Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

The Nostalgia of Fur: On Homesickness at Kenyon

Harper Beeland
September 28, 2016

On a late-night visit to the Franklin Miller Observatory a few days after the end of First-Year Orientation, the woman with the laser gripped in her hand, tracing constellations in the sky, noted something very interesting I hadn’t known before. “They call these the ‘dog days of summer’,” she said, “because it’s the time of the year when Sirius, the Dog Star, is visible just as the sun begins to rise.”

It occurred to me then that I had heard a lot about dogs that week. When I first arrived at Kenyon, my peers who had come a week earlier informed me of how rare it was to spot one on campus, like it was a mountain lion or something. But as Orientation unfolded, I witnessed this canine obsession myself. Whether on a jog with its owner down Middle Path or panting in the sultry heat with the Humane Society outside the Activities Fair, dogs never failed to attract a swarm of admirers.

What was stranger than the students enamored of these everyday animals was that I soon found myself among them, savoring the unbridled affection and the softness of fur. The feeling of it all was so familiar. And I slowly began to realize why – they felt like home. For high school students who have never been away from home for more than two weeks, or simply those who find it hard to believe they will ever miss their friends and family when they go off to college, this feeling may not seem too familiar. When I watched my family depart after Convocation, I too doubted I would ever succumb to the phenomenon of homesickness. But here I was: abandoning my self-control, staring into the eyes of an animal I had never seen before, almost convinced that it was one of my own pets from back home.

If there is one thing prospective students should know, it’s that all Lords and Ladies, whether first-years or seniors, deal with homesickness on some level or another. While going three months without seeing family may sound hair-raising at first, part of the Kenyon experience is realizing that the strangers you meet during that first semester (trust me, they won’t be strangers for long) are, as cliché as it may sound, a second family.

When the assignments begin to pile up later on in the semester, there is nothing like a close group of friends to lighten your spirit and remind you, “This too shall pass.” Besides, all the necessities are available right here in Gambier: the Village Market, the Bookstore, Wiggin Street Coffee, the U.S. Post Office. It’s not the Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, or mailbox you’re used to — it’s better. You will run into familiar faces everywhere you go, and, who knows? Maybe you’ll catch yourself calling Kenyon “home” every once in a while.

Of course, as the semester has progressed, I have occasionally encountered dogs on my walk to class. While they are always cute, I have noticed that there are no more nostalgic paparazzi in their midst, and I find myself passing them by and thinking, “that’s just a dog,” as does everyone at Kenyon at some point. But, if you’re absolutely desperate, the dorms do allow fish in tanks of ten gallons or less. Or, as the sun rises one August morning, just look up, knowing Sirius will be there.