I didn’t pick Grinnell for its strong academic reputation. I didn’t pick it for its strength in the sciences, illustrious alumni, or the brand new modern buildings. It wasn’t even the touted small-town community feel that sucked me in. Believe it or not, what ultimately cemented Grinnell as my choice for college was the soccer field — an absolutely pristine thing of beauty, so flat and consistent it could almost be mistaken for a living room carpet. The first time I set foot on it, I knew I was coming here.
OK, it wasn’t only the soccer field that sold me. But when I arrived on campus a week early in mid-August for my first practice, that’s definitely all I was thinking about. In case you haven’t figured it out, I really love playing soccer. Really. And when I picked Grinnell, it was the only extracurricular activity I knew for sure I would be doing. I had a great first year, playing all I possibly could and meeting people who loved soccer (almost) as much as I did. What I didn’t realize is, I was missing out on a huge chunk of the Grinnell experience.
It wasn’t until my second year that, as my non-soccer-playing friends might put it, “I came into existence.” Having focused all my energy on academics and soccer, I didn’t know about all the great ways to get involved at Grinnell. But as soon as I found out how cool, active, and involved all the student groups were, I started looking at them with the same passion with which I look at soccer. And so began my extracurricular explosion.
Every time I started a new activity, I would think, “Why on earth haven’t I done this sooner?” I joined the TC (technology consultants) corps and felt perfectly at home helping people with computer problems, working with all the incredibly cool equipment in the AV Center, and messing around with all the fun software installed in the Creative Computing Lab. These were places I had barely known existed before, having basically lived on the soccer field.
The experience with the TC corps gave me the courage to start testing my comfort zone, and soon after I found myself attending, of all things, a swing dancing lesson. Here again, I found an activity I loved because I approached it with the same open-minded enthusiasm I had reserved for soccer in the past. I have since gotten completely carried away with swing (in a good way!). I have gone dancing in the far corners of the country, and now my enthusiasm has made me an instructor/organizer for the Grinnell Swing Society.
This year, I have filled what little free time I have left with responsibilities to the computer science department as a member of the SEPC (Student Educational Policy Committee), as well as writing programs for the psychology department, volunteering at the local retirement home, arranging music, playing the guitar, playing the piano, and singing in an a cappella group (which doesn’t have a definite name yet — we have gone through Acappelloctopus, Acapellicopters, Rocktopus, Twenty Minutes of Solid Instrumentals …). My life is so much more full, satisfying, and rewarding than it was during my first year, thanks to all the great opportunities Grinnell has to get involved.
I realize my story is probably different from most people’s. Who picks a Division III school for a sport, even if they do have the nicest facility I’ve ever seen? I guess the main point of my story is that regardless of your mindset coming to Grinnell, the culture is so engaging you can’t help but get sucked into a million awesome activities.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an AltBreak meeting to attend.
Alex Exarhos '10 is a Computer Science major from Richland, Washington.