As a first year at Kenyon, the novelty and excitement of going to college in a small town has not worn off, and I don’t think it ever will. I knew what I wanted, and the quaintness of Kenyon and Gambier is exactly that. My mindset has always been, “I have my whole life to live in a big city, when am I ever going to be able to live in a small town with no real responsibilities again?” Even if you are struck by cabin fever, it’s important to recognize the joys of going to school in a small town, and for all of us who are able to see that, we don’t want to hear that you’re constantly unsatisfied.
I often hear students refer to Kenyon as “isolated” or “in the middle of nowhere,” and this remark almost always has a negative spin on it. My question is this: Why is this negative? I think it’s romantic. Kenyon, to me, is like an intellectual oasis tucked away in a small town in central Ohio, and it’s the perfect haven for focusing on yourself, on your relationships—and on your ambitions. Whining about its location is unreasonable. The opportunity to cut yourself off from distraction and hustle and bustle is an extraordinary liberty. We get to focus on ourselves for four years in a small town.
Gambier and Mount Vernon are established towns with real people who lead lives every day that are completely beyond the scope of our perspective here on the Hill. It frustrates me when people complain about the area around Kenyon. It isn’t the burden of Gambier or Mount Vernon to entertain a bunch of college kids. Their citizens don’t owe you anything—we’re here to go to school.
Kenyon does a great job of creating events and activities for students that often go unattended. Students will grumble about having nothing to do but in the same breath say they’re planning to stay in bed all day.
I often hear my fellow first years ranting about the dorms and longing to be an upperclassman living in an apartment with friends. Why be in such a rush to grow up? You’ll have the rest of your life to live in apartments, so appreciate the experience of living in a dorm—chances are, you’ll never do it again. More broadly, sharing your space with other people is an important experience to have. It teaches adaptability and social skills. The opportunity to live in one building with people who are in the same stage of life as you are is rare. Just as Kenyon is an oasis of growth and academics, the dorm is a microcosm of friendship and fun. Don’t wish your experience away.
Kenyon students self-identify as “open-minded” and “accepting.” I believe that the majority of us are, but it’s the ultimate hypocrisy to be judgmental towards where we live and go to school. If we as students are so flexible and adaptable, can’t we find the joy in our school and everything it offers? Can’t we all see the merit of living free from distraction?
Kenyon gathers students from all over the country and all over the world to the top of a hill in rural Ohio where we form relationships with each other and broaden our worldviews. Think about what is possible here that isn’t possible anywhere else, and take advantage of every opportunity—even if it seems weird to you. We live in a bubble. This is not real life. So before real life begins, it’s important to savor every aspect of our experience at Kenyon.