The Trials and Tribulations of Junior Year
Author’s Note: Next semester, I will be studying off-campus in Tucson, Arizona as part of Earlham College’s Border Studies program. With half of my junior year behind me, it’s time to reflect upon what continuing this journey at Kenyon means.
At Kenyon, junior year is a strange time, some sort of weird purgatory between the electrifying terror of your first year and the soft comfort of senior year. It’s not quite the settled rhythm of sophomore year, when one knows exactly who their friend group is, when the whole campus opens up to your whims. Instead, junior year is unstable. Your favorite assistant professor has moved on to another institution. Classes sometimes don’t seem as exciting. Friends are away studying abroad.
Or, in my case, all your closest friends are studying abroad. One away with the English Department’s Kenyon-Exeter Program in England. Another in Santiago, Chile. One in Italy for the Kenyon-Rome Program. Another in Rabat, Morocco…Copenhagen, Denmark…Madagascar….
All spread out across the world. Connected by instant messaging apps. Facebook photo albums. The occasional postcard or letter.
I entered the beginning of this academic year with a pronounced fear of one thing only: loneliness. The reason I fell in love with Kenyon was mostly for its people. It’s my friends that make this place feel like home. Knowing I can walk into Peirce and find the exact smiling face I’m looking for. Sitting on a bench on Middle Path chatting with a friend. Standing in a dorm room sharing gummy bears and listening to Bon Jovi.
I knew all of that was going to be gone. I feared becoming a movie stereotype: the lonely kid eating lunch alone in the cafeteria. (Side note: It’s totally okay to eat alone in the cafeteria!)
It didn’t turn out like that at all. I made new friends. I strengthened relationships. I wasn’t — I’m not — lonely. But what junior year has taught me, more than anything else, is quite simple. Take a chance. Do something different.
So I did. And every step outside the normal has made my life infinitely more full, more content, more informed and engaged. Here are some highlights:
A historic tour of campus with Thomas Stamp as part of the Ohio Open Doors program. (Did you know that the Admissions building was originally the campus’s only library?)
Viewing every art piece on campus displayed by the installation art class. (I found my friend’s name written in tiny script on a table full of acorns, perhaps telling us that we’ll all blossom into strong, old trees one day.)
Yoga classes taught by my first-year roommate. (It’s okay that I can’t stand on one foot, because I’ll make eye contact with someone else who also can’t and we’ll have a moment of mutual understanding and maybe even a quiet giggle as we wobble out of the pose.)
A trip to D.C. with the Center for the Study of American Democracy. (I would recommend seeing Lincoln as the first dark rays of night settle down on D.C., but when the sky is a sultry purple still.)
My art displayed as part of the Gund Gallery Associates Off the Hill: Student-Curated Student-Artists show. (Who thought I’d one day be able to call myself a real artist?)
There’s more, I promise. If Kenyon is anything, it’s a place where things are always happening. Nonstop.
But the point I’m making is that junior year has freed me. Taught me to do what I wanted. How to be alone and find meaning in that. How to try new things and enjoy them. Maybe I did eat alone in the dining hall a few times, but I enjoyed my solitude as much as I enjoyed all the new things I tried this year. Junior year is my time to embrace all Kenyon has to offer, and, in the process, embrace myself.
The aforementioned acorns in an installation art piece by Sarah Dendy ‘19.