At Kenyon (and after Kenyon!), You Will
Natalie Kane graduated summa cum laude as a double major in drama and history on May 19, 2018. Pictured at right, Natalie at First-Year Orientation in 2014 and at Commencement.
A few days after Commencement, sorting through miscellaneous papers back home, I stumbled across a few of the Kenyon brochures I pored over once upon a time as a prospective student. Now, I was curious to see how these brief booklets would compare to four years of lived experience.
One memorable booklet centers around the recurring phrase “At Kenyon, you will…”
You’ll grow intellectually as never before. … Perhaps you’ll express yourself through dance or music or performance art. … You’ll go head-to-head and toe-to-toe in competition with opponents, developing your best athletic self. … You will discover the meaning and gift of a great community. … You’ll become who you imagine yourself to be. … You will.
So … did I? As a general response to the propositions of the booklet as a whole, Yes. I did. My time at Kenyon let me explore an incredible variety of opportunities, from academic challenges to artistic performances to off-campus programs. I certainly grew as never before, intellectually and in countless other ways. As my final semester began to wind down, I could feel my transition beginning from Kenyon student into a new chapter. At times as if watching myself from a distance, I could see my time on the Hill coming full circle in interesting and unexpected ways.
As a first-year, my very first reading assignment for my “History of the Early Middle Ages” class was Augustine’s “Confessions,” and in my final week of college I had the chance to discuss it once again as the final reading of my senior seminar in the classics department. When I came to Kenyon, I was new to lengthy primary source readings and felt a bit at sea with a text from a time and place I had not studied in any depth before. After four years of varied coursework in classics, history and art history, it proved both illuminating and rewarding to revisit this work with an extensive vocabulary of interdisciplinary connections to provide context.
So have I become who I imagined myself to be? Yes and no. These four years have formed the first steps of a much longer journey of which I cannot yet see the final destination or even the upcoming stops along the way — nor would I wish to. I came to Kenyon with many goals and aspirations, but many of the most memorable and rewarding things that I learned in college were unanticipated and to some degree unplanned. I learned how to choreograph, peal bells and throw a pot. I learned how to exchange basic pleasantries in modern Greek. I learned how to run an audition, or a group overnight trip. I learned how to prepare appetizers suitable for a classy departmental party in a dorm kitchen with almost no supplies. I learned how to blog and do social media takeovers for the Office of Communications! I learned that there are many, many things I do not know, and that not everything worth learning will be outlined ahead of time on an orderly academic syllabus.
As a high school non-athlete I doubt I gave the brochure pages describing the Kenyon Athletic Center more than a passing glance, but in time the KAC became one of my most frequent campus destinations. I did indeed end up competing against opponents from other schools as part of the ballroom dance club. While it is hard to leave special communities such as this one as I move away from Gambier, looking back on my journey through these organizations and this campus is reassuring. I arrived at Kenyon with no idea how to choreograph a routine, practice for a competition or teach a lesson. In just four years I learned each of these skills from more advanced dancers in the club, and now as we graduate, the newer dancers we taught are thanking us for becoming those role models for them.
In some ways, Kenyon has helped me become who I imagined I’d be. In others, my time here has brought me to consider possibilities I’d never imagined. Yes, you will do amazing things at Kenyon — but that’s just the beginning. Beyond the internship that will be my job for the next ten weeks, I have little idea what the future holds. But I know that my classmates and I are as eager as we were four years ago, maybe now even more so, to transform ourselves through learning and through sharing what we learn with others. Beyond Kenyon, we will.