This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling with a group of students from K to the annual Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) Conference in Massachusetts. CLPP is a yearly event that is dedicated to creating a space for individuals to come together and discuss reproductive justice– its history, the work that has been done, the work currently being done, and what is yet to come. The conference lasted from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and hosted a variety of workshops to attend with other events such as an opportunity to network and panels made up of activists explaining their work and organizations.
The schedule of the conference was as followed: checking in on Friday afternoon, attending a workshop, dinner, and then an abortion speak out (this is where anyone who has ever had an abortion is able to share as much or as little about their experience in a safe space). Following the speak out was the screening of the movie, Margaritas with a Straw, chosen for its representation of disabled folks and LGBTQ folks within the film. On Saturday there was an open plenary to start the day where activists from different organizations said a few words about their work or organization. This was followed by a quick lunch and then the opportunity to attend three workshops. Following the workshops was dinner with the opportunity to network with other individuals at the conference. Later that night there was an 80s themed dance party for everyone at the conference. On the last day, Sunday, we had the chance to attend one more workshop before attending the closing plenary, which was a panel consisting of four activists who talked about their work.
One of my favorite parts of the conference was the closing plenary because the theme of the panel was how one can (and why one should) keep joy, liberation, and self-care at the front of their activism. All the speakers on the panel discussed how important it is to find time for self-care and to participate in the activities that make you happy. Most activists are “burnt out” by their late 20s which can mostly be attributed to the fact that many individuals keep themselves so busy and immersed in their work that they can forget to take a break, or don’t take a break for fear that it can be seen as being “weak” or “lazy” or “not as involved” compared to other activists. However, the panelists on Sunday said that self-care has only made their activism stronger and has made them feel more proud of the work they do, whether it be working to help mothers end sustenance abuse or helping women of color gain better access to education.
As someone who participates in small steps of activism and who would like to keep activism as an aspect and activity within their lives, it’s comforting to know that that doesn’t mean I should ever stop taking care of myself in order to help others. There is time and space to make sure that you are being taken care of while also improving the lives of others. No one can reach full liberation if we, as the activists, are allowing ourselves to suffer under the restraints of ourselves.
School is back in session, and I can’t believe how quickly the first few weeks of school flew by! Because K College is such an academically rigorous institution, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially during fall quarter since we’re all readjusting to school after summer break. Now that I’m a senior, I recognize the importance of “fun time”, as well as how easily it is overlooked; therefore, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite things to do in Kalamazoo in the fall. Whether you’re planning an afternoon with your friends, a date with a significant other or some much-needed “me time”, these are all experiences that I think every K College student should have:
On the last Thursday of fall quarter, head over to Hicks for Cafsgiving, where the Kalamazoo College Dining Services puts on an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner for the whole campus. It’s the perfect time to let your school friends and professors know how much you appreciate them, and to celebrate before everyone heads home for winter break. (Just make sure you get there early—the line to get in usually stretches throughout the entire building!)
If you want a sight to behold, go to the Kalamazoo Balloon Festival at Gull Meadow Farms (October 27th-29th), which is the largest hot air balloon festival in Michigan. Admission to the festival is free, so you can pick apples, get lost in the corn maze, check out the petting zoo, and eat cider and donuts all while watching the balloons take to the sky.
The weekend of October 13th-15th is our Mid-Term Break this quarter, meaning that we have that Friday off—so, if you’re able to (and want to), why not surprise your family at home for the weekend? Everyone needs a relaxing weekend at home once in a while—and it could be worth it just to see the priceless looks on your parents’ faces when you walk through the door.
For a cheap deal on a good meal, make sure to stop by Chicken Tender Tuesdays at University Roadhouse. From 9:00 PM until midnight, you can get a basket of chicken tenders and fries for only $3, making it the perfect late night snack (and, if you’re still hungry, be sure to get a famous Bombshell for dessert—it’s worth every extra penny!)
Whether you like to tap, twerk, or tendu, if you want an opportunity to show off your best dance moves, be sure to participate in the fall Frelon show—and if you’re not in it, definitely go see it! Frelon, the student-run dance company here at K, is open to everyone, regardless of the student’s level of dance experience; they two shows they put on each year (fall and spring) are two of the most widely-attended events on campus.
And, of course, we can’t forget about the end-of-quarter a cappella show, which features all four a cappella groups we have here on campus (Premium Orange, The Limelights, The Kalamadudes, and AcaPOC). Performances usually occur on the Friday and Saturday nights of 10th Week, so support your friends as they put a new twist on some of your favorite songs.
If you’re craving a late night snack, a great place to get one (or many!) is the Kalamazoo Food Truck Rally, which takes place once a month and hosts a variety of local food trucks. The fall is the best time to go to the food truck rallies because they’re often centered around certain themes (e.g. Homecoming themed, Halloween themed), bringing members of the Kalamazoo community together for a “rally” good time!
Last but not least, we can’t forget about this year’s Homecoming (October 20th-22nd)! Cheer on the football team as they play against Adrian College, participate in the annual Homecoming 5K Run/Walk, and meet K College alumni who have come back to show their Hornet Pride!
One of the biggest things I struggled with during my high school career was figuring out when to keep pushing myself on assignments and when to realize I was absolutely drained and needed to give myself a break. In my specific academic environment, it seemed that if you weren’t getting A’s, you weren’t working hard enough. Anything less was unacceptable and embarrassing. With the attitude I was surrounded by, I always did my best to push myself academically while staying involved in plenty of extracurricular activities. However, there came a point during my senior year where I realized I had to give myself a break. Though my grades were achieved fairly easily and my involvement in clubs and sports had not been faltering, my body and mind were hurting. During that year I went home sick more times than the previous three years combined, and looking back, most of those instances were a result of wearing my body down from stress and fatigue. Even after resting until I was “better,” I would jump right back into the same pattern of work, work, work. It wasn’t until I came to K that I learned how vital your physical and mental health are.
The summer before my first quarter at K, so many people told me, “Don’t worry if you feel like you’re drowning. The stress culture at K is very real.” Although I heard these words from many people, I didn’t know what they meant until my second quarter here at K. Fortunately, my Fall Quarter was pretty calm. I loved the classes I was taking and worked hard in them, but I never felt overwhelmed. Yet, I didn’t know Winter Quarter would have an entirely different atmosphere. The classes I decided to take all required more from me, both inside and outside of the classroom. Along with a different course load, I was involved in more student organizations and started to work on the weekends. It all seemed so familiar that I thought nothing of it. It was exactly what I did in high school. But I didn’t last long. The overwhelming feeling soon settled in and it hit me, “This is the stress culture everyone talks about.” It was almost a scary feeling because I realized that it was hard and I wasn’t necessarily used to hard, but the professors at K knew that.
The thing I appreciate most about K is that professors understand that the stress culture is real on campus and that it is draining. Most professors encourage you to make sure your mental health is intact and that you are at a healthy place to learn and work. I have been lucky enough to have professors, especially during my Winter Quarter, that encourage my classmates and I to make sure our minds and bodies are well because if they’re not, we will not be at our full potential and will not focus as best as we can on the material and participate in the discussions. Looking back now, if I could give myself one crucial piece of advice before coming to K, I would say, “Health is wealth. Your academic performance is important, but the state of your mind and body outrank it.” I strongly encourage everyone to remind themselves that their minds, bodies, and souls come first, always.
During the summer before my first year at Kalamazoo College, I anxiously awaited the different information that was being released through my Hornet Hive account, like who my roommate would be and what dorm we were in, what classes I could take as a freshman, and who my academic adviser would be. As I was preparing to begin college, every new email or letter in the mail I received regarding the upcoming year felt like one more step closer to this new exciting experience.
When I was assigned my academic adviser and found out it was one of the basketball coaches, I was a little taken aback. Being interested in English and Art, I worried that a coach who had an entirely different job and set of responsibilities wouldn’t have time to invest in helping me and wouldn’t be able to lead me in the right direction. As soon as I met Coach Miller, the head women’s basketball coach, all my worries went away. Her super laidback personality made it easy for the five students she was advising to make conversation and get to know her. She was personable and easygoing. After that brief first meeting, we all had to make individual advising appointments to speak about our individual K-Plans.
While Coach Miller realized a lot of those things were fairly far ahead in the future, we talked about what I possibly wanted to major in, what clubs I wanted to be involved in, where I might want to study abroad and what I was most interested in pursuing as a student. Even though Coach Miller wasn’t an English or Art professor, she knew the answers to almost all of my questions and knew when to point me in the direction of someone in the relevant department for questions she didn’t have answers to. What ended up being most important about my relationship with my academic adviser was that she was easy to talk to, someone I felt I could trust and rely on, and that she went above and beyond the required once-a-quarter meeting by emailing me to help with schedule changes, recommend a yoga teacher when I mentioned I was interested in the class, and just generally check up on how things were going. Academic advisers are trained to guide you and help inform you when needed, no matter what subject or activity they themselves are involved in.