This past fall, when walking from McBride to Peirce, I received an email from the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) asking whether I would take over the office’s Instagram page for a day. Amused as I was, I briefly considered taking the CGE up on its offer to photograph the local scenery — that is, Ohio farmlands and Mount Vernon institutions. But my conscience got the better of me, and I responded that the email was likely intended for someone else — someone who was not in Gambier.
Around 50 percent of Kenyon students choose to study off-campus for one or both semesters of their junior year. While off-campus study offers many unique experiences to its participants — language immersion, specialized coursework and research opportunities, to name a few — staying here in Gambier has a special kind of charm. Of course, the choice to stay can be pragmatic; but for many, the choice is intentional.
Kenyon markets itself as an intentional community, one in which its members choose enthusiastically to take part in the common experiences that define this institution. Without a doubt, one of these common experiences is our location in rural Ohio.
Many Kenyon students come to Gambier from large coastal cities to study in a locale completely unfamiliar to them. Other students hail from small cities or rural areas, already aware of the value inherent to close-knit communities. Regardless of where we come from, the Kenyon campus and location affords us an invaluable environment to learn and evolve.
The lessons we learn in Gambier direct us all toward different paths. For some, coming to know a single community so well awakens within us a love for community wherever we find it. From Gambier, they depart to Budapest or Shanghai, hopefully to appreciate another community beyond our own. For others, the lessons of two years are not sufficient to justify leaving. Instead, we stay here, taking indispensable courses or making new friends out of those remaining in Gambier.
I do admit some personal longing to experience something other than the daily grind of a typical Kenyon week: This is a school which challenges us, both academically and socially. But I also know that this school also rewards us immensely. The value of a Kenyon semester is difficult to measure: Who can say whether my time would be best spent here or abroad?
Whether you choose to stay local or travel abroad, I hope that none of us will receive our Kenyon diplomas without an immense appreciation of Gambier, of Knox County and of Ohio.
Cameron Austin ’20 is a mathematics and philosophy major from Chattannooga, Tenn. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org