Time is measured in weeks at Kalamazoo College. We have three sets of ten week quarters, each week referred to by its number. If fact, I’ve had professors give me syllabi with no dates, just days in numbered weeks! There’s another set of weeks each student anticipates with a combination of joy and fear: the six week winter break.
I faced returning to campus with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. On one hand, I couldn’t wait to see my friends again, and I was looking forward to having something productive in my life (watching Netflix gets old after the first three weeks). I was dreading the return for a similar reason- the constant activity. Life at K is fast paced. We fit a semester’s worth of work into each quarter. (Also, we call our terms quarters even though there are only three of them. We’re a good school, I promise.)
Upon arriving back to K, it was comforting to see how much things stayed the same. People still craved Biggby from the library; the train still roared by with its horns at full blast behind Hoben periodically; my phone still buzzed with texts about what time to eat. As I was moving all of my things back into my room, I found my schedule from orientation. Why I kept it, I’m not quite sure. As I leafed through it, I remembered a question one of my peer leaders had asked near the end, right before classes were about to start.
“What’s been your favorite part of orientation?”
At first, I was stumped. My first reflex was to say LandSea, but that was technically a pre-orientation program. Was it my first and only (so far) collegiate football game? Meeting Bonnie Jo Campbell, the author of our Summer Common Reading? That week was packed with activities, presentations, semi-awkward get-to-know-yous. K College throws you right into the perpetual motion, the center of the chaos. But my favorite moment of the week had been that Thursday night. My friends and I sat by the tree behind Hoben swinging on the swing and listening to folk music. A former president of the College once said the words inscribed into Trowbridge, “The End of Learning is Gracious Living”. In that moment, I finally understood that quote. We took a break from the frenzied (but ultimately worthwhile), seemingly ceaseless action of orientation and just looked at the stars.
Until coming to K, I never could have fathomed that going to the library could be a social experience, especially not something to look forward to. Hard work is normal now, and it’s completely worth it. Even with all of the work, I still find those little moments, like the one by the swing, just to be with friends and laugh and talk. It was through this gracious living that K became my other home. I learned that for the first time that perfect Thursday night, and all of my anxieties- leaving home, going to college, picking K, what if I made the wrong choice, what if I have a terrible time- vanished. Getting back to K after winter break was like letting out my breath I didn’t know I was holding. Finally, I can learn and live graciously again.