Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

On Returning to Kenyon

Katie Jimenez-Gray
February 2, 2017

I spent last semester studying abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. It was a wonderful experience, but to be honest, I missed Kenyon far more than I expected I would. I missed the five-minute commute to classes. I missed the convenience of an all-you-can-eat dining hall. I missed the comfort of Middle Path. I missed my friends, whose lives at Kenyon went on without me. Most of all, though, I missed classes at Kenyon. I missed that feeling of walking out of class completely inspired to learn as much as you possibly can about whatever topic you were just learning about. I missed the class discussions that made me think about things differently. I missed chatting with professors during their office hours. Therefore, I was tremendously excited to return to Gambier this semester.

Arriving back on campus after eight months was odd. Initially, all I could notice were the things that seemed different – the construction going on where the Black Box Theater once was, the picnic tables placed along a wider Middle Path, the absence of some of my best friends who are currently abroad, how the pizza at Peirce seemed to improve dramatically since I last ate it, unfamiliar faces of the new first-year students whom I haven’t gotten used to seeing around – it all felt somewhat strange.

And yet, it all felt the same. There were small changes, yes, but everything seemed so familiar, like I was moving through motions that were completely natural. Walking down Middle Path, grabbing dinner with friends, going to meetings, buying textbooks, staying up late “doing homework” (okay, more like talking with my roommate) – I was amazed by how easy it was for me to reintegrate back into life at Kenyon, although I fully recognize that this is not everyone’s experience. For me, the most difficult thing – by far – has been relearning how to be a serious student. My study abroad program was great, but the academic rigor was definitely not equivalent to that of Kenyon classes. Having to manage my time efficiently has been a challenge these first few weeks back – this is partly a combination of my having had an academically easy semester in Stockholm and the particularly busy schedule (with a lot of early mornings) I’ve found myself facing back at Kenyon. As the weeks go on, though, I’m once again remembering how to take effective notes, how to study for exams and write papers, how to speak up in class (sometimes) and how to effectively manage my time (well, I’m still working on that one).

A lot has changed in my life – and in the world – in the past eight months since I’ve been at Kenyon. I had an incredible summer internship that opened up a potential career path I hadn’t previously considered, I got to babysit some amazing kids whose families I’m still in contact with, I survived an entire semester in Stockholm, I traveled around Europe by myself, I got to know a wonderful Swedish family who so kindly welcomed me into their lives, I saw buildings and churches and pieces of art that I’d previously only heard about, I fretted about the state of American politics from an apartment in Budapest on the night of the election and I rode a horse through the frigid Swedish countryside in December. After so many new experiences, though, I’ve been glad to return to something that feels so familiar.

I loved the semester I spent in Stockholm. It allowed me opportunities to get to know some amazing people, travel, be a part of Swedish culture, and become so much more independent than I’d previously been. My academics may have been fairly easy, but there were other challenges I wasn’t even expecting to face that I never would’ve been exposed to in Gambier. I’m so lucky that I was able to go abroad, and if I had to do it over again, I think I would choose the same program in the same place. But now, I’m ready to spend the next year and a half getting as much as I can out of the time I have left at Kenyon. As I was leaving Stockholm, I kept thinking of lyrics from the song “Cathedrals” by Jump, Little Children: “In the cathedrals of New York and Rome / There is a feeling that you should just go home / And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is.” Right now, my home is Kenyon, and I’m so happy to be back.