It’s no secret that Kenyon students are constantly busy; it’s what makes Common Hour so valuable and why everyone runs on “Kenyon Time,” always arriving five minutes late. This is largely due to Kenyon students’ strong commitment to their extracurricular activities. When not in class, studying or attending office hours, most students are in club meetings, at practice or working at an on-campus job. Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced Kenyon to move to remote learning in March, many students have found themselves in an unprecedented predicament: They aren’t busy. With an absence of activities, both Kenyon-related and in the greater world, many students have found creative ways to occupy their free time while social distancing.
Some students have started with the obvious: They have taken up hobbies that are infamous for being time-consuming. Julia Hintz ’22, for instance, decided to learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. But, once she started, she found that solving a Rubik’s Cube is not as long a process as commonly believed, taking her only one night. Despite lacking the prolonged challenge Hintz sought, she takes pleasure in this newfound ability.
“I think it’s just rewarding to look at [the Rubik’s Cube] and know it can’t stump you. Also, the mindless doing it—once you’re good at it—is super meditative,” Hintz said.
Franny Millen ’22 is one of many students who has been using her newfound time as a way to bond with families and communities. After learning how to play Mahjong from her younger brother, who learned the game while away at college this year, Millen saw an opportunity become closer to her family.
“[I] decided to get my parents involved so our whole family could play. We’ve started to play it weekly, whenever we all have time,” Millen said. “It’s a nice way to spend time together.”
Hayley Dietrich ’21, who has been spending time workshopping her writing ideas with her friends from the Kenyon Writing Center’s Creative Writing Table (KWC-CWT), expressed similar feelings.
“After having been abroad [all year] and unable to participate in [KWC-CWT] … [it’s been] good to have feedback as I progress with new ideas. [Talking with KWC-CWT members] makes me feel less isolated … It’s a useful new part of my quarantine routine,” Dietrich said.
Students are also using their time away from campus to begin massive projects which they would not have otherwise had the time to take on. Among these students is Haley Cohen ’23, who has taken her passion for fashion history to a whole new level: Despite never having sewed before, she has made it her goal to sew an entire 17th-18th-century Western European period costume. However, the creation of such a period-piece costume is complex for even the most experienced sewers, let alone a beginner like Cohen, so she started building her skills with the basics.
“I started by taking some older clothes of mine that I don’t wear and altering them into things that I would,” Cohen said. “My first project was taking a cropped T-shirt and making it into a tank top. I had to cut off the sleeves and then pin the rough edges down to sew hems on either sleeve … Right now, I’m working on hemming a skirt.”
The project has been a useful distraction for Cohen during these difficult times.
“Sewing gives me something productive to do with my hands other than school work … It’s also just nice to sit back and watch Antiques Roadshow and not feel as guilty about procrastinating writing my Quest [PSCI 101Y-102] essay,” she said.
Josh Aberman ’20 has spent his time recording and producing his own album, and even converted his bedroom into a makeshift recording studio. The project has been a cathartic experience for him, allowing him to make sense of what he was feeling after Kenyon’s closure.
“When it was announced that Kenyon was shut down [for the semester], I kind of just entered song-writing mode. I often find that at the toughest moments of my life, I get huge bouts of creativity and so the songs just kind of started flowing,” Aberman said. “This has basically been the only way that I’ve been able to cope with being quarantined.”
Though he wishes that he could be at Kenyon for his final spring semester, Aberman has tried to view this project as a silver lining.
“I’d much rather be at Kenyon playing with [my band] The Millennial Pinks or working in the WKCO recording studio than making music alone in my room, but I’m trying to keep a positive attitude. Music keeps people’s spirits alive, and that is how I am employing it for now.”
Dora Segall ’20 has taken a strong interest in how her peers are coping. In search of a hobby that could fulfill her interest in journalism, she decided to launch her Instagram account, @covid.college, documenting college students’ experiences with social distancing. Though her account is centered around the COVID-19 crisis, Segall emphasized that the project is about much more than the crisis itself, but also how it has impacted students’ daily lives.
“I think the main thing to me is going beyond the actual crisis,” she explained. “At the beginning [of the pandemic], people [were] talking about what their response was when everything went into lockdown and everything, but I’m trying to focus more on people’s daily experiences … I just want to see, within this new normal, what people are experiencing.”
Although being away from the Hill during the pandemic has been no easy task, Kenyon students are trying to make the best of the situation, even if that requires some creativity.