Here I am at the end of my sophomore year feeling sentimental because three of my closest friends here on campus are graduating soon. This may seem like something that is completely irrelevant to some but I think that this particular situation speaks to how the dynamics at Kalamazoo College work in terms of creating friendships and relationships, and maintaining those connections. During my first year here at K, my friend group primarily consisted of other first year students due to participating in LandSea, orientation week, First Year Seminars, and living in one of the all-First-Year dorms. This wasn’t a bad thing by any means. I was very comfortable within my group of friends and was glad I had a stable and strong group of individuals that made my transition from high school to college seem so smooth and comfortable. However, I’ve been able to connect with more people this year for various reasons.
Being a sophomore is very different from being a first year student, and I’m sure that is not a surprise to anyone reading this. When you’re a sophomore you have a year of college experience and have become familiar and more comfortable with the college environment. Yet here at K, the sophomore experience is a little different since you and the seniors essentially run the school. Due to a new wave of first year students and practically all the juniors being on study abroad, student organizations and events typically come down to the responsibility of the sophomores and seniors. This dynamic serves as a catalyst for communication and connection between the two different classes. I have been lucky enough to really get to know seniors in the student organizations and classes I am in because of this dynamic.
Specifically, I have gained three senior friends that I am so grateful to have gotten to know. The three of them have helped guide me through sophomore year (which can be overwhelming because of the responsibility you now have). Through them, I have gained more confidence in certain areas of my life (such as writing and leading) and have been reassured that I don’t have to have everything figured out. One is a Psychology major that will go to medical school, one is an English major who has actually graduated early and will pursue her MFA at a graduate school in northern Michigan in the fall, and the other is an English major who will attend a publishing program at the University of Oxford in England from September to December. The three of them through their own experiences, challenges, and triumphs have taught me that even though their post-grad plans sound so sure and concrete, it took time and effort for them to fall into place. I am beyond thankful that I have had the three of them to serve as friends, mentors, and supporters. That’s the thing about this weird dynamic here at K, it can expose you to some of the most influential people, and I hope one day I will pass on all that they have given to me.
Karina Pantoja ‘20
Friends, I come to you today through the blogosphere with groundbreaking news – just moments ago I officially handed in my Senior Individualized Project (SIP)! I’ve been working on my SIP (or SIPping, as the kids call it these days) since spring of 2017, back when I was panicking about what my topic would be, which model I would choose, and how on earth I would ever finish it. Luckily, I had plenty of resources here on campus to help me navigate all of my SIP anxieties. As an Anthropology and Sociology major, I elected to do my SIP in my major department, although you can do your SIP in departments outside your major as well. Mine ended up being a forty-page research paper, but I have friends who are writing original plays, producing original music, and writing novels for their SIPs. That’s what’s so great about K – you can base your SIP off of whatever experience you want to have. But back when I was in the early stages of my SIP journey, I felt overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, and it seemed like everyone else around me had a solid vision for theirs. Luckily, I had the support of the Anthropology Department Chair, Dr. Baptiste, who always welcomed me into her office hours to hear my latest SIP concerns. I’m sure that at larger schools it just wouldn’t be possible for professors to spend as much time with students who needed help planning their SIPs. I feel so grateful to be at a school where the professors are not only easily accessible, but are also so willing to help you find your way, whether it be on a class assignment, your SIP, or life after K.
Through my conversations with Dr. Baptiste, I discovered that I wanted experience in the work force rather than experience with collecting data. She suggested that I do a summer practicum model for my SIP, where I could couple a literature review with a reflection of my internship experience. This sounded perfect for what I wanted, and now the only problem was getting myself a summer internship. That’s where the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) came in. I went to them asking what summer internship opportunities were available and they encouraged me to apply to one of the several Kalamazoo organizations that the CCPD partners with. They coached me through the application process, helped me edit my résumé and cover letters, and even awarded me a substantial stipend once I landed an internship (music to the ears of a broke college student). So not only was I able to gain experience in a field of interest, I was also able to base my SIP off of that experience. The support I was given from the Anthropology and Sociology Department and the CCPD, as well as the abundant opportunities provided by the City of Kalamazoo made my SIP experience a positive one. Whoever is reading this is probably not overly concerned about the SIP just yet, but you can rest assured that K College will give you the resources you need to succeed.
-Savannah Kinchen ’18
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