that once held my diploma--and currently holds up the window of my childhood bedroom--continues to remind me, this is not the case. So here goes. Best of luck Class of 2017!! I can't wait to start stalking your blog posts.
In no particular order, my top four recommendations for the Class of 2017:
1. Go to lots of talks
This is probably my biggest regret from my four years at Kenyon--I should have gone to see more speakers. One of my most vivid memories from Kenyon is going to hear Jonathan Franzen give a really interesting, somewhat cantankerous talk (followed by an even more cantankerous, awkward Q and A session [one too many questions about trying to live up to David Foster Wallace]) in Rosse during the winter of my sophomore year. A) Franzen is one of the most talented, widely-read fiction writers of this generation, so that was really cool all by itself, and B) I learned a lot about his personal life and the reality of actually being a writer, which was also really cool. Even if the speaker is someone you've never heard of--and most of the time it will be--just go. Especially if it's a topic you know nothing about. You probably won't actually use Common Hour to start your first Quest for Justice essay, but you might get to hear a talk entitled "Sexual Reproduction, 1950-2050." See how much more fun that sounds?
2. Take chances academically
When you first get to Kenyon, I guarantee you will meet at least one person like the girl I stood behind while I was waiting to register for an English class during Freshman orientation. She was describing a spreadsheet she had made of all the classes she was planning to take during her next four years. All.of.them. As admirable as this type of planning as, I can't emphasize this enough--take chances. Don't let the kid with their major, minor, concentration, and all 30 plus classes figured out scare you into a) immediately declaring your major and b) never deviating from that path. Your major is probably around 10-11 classes, which really isn't that many considering that you will take around 32. So while you should probably have your major figured out by the beginning/middle of your sophomore year--especially if you want to go abroad--I think it's also important to try not to stress about it too much right off the bat, especially if you're not sure exactly what you want to do.
Take a ton of different types of classes your first year and really evaluate what you find interesting and what you're good at. And even after you pick your major/minor/ concentration, continue to try different types of classes and departments. Most importantly, do your research. Ask upperclassmen for advice. A great professor makes any class, in any department, worthwhile and life-changing, even if it sounds difficult or "outside your comfort zone." Even better, those seemingly "random" classes often end up connecting in really fascinating ways to your major classes, or just end up being the best classes you ever take. Case in point? Three of my favorite (and most life-changing) classes at Kenyon: Quest for Justice, Psychology of Women, and Shakespeare. Only one of those was in my major!
3. Build great relationships with your professors
This one is so important ! One of the main reasons to go to a small school like Kenyon is to really get to know your professors. Not only can this mean cool things like getting to pet/house sit or go to their house for dinner, it also means you have a college--and potentially lifelong--mentor to help you with everything from choosing your senior exercise topic and picking the perfect classes to applying to jobs or grad school. Your advisor will definitely help you with this stuff regardless, but it's really important to build great relationships with both your advisor and your other professors--both for advice and for things like job/grad school recommendations. Also, almost every professor I had at Kenyon was incredibly brilliant, kind, funny, and eager to help. Do the reading, ask thoughtful questions, and stop by their office hours--it's not hard to build great relationships with your professors, and it's really really worthwhile.
4. Find (at least) one thing you really care about
Kenyon is a small school in the middle of nowhere that kind of looks and feels like Hogwarts. Chances are that if you're reading this, these are only plusses for you. But to be honest, a small school in the middle of nowhere, no matter how beautiful, can feel kind of isolating at times--especially if you spend almost all your time either studying or watching Netflix. The best way to counteract this is to have some kind of outside-of-class passion to care about and to commit to--you get to meet new people all the time and have something to feel proud of other than your class work. It doesn't matter what your passion/activity is--from working an on-campus job to joining a Greek organization, from joining PEAS to volunteering at Wiggin Street Elementary--I can't recommend getting involved enough. I barely remember the specifics of all the papers I wrote at Kenyon, but I vividly remember all of the interesting experiences I had through my jobs, my sorority, volunteering, and writing for campus publications. Not to mention craft center and KAC classes, and just running with friends on the Gap trail. SO, in conclusion, take advantage of what Kenyon has to offer! Because college is about the entire experience, not just your classes.