For the first time in my three years at K College, I am here in the city of Kalamazoo without homework, without classes, without stress and with free time. It’s unheard of! During the academic year, K’s campus is buzzing with the stress and movement of 1,400 overworked minds and tired bodies who rush about to complete all they have to do in the mere 24 hours the day allows. As students, we often lament the heavy work load that comes with our academic prestige because it keeps us from spending quality time with each other, as well as from getting enough sleep. There are many of my friends, even my closest friends who I have lived with for the past two years, who I feel I have never spent any real time with, because any casual conversation is undoubtedly cut short with the familiar statement “I gotta go get some work done.”
But now, for the first time since coming to this city, I am experiencing K, and Kalamazoo more generally, in a whole new way. Yes, I am working two jobs and yes, I am (working on) writing my SIP, but unlike the school year, my work pretty much stays in the office so when I return home after a 12 hour work day, I can unwind, chat with my housemates and make plans with friends. And that makes all the difference. Not only am I reaching new levels with my friends (those that have stayed behind rather than going home to their parents), but I am finally getting to know the city that has been my home since 2010. And what a wonderful little city it is! I think Kalamazoo gets a bad wrap sometimes from K kids because not all of the city is blessed with the affluence and privilege that most of us are, but in the month since school has ended, I have been able to explore and have come to love this place. So, mysterious internet friends, I give you Morgan’s 10 Things to Know When Living in the Zoo:
1. Get a bike. Coming from Vermont where there are hills everywhere, this city is incredibly bike-able. In fact, I would say it is more bike-able than drive-able because of all the one-way streets. Get a bike. It changes everything.
2. Break the K Bubble. As a K student, we have a tendency to stay on campus and not really leave. I myself have to check up with myself in order to ensure I leave. Campus is a great place that has basically everything you could want so it is easy to go months (I’m not exaggerating here) without stepping off campus once. Make yourself leave. You’ll always be glad you did.
3. See movies. All the movie theaters in Kalamazoo, to my knowledge, have a student discount that makes any showing $5. If you’ve gone to the theater recently, especially in a city, you’ll know how rare that is. Take advantage of it while you can, especially during the school year when two hours in a theater is the best escape you’ll be able to find from the chaos of campus.
4. Go to the Arboretum. The Lillian Anderson Arboretum was only introduced to me a couple months ago even though it is actually owned by K College. It is only really used by the college for biology classes but it is open to the public and is a wonderful, quiet escape from the bustle of the city. Get yourself there soon.
5. ART HOP! The first Friday of every month, local artists bring their art out to display and the city comes alive with people roaming the streets and galleries offering free wine and cheese and the like. It can be a bit depressing during the winter months but in the Fall, Spring and Summer, it’s a lively, fun event that makes us feel like part of the community.
6. Visit East Hall. East Hall used to be part of Western Michigan University, which is right next door to K, but is no longer in use. It is a beautiful, old building that sits quietly on a hill over looking the entire city of Kalamazoo. I would say it is my favorite spot in the city. Go on a date, watch the sunset with friends, pack a picnic, or go reflect alone, it really can fit any occasion.
7. Go to the Crow’s Nest between the hours or 10pm and 6am. The Crow’s Nest (probably my favorite restaurant in the city) is open 24 hours on the weekends. One day my first year at K, a friend and I went there around 10 and ended up staying until about 5 in the morning, just chatting and getting to know each other. It sort of felt like the twilight zone, staying awake that long, except with sweet potato fries. And the waitstaff is really friendly so it’s always fun to be there.
8. Swim at Gull Lake. As far as lakes go, this one is kind of gross, but honestly, it gets sooo hot here in the Spring and Summer months (especially in the dorms) that it’s well worth the grossness. Also, Coldstone Creamery is right across the street so you can go for a post swim cone.
9. The bars. Obviously this only applies if you are above 21, but it’s important to know. Kalamazoo has some really great, fun little bars. From the Beer Exchange (which has beer prices that fluctuate based on how much they are being bought and a once-a-night market crash where prices plummet as low as a dollar) to Shakesperes Pub (with karaoke and free popcorn), the bar scene in Kalamazoo is unique and fun.
10. Climb Kalamazoo. If you are a pro-climber or even if you’ve never done it before, Climb Kzoo is a great indoor climbing facility downtown where students can go for a different kind of exercise. Rock Climbing is also offered at K as a gym class every quarter which will get you a discounted price to the gym.