Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

First Semester Lessons

Tariq Thompson
February 13, 2018

The holidays are over, the new year is upon us, and spring semester jitters are undoubtedly hitting every Kenyon student right about now. Yet, as excited as I am to tackle a new year and new classes here at Kenyon, I find myself reflecting on what my first few months in college have taught me, and how I can use that wisdom for the future.

One of my main worries when I came to Kenyon was making friends — I found myself anxious about making connections, and, in my quest to find those lifelong friends, I stayed up late at night to talk to hallmates, forewent naps to play foosball, procrastinated on papers to catch up with people. Friends are important in your first semester — they’re there to listen to you, provide support and make life a little better. But they aren’t everything, and they will come with time. The first semester taught me that I need to take more time for myself. I learned to finish my papers before seeing my friends, which in turn made me less stressed. I began having a quiet breakfast alone every once in a while to give myself a peaceful start to my day. I even made more time to sneak in quick naps to recharge in the middle of a taxing day. In short, I learned to focus more on my well-being.

There’s a lot of pressure when starting your first semester at college, and I found academic pressure to be the most stressful. It makes sense — you’re at college to get an education, you’ve never been in an environment like this before and you’re looking to start off strong. These are all reasonable feelings — yet, I wanted academic perfection too much. I stayed up late, skipped meals and kept working until I was sure I could get a near-perfect grade on whatever assignment I had that night. The first semester taught me that, sometimes, it’s best to call it a night. No one expects perfection, and you shouldn’t chase after it at the expense of your own health, either.

Newness can be overwhelming. Sometimes during my first semester, I found myself coming back to things that were familiar and comfortable — calling home more often, eating favorite foods, retreating to my room. These things are fine — you’re adjusting, and relying on familiarity in the process is just like relying on your training wheels. The first semester taught me to to shed my training wheels and take strangeness head on — to say “hi” to that kid in my class, to try something different at Peirce, to check out that club I always hear so much about. I learned that my struggles were normal, but that I would have to adjust eventually. There’s a fine balance between life back home and at Kenyon — in my first semester, I found it.

The process of adjustment was difficult, but Kenyon made the it easier. There were a number of resources I came to know on campus that helped me through the first semester — the Academic Advising staff, my Orientation Leaders, and the Health and Counseling staff consistently gave me good life advice. The beauty of Kenyon, however, is the unexpected help you receive here. I can’t count how many times I’ve received words of encouragement from a dining hall worker at Peirce, a resident of Gambier or a fellow student on Middle Path. I learned that, at Kenyon, I will always have someone to rely on.

This first semester was a growing process. Like everyone else, I had to make adjustments throughout to ensure I could succeed, and now, with a new year and new semester ahead of me, I’ve found lessons to take with me. What the growth of my first semester taught me is to take Kenyon head on for my second semester — to be all in. In 2018, I’m all Kenyon.