When you look at Kenyon’s website, multiple quotes about the cozy atmosphere of the school and connective essence of Middle Path scatter the homepage. Accordingly, the small size of the College is one of the primary reasons that many students choose Kenyon, excited to join a close-knit community. As promised on the website, Middle Path is in fact a unifying force as students leave their residences in the morning and run into multiple friends just on the walk to their first class. As a result, many Kenyon students inadvertently spend a lot of their day with other people, primarily other peers. Although this is one of the benefits of attending a small college, it also means that alone time can be limited and that making time to spend with yourself often has to be an intentional choice. So, what do Kenyon students think about alone time?
Jennie Berlin ’23 finds that it’s difficult yet imperative for her to reserve time by herself. “It’s tricky here, and so necessary, but you have to do it intentionally or it just won’t happen,” Berlin said. Isabel Fine ’23 also finds that spending time by herself is essential to her daily routine on the Hill. “Alone time is important because it’s when I collect my thoughts, I come back to myself, I’m able to process things that go on throughout the day and regain my sense of self. My piece of mind, if you will,” she said.
Yet, Fine did not always feel that spending time alone at college came easily to her, and her relationship to it has evolved throughout her years at Kenyon: “I used to hate alone time, especially freshman year because there’s so much pressure to interact and be social all the time. … But, especially being a senior, I feel less FOMO [fear of missing out] and pressure to interact because I feel solid in my relationships, so that’s also allowed me to feel more comfortable taking time alone.”
Further, Fine’s conception of how she can spend time alone has also shifted since her first year: “When I thought of alone time earlier in Kenyon, I put this pressure on myself to have it be productive — so that could either be working on hobbies, doing some sort of school work or reading.” However, as she’s gotten further into her Kenyon career, her notion of the purpose of spending time alone has become more flexible: “Because of senior year and all of the stresses of comps, I feel like I need time to not do anything, whether that’s scrolling mindlessly on TikTok or taking a nap. I cherish that time much more, and I don’t judge whether it’s ‘productive’ alone time.”
In contrast, other students do not seek much alone time at Kenyon and instead lean into the social nature of the environment for the majority of their free time. Olivia Vreeland ’24 said, “One of my favorite aspects of Kenyon is the fact that I can always be surrounded by people if that’s what I’m interested in doing, and that alone time is hard to get. It’s a really conscious choice when you do choose to take alone time. If you want to be in a group situation, then you can always be with people.” Still, Vreeland acknowledges that being with others the majority of the time is not for everyone. “As an extrovert, it’s easier for me to be with people more often, but I know that might be hard for others,’’ she said.
When asked simply how they like to spend their time alone, many Kenyon students mentioned napping and taking walks. Sofia Wilson ’23 had a quick and apt response: “Napping. Should I say more?” Fine echoed Wilson’s enthusiasm: “I love taking power naps to reset even if they don’t give me the sense that I’ve had more sleep.” Likewise, Esme Laster ’24 discussed the way that taking walks alone keeps her connected to Kenyon. “I love taking peaceful walks on the Kokosing Gap Trail and exploring the [Brown Family Environmental Center], and taking this time for myself has allowed me to feel connected to Kenyon in a completely new and different way” Laster explained. Similarly, when Candela de Amorrortu ’23 does want to spend time alone despite her tendency to stay social, she goes on a quick walk: “I’ve been going on more walks alone and really enjoying it. It’s usually very brief. I need just 30 minutes, versus some people who need a whole night to themselves. I usually just need a little reset.”
Although Kenyon can feel like a place that is built for constant social interaction, students find that cultivating a balance is possible. Importantly, a person’s conception of what “balanced” means is incredibly individual. While some conveyed that they need very little alone time, others are rejuvenated by having it every day.