My Externship Experience

The summer before my junior year abroad, I applied for an externship in Maine with the Lancaster Baking Company. The business was formed by a K College alumna named Debra Marsteller, and she has continued the company with the help of her husband, son, and various externs from K. Every summer, Debra bakes a wide range of desserts and brings them to the local farmer’s market every week to sell. She makes scones, sticky buns, brookies (a cookie baked inside of a brownie—and yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds!), and lemon tea bread. She sells coffee at her stand as well.

As her extern, I learned a lot about both baking and running your own business. In order to be a vendor at the farmer’s market, she had to apply and have her kitchen inspected. Then she had to develop her recipes, manage ordering ingredients and keep supplies stocked, and keep track of finances. It’s a lot of work to have your own business, especially when you are doing the majority of the work yourself. Over the years, Debra has become skilled in managing all of the various aspects of her baking company, and it was a great experience to learn first-hand how all of that worked.

Every week, we would bake from Thursday to early Saturday morning. We would package all of the baked goods and transport them to the farmer’s market, which ran most of the day Saturday. I helped Debra sell the goods, keep supplies such as coffee cups stocked, and work the cash box. It was really fun to see the community come together and interact with the different vendors. Everyone had such a wide range of skills, from artisan breads and cheeses to hand-woven purses. This introduced me to another aspect of the business world as well—one that involves meeting new people, building a network of customers, and supporting other business owners.

It was such a positive experience to be able to stay with a K alumna and learn about their business. I was able to engage in one of my passions, baking, and to get to know a really kind and interesting person in the process. I was also introduced to the brookie, which remains one of my all-time my favorite desserts to this day.

Natalie Martell- K’16

My Experience as a Prospective Student

       I grew up in a very rural part of Maine; I have known since High School that I wanted to both leave Maine for college, and that I wanted to go to a college where I would have the opportunity to go abroad. I also knew that I was very interested in studying Chinese! When I visited K College as an admitted-prospective student, I was both eager and nervous about staying overnight on a college campus, but then I met my host! I was worried the whole day before meeting my overnight host because the name on my sheet said “Tyler Armor.” I was slightly freaking out because I thought they had made a mistake and accidentally assigned me to stay overnight with a guy! But of course, when I met my smiling, friendly host, she was all too excited to meet me as well. 

        I could not have gotten more lucky with my host assignment. Tyler, at the time, was in the spring quarter of her sophomore year, a declared East Asian Studies major, and also a recently accepted participant of the Beijing study abroad program for the following year! She also liked K-pop, one of my favorite types of music. That night we hung out with her friends in their living learning house and talked about K, debated over our favorite bands, and also covered every aspect of the college’s China track. I left the next morning with a smile on my face and a newly posted status on Facebook: “I’m going to Kalamazoo.” 

       Sure enough, the following year I walked back onto campus as a first year student determined already to declare East Asian Studies and go to China my Junior year. Unfortunately though, Tyler was not on campus, like she had planned, she was in China for the entire year! So while she was gone I went about settling into campus, and I hosted my own prospective students. I also took as many Chinese-based classes as I could, including the 100-level Chinese classes, and the Chinese history classes here. Before I knew it, I was declaring my major early in the spring quarter of my freshman year, and I was on track to complete my major and go to China. 

       Then came Sophomore year. Tyler and I had messaged each other here and there throughout my first year on campus, and briefly over the summer while we both traveled around Korea, but we had not seen each other since my time as a prospective student. A week or so after being on campus I saw her across the street for the library and ran over and we had our dramatic reunion! We were so excited to see each other and we had a lot to talk about; I wanted to know all about China.  We bonded over K-pop again and went to see a concert in Chicago, we both participated in a dance in Asia-fest, and we are even registered for the same class next quarter! Last week I was accepted into the Beijing study abroad program for next year, and she is going to graduate. I could not have imagined, almost two years ago from now that I would be in the same place Tyler was when I visited as a prospective student. It’s crazy how things come together.​ 

Getting ready to dance at Asia-Fest!
Getting ready to dance at Asia-Fest!



Choosing K College

I am one of the most indecisive people I have ever met. I often undergo an agonizing decision-making process when I’m simply choosing what kind of ice cream I want or what movie I want to watch. So when it came time to decide on which college I wanted to go to, I braced myself for months of struggle, driving myself crazy trying to figure out where I wanted to direct my future.

I didn’t make the process any easier for myself by applying to ten schools. I wasn’t accepted to all of them, of course, but I had a decent selection to choose from. I narrowed it down to three schools, all of which were small liberal arts schools very similar to K.

Deciding where I wanted to go to college turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. K stood out to me for many reasons: the study abroad program, the emphasis on social justice, the beautiful, tight-knit campus. Although I didn’t admit it right away, I knew I wanted to go to K as soon as I got my acceptance letter. The handwritten note at the bottom acknowledging my creativity made me feel like I would be valued at K. I believed I would be entering an environment in which I would feel challenged and also inspired by the unique community of students and faculty.

K was also the only college I applied to that acknowledged my music supplement. I had recorded a disc of four original songs and sent it in with my application—I believed it would make me stand out and demonstrate my creativity. When I learned that K was adding money to my scholarship for my music supplement, I knew that this was the kind of school I wanted to be a part of.

Having been at K for almost four years now, I can say that creativity of the students and faculty at K is as alive and powerful as I had hoped it would be. I am constantly amazed by my fellow students and the things that members of this college have accomplished. I feel lucky to be part of a community that values thoughtfulness and innovation so highly, and I am so thankful that I made the decision to come to K.

– Natalie Martell, K’16

Taking an Intimidating Class at K

    I want to talk about choosing classes at K. Throughout my entire high school career I was not the biggest fan of history. My high school had a very small number of history classes available and of the few required courses I took there, I was not impressed. Because of this predisposition I had about history as a subject I was very hesitant about taking history classes in college. All of the history classes I took were quite boring, so I was fairly pessimistic when I found that one of the few Chinese electives offered during the Fall quarter of my freshman year was a history class. I knew before coming into college that I wanted to be an East Asian Major and study Chinese, but I was not all that excited to start out my East Asian Studies career with a history class, given my dislike for the subject. None-the-less I decided to give it a shot. 

    Giving it a shot turned out to be a great idea. When I first arrived in the class, Modern China, I was quite intimidated by the syllabus. For the first twenty minutes of class I was dreading my decision while I read over the numerous amount of readings and essays that would be required of me. But then my professor began to lecture. I had never before been so interested by a lecture. On that first day I learned the difference between a high school class and a college class. While my high school history teacher spent more time talking about the history of football than the history of the US, given his second job as football coach, I was amazed to have a professor in college who was actually excited to teach us. He didn’t just lecture us from a book, but he actually knew the material and was able to answer any questions we threw at him. 

    ​That experience lead me to continue taking classes with that professor almost every quarter since. I have also taken him on as my academic advisor and I have been able to advance my East Asian Studies major almost towards completion. I am going to Beijing next year where I will hopefully take a Modern China class, and I can more than say I feel 100% ready to take on that challenge, as my classes here at K have fully prepared me. So, as a result, I would strongly recommend taking a class even if it looks intimidating. Sometimes, no matter how difficult the subject matter, a good teacher can make all the difference. 

– Dejah Crystal, K’18


My SIP Experience: Transforming an Idea into Reality

I have always loved stories, and I have wanted to write a novel since I was in the first grade. There was a period of time where when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered, “J.K. Rowling”. It’s been a dream that has continued throughout my years of creative writing classes and workshops at K. Sharing work with fellow writers and amazing professors in those classes gave me the confidence and motivation necessary to realize that becoming an author is my aspiration in life. That’s why I thought the Senior Individualized Project (SIP) was the perfect opportunity to finally write my novel. Getting up the motivation to write a whole book isn’t easy, but with SIP deadlines, a helpful advisor, and a love of writing, I thought I’d be able to accomplish this seemingly impossible task.

I started working on the novel in Advanced Fiction Workshop in the spring of my junior year. I planned out the story I wanted to write, created character profiles, and decided on a format for the novel. With the help of my workshop group, I began to craft what would become a 250-page project. Throughout the summer, I continued to plan the novel. By the time fall rolled around, I was writing like the wind. Meeting deadlines was, of course, difficult at times. But I was doing something I am very passionate about. When inspiration eluded me, I powered through, with the help of espresso and movie soundtracks. It was exciting to see a story that had existed in my mind becoming a reality on the page. With my advisor’s feedback and constant encouragement, I was able to finish 250 pages by the deadline.

Turning in my SIP was a bittersweet experience. Even though I enjoyed the process of writing, I was disappointed because I didn’t complete the novel as I had planned. The project turned out to be a little bigger than I had planned, and in the end I didn’t have enough time to finish it. I am very happy with what I have accomplished, though. I have never written 250 pages in so little time. My advisor was proud of my project as well, and ended up awarding me Honors. I had never thought that a small story in my head could become such a huge part of life. And the narrative of my novel has become very close to my heart. This will probably make me sound like a crazy person, but I know the characters in the story so well now that they feel like real people to me.

I set some lofty goals for my SIP. Even though I didn’t fully reach the goals as I had planned, I produced the best piece of writing of my life. I think it’s worth it to send out to do something extraordinary and seemingly impossible when you have an opportunity such as the SIP. Even if you don’t get all the way there, you might get closer than you ever thought you could.

Natalie Martell – K’16


Cirque du K

One of my favorite things at Kalamazoo College is its Cirque du K club; its very own circus club. Last year, when I was a first-year student, I started out my fall term attending a few “playtimes.” Playtimes take place two nights out of the week. They’re free-for-all sessions, where students can learn new skills, hone skills or just socialize with a cool group of people. “Skills” can be anything from ground skills — such as juggling, partner acrobatics, or balancing on the big ball — to aerial skills, in the Lyra or the Silks. And the best part is, you do not need any previous skills to try it out. You can come to a playtime as a very beginner and you can leave your first day, already doing a few tricks in the air.

Hanging from the ceiling in the dancer position at Cirque du K practice
Me on the Lyra in the “Dancer” position!

Circus is a very versatile sport. It’s all about knowing your limits and strengths, and working with them to find the best moves fit for you. Another really cool thing Kalamazoo College has is the circus arts gym class. Again, you can take the class with no prior experience, or with a bunch of experience, and you can also take it as many times as you want. Because of schedule conflicts, I was not able to take the gym class until the fall term of my sophomore year, but I was so happy to finally get in! I had attended a playtime at least once a week for all of my first year at Kalamazoo College, so by the time I was in the gym class, I had a bit of experience. It was still a great opportunity to harness and improve my skills. The silks is a great example. I do not, needless to say, have much core or arm strength, and unfortunately, the silks require a lot of both to climb them. Until the gym class, I had always been under the assumption that because I could not climb the silks well I would not be able to do them at all. But I learned later that was not the case. I was able to tie a foot-knot on the ground and still perform many skills without needing the ability to climb. Since taking the class, I have greatly advanced my skills in the silks!

Dejah Crystal hanging out in the Lyra at Cirque du K practice
Me hanging out in the Lyra.

Another part of the Cirque du K club is its officers. This year, my sophomore year, I was elected Toy Master — AKA manager — of the Cirque du K club. In this role, I got to learn a lot more of the technical stuff about rigging the aerial equipment and organizing rigging and un-rigging for showcases. As a club, we preform in several showcases on campus throughout the year, so it was very interesting this year to find out more about what goes into setting up a showcase. Overall, I would recommend that incoming students swing by one of our playtimes and give it a shot!

Cirque du K practice featuring two participants in Superman position
Partner Acro move called “Superman” with me as the base, and my friend Kathryn as the flyer.

Dejah Crystal, ’17

A South Haven Saturday

As I got off the bus for my first Beyond the Hive adventure, I found some fellow first-years and off we went to explore the festival. It was my first time to go to the South Haven Ice Breaker Festival, and my first time in South Haven at all. I heard about the experience through Kalamazoo College’s Office of Student Involvement and only paid $5 for lunch, transportation, and a lot of fun.

This was the 23rd annual Ice Breaker Festival–it runs for three days in the beginning of February every year. It’s known for its ice carving contest, pub crawl, chili tasting and ice skating. Because of the mild winter the air wasn’t too cold, but the wind from Lake Michigan made it feel quite cold.

First my friends and I spotted a few ice sculptures next to the ice skating rink. There was a chair made of ice that many people stopped to sit in and take pictures in, and other sculptures of Storm Trooper, a Popsicle and more–all for a contest.

Qynce Chumley K ’19 poses with an ice sculpture.
Qynce Chumley K ’19 poses with an ice sculpture.


As I walked downtown, I saw long lines of people waiting to taste chili from one of 26 contestants. I got some hot cocoa and went inside a store to warm up for a few minutes before joining a line for chili. I tasted about four samples, the most unique being a chili flavored ice cream.

One ice cream store mixed chili powder into vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips, with an addition of yellow sprinkles to look like cheese.
One ice cream store mixed chili powder into vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips, with an addition of yellow sprinkles to look like cheese.

I wandered into a few more stores, including one that was a store full of dogs and products for the dogs and their owners. Owners were nice and let me pet just about all the dogs that were in close proximity.

The downtown stores were charming and beautiful. Right beyond downtown was Lake Michigan, so I wandered down to the pier and the lighthouse at the end. I’d never seen a partially frozen lake myself, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful the lake was.

Chunks of ice floated in Lake Michigan, making it hard to distinguish where the shoreline was.
Chunks of ice floated in Lake Michigan, making it hard to distinguish where the shoreline was.

After seeing the lake, I came back to the downtown area where hundreds of people were hanging around. I went into a coffee shop where there was free hot cocoa and coffee, as well as more chili to taste.

The nearly five hours that I spent in South Haven went by so quickly because I had so much fun. I thoroughly enjoyed getting the opportunity to get off campus and have an amazing mid-quarter break.

MaryClare Colombo, K’19


Finding family in the Wilderness

LandSea was an incredible way to start out college. What better way to get to know your peers than to spend two weeks in the wilderness with them, making food together, sleeping together under a tarp, being unable to bathe? Well, I can’t think of one.

The group dynamic of LandSea made it unlike any other bonding experience I’ve ever had. To be paired with nine strangers (seven incoming freshmen, two leaders) resulted in some very deep connections. On the long hikes through the woods we told each other our life stories. Without the distraction of technology and the internet, we looked to each other for entertainment. We took pleasure in getting to know one another, hearing each other’s funny, shocking, or sad stories. The social barriers of everyday life fell away. After a certain amount of time in the wilderness with nine other people, it’s impossible to hold up a facade. Everyone has moments when they are raw or exposed. It was challenging at times, but that openness allowed me to really get to know the people in my patrol. By the end of the two weeks, I felt like I knew them on a deeper level than many of the acquaintances I’d known for years in high school.

The sense of togetherness was amplified by the challenge of travelling through and living in the wilderness. When we came to steep parts of the trail, we helped each other out and cheered each other on. The support of the group made it easier to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks such as climbing mountains. And once we would reach the top — all ten of us — the moment would be so much sweeter since we were sharing it.

This is my patrol! We called ourselves the "A2 Sass Crew."
This is my patrol! We called ourselves the “A2 Sass Crew.”

I can remember days when we would get up before the sunrise. I would pull my fifty-pound pack onto my sore shoulders and think, I don’t want to be doing this. But then someone would start talking or singing as we made our way up the mountain, and the sun would start to rise, and then all of a sudden I could see the whole world below me — tree-covered hills stretching for miles, distant mountains the color of forget-me-nots, and a sky that had never seemed so vast. And we would all stand up there and look at each other and smile I what we had accomplished.

The relationships I formed on LandSea have lasted all my four years of college. I feel confident that they will continue to last after I graduate. I learned a lot about teamwork and wilderness skills on LandSea, but most importantly, I learned the beauty of sharing a sunrise with nine strangers who were beginning to feel a bit like family.​


Natalie Martell, K’16

Top Four Reasons Why I Play at K


1.  I’m a STUDENT athlete.

At Kalamazoo College, the most important thing in your life as an athlete is still your schoolwork. Every Coach encourages you to make sure that your academic priorities come before your athletic ones.  There have been a handful of times that I’ve needed to skip practice to finish an assignment or take an exam and Coach Kathy has always been extremely supportive.

2. The Coaching Staff.

As I said above, every Coach on campus is extremely supportive of your academic goals, but they don’t stop there. Each Coach is an expert in his/her sport and many of them are constantly making changes to their programs to make sure their training style is the best for their athletes.  During my four years as a swimmer here at K, Coach Kathy has not once structured a season exactly the same as the last.  She is constantly changing and adapted to current training trends and that’s what makes her so successful.


Speaking of success, athletics at Kalamazoo College have a great tradition of winning. Our Men’s Tennis team holds the longest consecutive Conference Championship streak of any sport in any division.  Our Men’s Swim and Dive Team has 28 MIAA titles, more than the next two teams combined.  Beyond the winning and success however, each team here at K has a rich history and tradition behind it.  Team bonding activities that originated decades ago are still an important part of each team’s identity today.


When you join a sport team at Kalamazoo you aren’t just joining a group of guys or gals (or guys and gals) that play that sport that you do.  You’re joining an entire network of athletes that share your same passion for academics and athletics.  Anytime I need help with something whether it’s academic, personal, or maybe I just need helping moving something heavy, I look to my teammates first.  But it’s not just the teammates that you share your four years with that are part of your family.  Athletes that graduated before you were even in diapers might know who you are and make sure that you wear the orange and black with pride.  And after you graduate, your family becomes your professional network, offering to help you pursue whatever career you choose and providing as many resources as they can.

Athletics at Kalamazoo College is more than just a rich history of success on the field, court, or in the pool. Each athlete that walks through our campus emerges a more wholesome human, ready to take on the world beyond the bubble.


Kevin Ewing, ’16 – Men’s Swimming and Diving