Right at the Finish Line: An Update and Reflection of My First Year at K

With my first year at Kalamazoo College coming to an end, I figured you all might enjoy a quick check-in about my life socially and academically, as well as how I’ve adjusted to the college life overall. Fortunately, I’ve had a really great college experience thus far in terms of adjusting to being away from home (even if I am only 30 minutes away) and making new friends. I really owe my easy adjustment in these areas to the LandSea program here at K. I talked about the program in my first blog post but because the experience I received from it has had such an impact on me, it deserves to be mentioned again. After spending 18 days in the wilderness with strangers without any contact with my family and friends from home, I had no choice but to get to know the people in my patrol. After 18 days in camping, canoeing, and hiking, I created such strong bonds with those in my patrol and my patrol leaders which made me feel more comfortable coming into my first year at a college where I wasn’t going to know anyone else attending. Two of my patrol mates are two of my closest friends here at school and I honestly don’t know who I would be friends with if I hadn’t been put in the same patrol as them.

As for my adjustment academically, I was pretty intimidated being at a school where it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing with their lives and seemed to have so much knowledge about topics and issues within and outside of their intended major. It felt like I had gone from a striving student in high school to an average kid in college. Thankfully, this feeling is typically normal for many incoming First Years. The academic atmosphere at K can be very rigorous and stressful, but once you spend some time taking classes in and outside of your intended major, or majors, you start to realize that you have just as much right to be here as everyone else. It’s a very common thing to feel like you’re out of place and even under-qualified once you move to a new place, and the people at K understand. The open curriculum here allows you to dive deep into the subjects you strive in while also allowing you to find new talents and interests in areas you never would have tried before.

So, overall, I’ve had a pretty good college experience over the past nine months. It may not be as easy for some of you though. Maybe you’ll feel a little more overwhelmed than I did when I first got here. Or, you might have an easier adjustment to the college life. The important thing to know is that it’s different for everyone, but no matter if you feel anxious, homesick, or intimidated, every feeling is valid.

– Karina Pantoja ’20