I transferred to Kenyon College in the fall of 2007, and graduated in 2010. While I absolutely adored my time at Kenyon, there are a few things I wish someone had told me before I started. Here are five things I wish I’d known:
1.) It’s a close-knit bubble.
If you ask any Kenyon student about the social scene on campus, he or she is likely to reply, “It’s a close-knit bubble.” I heard this many times before arriving on campus, and to me, it always seemed like a positive thing. However, as someone who transferred to Kenyon from another school after freshman year, I found breaking into this close-knit bubble to be very, very tricky.
I would not advise against transferring to Kenyon, however. While my transition to life at Kenyon was challenging at first, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. After my first year there, it was very clear to me that I had made the right decision. Sometimes seemingly negative situations shape us and help us grow in unexpected ways. And that’s exactly what Kenyon did for me.
2.) It can be a lonely place.
Before going to Kenyon, I assumed that the word “lonely” was a bad thing. But my sporadic loneliness at Kenyon was actually very beneficial to my creative, mental, and personal growth.
As sophomore transfer, it was hard for me to break in socially at first. In the time between transferring to Kenyon and finding solid friends, I basked in the beauty that is Gambier, Ohio. Kenyon sits on top of a majestic hill, surrounded by cornfields and bike trails and rivers. I would take long walks, listen to music, and brainstorm stories for my writing classes. As someone hailing from the New York Metropolitan Area, Kenyon’s serene and picturesque setting was a necessary breath of fresh air.
Even after I had developed lifelong friendships, I still enjoyed my peaceful walks around campus. Being alone is something that people often fear or find shameful, but I have found it to be an invaluable and positive part of the human experience.
3.) Sometimes what you are looking for isn’t there yet, but you can start it.
When I came out to my roommate, who was also LGBT, we decided to look into the LGBT community on campus. We were disheartened by how little visibility there was, especially for women, so we started a club for queer women. The first meeting had three members, and by the time we graduated, we were up to about 30. Now the member list is over 100 people. One of the great things about Kenyon is that even if something you need isn’t there, there is room for you to make it happen.
Similarly, I became very interested in filmmaking while at Kenyon, and there were only a few other students at the time who were in a similar boat. A friend of mine started a filmmaking club, which quickly gained dozens of members. There was clearly a huge demand for this on campus, and just a few years later, the school established an official film major.
4.) Students are genuinely passionate.
One of the most refreshing things about Kenyon was how passionate my fellow classmates were. After coming from an environment where the general understanding was that the only purpose of high school was to get into a good college, I was eager to meet students with big ideas and a genuine interest in learning.
I was disheartened to learn that many students at my first college were on the fast track to graduate from school. I didn’t get the sense that people were enjoying what they were learning as undergraduates.
At Kenyon, I was thrilled to discover that the students are genuinely passionate about the subjects they’re studying. Being in this intellectually curious environment nurtured my love of filmmaking and gave me the confidence to pursue a film career in an unconventional way after graduation.
5.) When you graduate, you will have no idea how to buy groceries.
All Kenyon students are required to be on the meal plan. There are no swipe cards to get into the dining hall, and all you have to do is walk in and eat as much as you want for as long as you want. It’s pretty amazing. The downside is that you never learn how to feed yourself.
When I graduated, I moved to New York City with two women who had attended a different school. They lived off campus for the last two years of school, and had opted out of the meal plan. A few weeks after we moved in, one of my roommates opened the fridge and looked at my empty section and asked me when I was going to get around to buying groceries.
I know that this sounds crazy, but it really didn’t occur to me to buy groceries. Incidentally, I was working at a restaurant at the time and I was living off of meals they provided before service. It took me a few months to really learn how to go to a grocery store and buy what I needed.
I still miss walking into the dining hall every day and feasting my eyes on an all-you-can eat buffet. If you choose to go to Kenyon, do not take this for granted. It’s amazing.
Becca Roth is an award-winning filmmaker living in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2010 with a major in Drama and a minor in Anthropology.