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Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

It was like trying to believe in Santa Claus. Was it really true? Would she remember? Would she really get up early on a Tuesday, walk from her cozy off-campus house all the way over to Rose Hall, in the cold, and cook breakfast — just so I could have a little extra time to sleep? I knew I had found a community in the Grinnell College Christian Fellowship (GCCF) — a community that cared about me like none I had known before — but really, nobody expects anyone else to walk half a dozen blocks in a winter sunrise just to fry up a few eggs for one stressed-out first-year. It’s not reasonable.

Nor, it turns out, are a lot of Grinnellians. Because when I crept downstairs to the little dorm kitchen, there she was with a breakfast all for me, a book for her, and a cheerful smile, all to my astonishment.

Everyone needs a community. One of GCCF’s goals is to be a caring, active community open to the whole campus (not just Christians). My first year, four GCCF guys lived in a mini-co-op (an apartment-like room in a regular dorm); they decided to use their extra space to foster community. They left their door open and invited anyone and everyone to come borrow their stuff, use their kitchen, eat their food, and socialize in their space. I was one of many who felt exceptionally welcome and at home there, and as a result, I now live there myself. My roommates and I are happily continuing the tradition of the co-op as a space where life is shared and good community happens.

A good community is dynamic. Students at Grinnell are willing to discuss their experiences and beliefs with each other and don’t duck challenging questions. The first time I went to a GCCF Bible Study, I was nervous because the study wasn’t based on a prepared lesson, but on participants’ on-the-spot questions. What if people asked difficult questions? Well, they did, and I learned that when a group of people is willing to tackle tough questions together, what results is not an ugly argument, but a healthy and thoughtful discussion. I’ve listened to people talk about everything from how Jesus might be like a ninja, to whether salvation is a single decision or a lifetime process, to how the biblical story of creation might be interpreted so as not to interfere with scientific theories — the list goes on.

GCCF in the context of Grinnell has done a lot to broaden and deepen my ideas about what community is and what it means to love people. I’ve learned that love is more than hugs and happy notes, more than anonymously shoveling parked cars out of the snow, more than cooking masses of pancakes at 3 a.m. Loving people — building a real community — is getting to know people, going beyond simply tolerating people to really appreciating them for who they are. It’s listening to their stories. It’s knowing we all make mistakes and dumb decisions, and yet we can respect others (and ourselves) regardless. It requires a little risk, a lot of trust, a real desire to learn, and a faith in something bigger than yourself, be it God, humanity, or reason.

Or Santa Claus.

Sara Woolery '11 is an English major from Malerva, Iowa.

All that Jazz

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

It’s late on a Monday night. I rush down the dark stairs to the basement of Main Hall and pull open the door to Bob’s Underground Café. The wail of a trombone echoes from down the entryway, the piano and bass comp cool through the changes to “So What,” and each slap of the high hat matches my footfall.

I slink down the corridor and the band comes into sight — trumpet, sax, drums, and cymbals all reflecting red and yellow light as the pianist sips an iced chai, playing one-handed. I walk up to the stage, and the ’bone player stares at me over the golden bell of his horn. The drummer rolls his eyes. I’m late.

Just about every Monday night, musicians make their way to this lonely corner of campus to stretch their wrists, loosen their chops, and tear through jazz charts for two hours, maybe more. They come from all walks of life: music, Spanish, and physics majors; first-years, seniors, and everything in between; music teachers; tennis and Frisbee players and cross country runners. They come from funk, classical, bluegrass, big band, Latin, or rock backgrounds. But they all jam over the same familiar tunes, each time with a different twist, a new solo improvised for that night only. Tonight they fill space with cool Ellington and heat the room with Herbie Hancock ’60.

And students flock to Bob’s, filling the couches, tables, and booths. Some swing dance in the entryway, while others wait in line for a cup of coffee from a quirky barista. Most study, or pretend to study, getting cozy with a monster textbook or taking revenge on a dozing friend with a highlighter. Papers and laptops are strewn across tables between bagels and mugs. At one table, two guys lean over a chessboard, each concentrating on his move and then turning to chat with friends.

Maybe people come to listen to the music, or they read better with background noise, or they just want to hang out with friends. Maybe they’d be here whether there was a show or not. I wouldn’t know — I only come on Mondays. But even the workers behind the counter seem to be enjoying themselves, tapping their feet and dancing a quiet little dance of their own when no one’s in line.

Especially on cold winter nights, Bob’s is a cozy beacon shining out from the south side of campus, slowly drawing students away from the still bookshelves of the library or the cramped confines of a dorm and into a vibrant pool of community.

Of course, I’m here for the music. I stand for a moment, letting the beat pulse through my hands, my fingers shaping the notes of the next line before the sound hits my ears. The chatter swirls around me in the background, but the melody beckons.

I throw open my case, but no shiny brass greets me here. I run my fingers over the warm grain of my fiddle, then lift it out and tweak the strings into tune. The drums crescendo as I jump out in front of the piano and into the middle of the song.

Henry Reich '09 is a Physics major from Mahtomedi, Minnesota.

Bubble What?

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

I had been studying for my chemistry final for three days straight. I was sick from the winter cold, and had lost the notebook with all my notes. I was so stressed and over-caffeinated, I realized that if I didn’t take a break, I’d go crazy.

Cue Grinnell’s notorious creativity. I needed to de-stress, even if only for an hour, so I decided to go to one of our many study breaks. There are more study breaks held in the week of finals than in the entire semester combined. They range from mini-snack breaks to mini-smoothie breaks, from spontaneous choir singalongs to mini tie-dye and candle-making breaks. I attended many study breaks last year, but the best one hands down had to be the bubble one.

My bubble journey began by running into a sea of bubble wrap extending from one end of the hall to the other. It was so relieving to just drop myself onto the floor and roll around while I felt and heard every little bubble break. Inevitably people got very excited, and everyone started rolling around without any type of systematic order. As you might expect, this led to many Grinnellian-to-Grinnellian crashes, tumbles, flips, wrong turns, and Grinnellian- to-wall collisions. We’re not exactly known for our coordination here.

When I got to the center of the hallway (you’d be surprised how long that actually took!) I arrived at a table with all the bubble mix and magic wands you would ever want in an entire lifetime. The wands came in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I immediately pounced on the butterfly-shaped wand. It was destiny. Using my magic wand, I blew bubbles into a makeshift dartboard. We had still not gotten over the flurry of giggles from the bubble wrap, and it was surprisingly difficult to blow a bubble with a straight face. (You try blowing bubbles while you’re laughing! It’s not that easy!)

From the dartboard, people rolled along the ground again, popping the bubble wrap as they went (again, this took a good 20 minutes!) to the other end of the hallway where the bubble tea awaited. I tasted the mango and strawberry mix, which I must say was delicious! I had only tasted the milk-based teas, so having the splash of fruit flavor was a whole different experience. Eventually we tasted all the flavors, including pineapple, lemon, coconut, and kiwi. Personally, my favorite part of the whole tea was the tapioca balls.

I can honestly say it was the best hour I spent that week. Not only did it reduce my tension, but I also laughed like a maniac seeing everyone stumble on the bubble wrap and try all the different bubble tea flavors. Laughter truly is the best medicine! Even though I was having a stressful week, I knew that night that I had made the right choice to come to Grinnell.

Sandra Torres '12 is undeclared and from Chicago, Illinois.

Write On

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

The Grinnell writer dropped her forehead onto her arms in abject despair. She lay there, limp and hopeless, like a corn doll abandoned in the rain. The husks of her notebooks lay about her, fluttering idly in the Iowa wind that whistled through the partially open window. A page of one particularly kind and caring notebook draped itself across her shoulder in a reassuring way. It’s all right, sweetie, that touch seemed to say. It’ll all work out.

The writer had bigger things to worry about than talking notebooks. It was two hours before her Craft of Fiction class, and she still had no idea how she was going to end the story about General Partitions’ visit to the laundry mat. She had typed only one sentence, the curser blinking menacingly after the small, plain period.

“Where are the ‘mats’ at this socalled laundry mat?”

She couldn’t bear to look at the sentence one more time. She was doomed. No late fees. No hidden charges. Just straight up doomed.

Of course, this never actually happens. Not only are Grinnellians generally sane enough to know not to take advice from stray sheets of whispering paper, but the creative community here is so strong that any despairing writers only have to click their poetic heels three times and they’ll have five peers sitting in the living room of Mears Cottage discussing potential directions to take General Partitions and his matless laundry mat.

Both the students and the English department are wicked supporters of writing. And even more students are writers than are active in the community. This past semester we received more than 120 submissions of poetry, prose, and creative essays to The Grinnell Review, our student literary magazine. But if anyone does want to be active, it doesn’t just stop at submitting to the magazine. Let’s take an average week in the life of me, Molly Rideout, aspiring novelist, not-so-good poet, and champion swimmer in the pool of the Grinnell writing community.

Sunday: I get up early before anyone else and spend my morning in one of the classrooms of the JRC developing stories on the dry erase boards. Writing on the walls makes me feel important and powerful. During my night shift at the library, I interrogate my supervisor on his latest screenplay about an editor who gets duped into publishing a worthless, contentless book. I contemplate if those same tactics could work for me.

Monday: One of the three days of the week when I have my Craft of Fiction class. Each of us brings in scenes from stories we’re currently working on for feedback from our peers. Students from any major can take the Craft classes, so we get a nice variety of perspectives. I took the Craft of Poetry class last semester with Professor George Barlow, who has got to be one of the coolest cats in Iowa. He tells stories about farting poets.

Tuesday: I spend two hours of free time between class and lunch working on the story I outlined on the dry erase boards. Sometimes I fall asleep too.

Wednesday: Another Craft of Fiction day. At night there is a meeting of Grinnell Writers at Large, an unofficial club that meets and workshops pieces the members submit. It’s a lot like any of the Craft classes, only you can submit anything, you don’t have to come every week, and we only grade you based on the number of cookies you eat. Wednesdays are also Build-Your-Own-Burger day at the dining hall. Maybe I can write a story about that.

Thursday: The English department brings in an awesome visiting writer like Ana Castillo or Adrienne Rich to read to us and answer questions about the writing process. They tell us where they like to write, how they got published, and whether they prefer the Mets or the Yankees.

Friday: Last day of Craft of Fiction. That night, we have fun partying with friends. Every once in a while a group of us drives to Iowa City where we run around, eat good Indian food, and listen to other cool writers read from their work.

Saturday: A good day to start doing some of that homework. There’s usually a lot of writing involved, but none of the fun stuff. Unless you find “Use of Photographs in Nabokov’s Pale Fire” to be fun, which (to be honest) I kind of do. Oh well. Even the writer’s brain needs a break from creativity every once in a while. Sometimes it’s good to just regurgitate literary criticism onto a computer screen in 500–700 words and not have to wonder where exactly the mats are located in a laundry mat.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major from Madison, Wisconsin.

Extracurriculars

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

One of the things I was most amazed at when I began my first semester here at Grinnell was the vast diversity in the student clubs and organizations. There were so many choices at the Organizations Fair during New Student Orientation, I felt overwhelmed. Unable to choose, I signed up for everything I found remotely new or interesting.

I signed up for almost 85 percent of the organizations at the fair. I hadn’t given much thought to just how I was going to fit everything in, but I resigned myself to the fact that I’d figure that part out later. A year later, I have indeed figured it out. Each semester I pick and choose so I can do a variety of things in my time at Grinnell. While it can be overwhelming to be involved in many student organizations, it’s too hard to pass up.

Grinnell has more than 100 student organizations — something for every interest. From politics, to sports, to academics, to religion, to dance, to social issues, to games, to just-for-fun — there are so many types of student organizations that it’s hard not to sample a little here and a little there.

It’s not uncommon to find student organizations collaborating on events and festivities on campus. We strongly believe in “the more the merrier” philosophy to organization. Collaboration isn’t just emphasized inside the classroom; you have to find some way to apply everything you’re learning! It’s also a more pleasant experience planning and executing the event when you have several points of view and several ways of thinking all in one group. You’d probably expect chaos to ensue, but the way we do things here … we make it work. With a very large success rate, might I add? I’m glad I came to a school where I can dance salsa one day, connect with alumni the next day, and round out the week by helping decorate for a Latin American Festival … and then change it all up for the next semester!

Sandra Torres '11 is a Biology major from Chicago, Illinois.

Bare Feet and Name Brands

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Many Grinnellians pride themselves on adopting countercultural attitudes, breaking social constructs, and going against mainstream fads. More important, we also pride ourselves on being liberal and open-minded. These characteristics have served as the basis for many innovative activities and unique endeavors — from realizing the hypothetical (as in the founding of a fake campus newspaper) to the outlandish (as in participating shamelessly in cross-dressing parties).

So I was surprised when there was such a significant opposition to the creation of Grinnell College’s very first fashion magazine, Sensuelle. Apparently, some people think an interest in fashion equals social deviance. Truthfully, the fashion magazine grew out of my personal worry that in our efforts to set ourselves apart from the mainstream and traditional ideas of what is appropriate, we had become what we had worked so hard to counter: narrow-minded.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that the term “fashion” means haute couture or Paris runway. They complained that combining the words “Grinnell” and “fashion” is incongruous and paradoxical — in other words, extremely un-Grinnellian. For example, a fellow student told me, “There are much more important priorities than worrying about how we look.” However, whether students wear the same T-shirt five days in a row, sport pajamas and hoodies, don sports jerseys and jackets, walk around barefoot, flash name brands, or wear vintage and grunge garb, they all do so with intent — either to reveal or to hide a part of their identity, and to disclose other aspects of themselves. I believe people wear what they do for a blatant or latent reason, despite clothing’s apparent functional purposes.

My interest in the semiotics of fashion began after several experiences on campus made me realize that appearances do matter, especially in terms of how people treat and view each other and themselves. I wantedSensuelle to celebrate the diverse and unique fashion and stylistic attitudes of Grinnellians, as well as to provide a safe space for all to share personal advice and stories and exchange ideas about what they think of Grinnell fashion. Furthermore, I wanted to analyze shifts in attitudes about dress, its correlation or lack thereof to social status, and the relationship between preconceived notions about people based on their superficial appearance, and their true selves.

Now, it would be unfair to say that Grinnell College’s coursework had no influence on the start-up of Sensuelle. Sociology, for example, taught me to understand that subcultures exist at Grinnell, many of which are differentiated by certain stylistic differences. Anthropology taught me there is danger in thinking our lifestyles and choices are superior to those we do not understand (which made me more sensitive to style-centrism). My political science courses taught me there are various faces or influences affecting us daily — every choice, even those regarding clothing, is a result of past and present societal dictates.

Creating Sensuelle has deeply enriched my college experience and made me realize not only how much Grinnell College has changed my perspective, but also the power of the human will. If you really want to do something, you can, no matter how silly it may appear to others. I achieved what I set out to accomplish: Grinnellians’ stories are out there! Furthermore, working on the fashion magazine has been extremely fun and has allowed me to talk to interesting people I never knew before. This experience has shown me that if we just take some time to get to know people outside our usual social circles — sporting clothing that may be quirky or unconventional — we may find out how much we actually have in common.

Tiffany Au '09 is a Political Science major from Honolulu, Hawaii.

I Take Fake Newspapers Seriously

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

When I first visited Grinnell, I was looking for ways to differentiate the College from other schools I had already been to. What was it about Grinnell that everyone said was so different and progressive?

For me, the answer was the school has a fake newspaper.

I visited Grinnell in the fall, and the issue for September had just come out. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that a) a college as small as Grinnell had a newspaper devoted to things like the College president having a pretty cool Facebook profile, and b) once I got to campus, it was within the realm of possibility that I could write for this paper, this“B&S” (not to be confused with the somewhat more traditional and fact-based real campus newspaper, the S&B).

Now, three years later, I’m editor-in-chief and really starting to enjoy watching the effect the B&S has on unsuspecting readers. Recently, it was Family Weekend here on campus, and I couldn’t help but smile as I watched parents eagerly grab a copy of the campus newspaper before realizing there were two, and one of them was reporting on Grinnell becoming a “conservative arts college.” While we actually didn’t plan for our first issue to coincide with Family Weekend, it seemed to be a good move, if for no other reason than to let the maximum amount of people know such a paper exists and doesn’t care too much about journalistic integrity.

Except … not quite. Even for a newspaper where jokes, not leads or sources, are the primary indicators of promising articles, one can definitely learn a thing or two about what it takes to write effectively. My writing skills have undoubtedly improved since then, and that’s one of the great things about the B&S: anyone can say or write something that is funny to them, but to contribute something the majority of the staff finds acceptable is a much greater achievement. Each month, we run a finished product containing what many different people have helped determine to be the most important, groundbreaking, and hilarious bits of news you can hold in your hand.

Whether we do that every month is debatable, since coming up with consistent articles month after month about the same subjects — Grinnell, college, and Grinnell College — without repeating ourselves is certainly not easy. But it is extremely fun, and that’s no B&S.

Ross Preston '10 is an Economics majof from Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida.

German and Russian and Arabic — Oh My!

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

Issue: 

 Winter 2007

Author: 

 Patrick Busch '08

I got my laptop a few weeks before I started college, and it’s been more or less my constant companion ever since. What makes it cooler than other laptops is it’s adorned with 79 stickers. To clarify, my laptop is not covered with stickers. Rather, the stickers, like well-chosen body piercings, beautify and enhance function, while only incidentally impinging upon the host body. One of my laptop’s stickers, the Apple decal covering the HP logo on the outside casing, is there purely as a joke (as well as a record of when I got my iPod). The other 78 make my computer keyboard tri-alphabetical by arranging red Cyrillic letters and neon green Arabic letters around the white Roman letters.

My excuse for the stickers is I have occasion to type in all three alphabets. I am a language nerd, currently studying three foreign languages: German, Russian, and Arabic. I took German all the way through high school, and now one of my majors is in German studies. However, I started Russian my first semester at Grinnell, and Arabic this semester.

Studying Russian at Grinnell was both challenging and kind of fun. College language courses are paced much faster than high school classes, and it was something new to not only have class five days a week, but to also have 8–10 pages of homework for each class session. Although our class was a little larger (16 students, I think) than I had hoped it would be, the professor managed to get us all to interact and use Russian as much as possible. In that class, there was a lot of writing, conversing, memorizing, and repetition — the foundation of language learning.

After having taken up (and maintained) two foreign languages, I thought studying Arabic would be easy. This turned out to be a miscalculation without serious consequences. Arabic is genuinely a very difficult language to learn, in some ways more so than Russian and German. The alphabet is more complicated to learn than Cyrillic, and reading from right to left is still a slow, turbid process. Also, in part because the Arabic alphabet is so new to me, it’s much more difficult to memorize vocabulary. Plus, there’s the attendant despair of starting any foreign language, which persists until you know enough to surprise yourself by how much you can say and understand.

But Grinnell does not (yet) have an Arabic department, and so does not have the same sort of standardized course of study it would for another foreign language. Because of cool people like me who want to study different foreign languages, the College operates a program called the Alternate Language Study Option (ALSO). With this program, we meet three to four times a week with a native speaker (who, for my class, is another student). We follow a textbook and take examinations at the end of the semester, administered by an instructor from a university that does have an Arabic department (or a Swahili department, or a Hebrew department, or whatever language the ALSO student has chosen).

This program requires much more self-motivation than a course taught by a professor. So instead of having 8–10 pages of homework every night to make sure I’ve learned my verb conjugations, I, myself, have to make sure I’ve learned them.

Is the ALSO program as good as having a full Arabic department? No. But it does mean Grinnell can offer foreign language instruction in more languages, and for that I am grateful. I’m not sure what I’ll do with Arabic after Grinnell, and it’s quite possible that I won’t ever use it again.

What I will have, though, is the chance to have learned it, and to see how I can use it in the future — the future that is otherwise known (with some trepidation) as “life after Grinnell.”

Patrick Busch '08 is a German and Mathematics major from St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

Rediscovering Your Inner 12-Year-Old

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

"These kids are truly barbaric!” my mind screamed as I walked into the child-infested art room of the local middle school. Fifteen paper planes were flying, a rental clarinet was honking, and scissors-wielding 10–13-year-olds were zooming across the room, reminding me more of Brownian motion than of an academic institution. I was a first-year and eager to rocket into the upper ranks of the learned and distinguished. This was my hell.

Earlier that Friday, my floormates had asked me to join Kids Art, a volunteer organization that goes to the middle school each Friday to work on art projects with the kids. I decided to give it a try and rode over to the school in a car along with a handful of college students. As we rolled up to the entrance, yellow buses, filled to the brim with the little monsters, streamed out. We parked, went up to the school, and entered the art room.

After an hour in the room, I made a resolution to never have kids or at least to only have kids who would skip directly from 10 to 14 — what a breakthrough that would be! After an hour and a half, I questioned the ethics of giving a 12-year-old a pair of scissors or a piece of paper — think of the vital areas the little rascals could get at with a poster board! Needless to say, my first experience with Kids Art left me feeling harassed, tired, and distraught.

Three years later, I’m now the co-leader of Kids Art and regularly visit the middle school. In fact, I now feel more comfortable around the little “barbarians” than I do around most people my age. But how and why did this change occur?

One of the main reasons behind my current comfort level is the fact that I’ve finally rocketed to the upper ranks of the learned and distinguished, and I’ve discovered just as many paper–plane-flying, scissors-wielding 20-somethings. And not only that, I realized that I am actually one of the most rambunctious!

Of course, I’m not running around the College at night with a giant poster board giving paper cuts to unfortunate passersby, but as my college career progressed, I learned that it was socially acceptable to say weird things, make jokes about someone’s mother, and imitate airhorns with my voice — in fact, it’s even welcomed. But why?

For all those people who need graphs, logical propositions, and numbers to crunch, I’ll offer this explanation: if we take laughter as the shortest distance between people — and my voyages through the adult world have shown me that this distance can be quite great — then the shortest distance between any two people is between two children. Of course, one must also consider how fast laughter spreads, and I’d estimate this as inversely proportional to the difference between the ages of the two speakers. So, laughter between a 21-year-old acting like a child and an actual child is at the minimum laughter distance and spreads slower than child-to-child laughter. Therefore, two 21-year-olds will connect much easier if they step out of their adult world and into the wild world of the middle-schooler.

For people who are swayed by less numerical arguments, let me offer this explanation: in the world of careers, job-paths, majors, and expectations, the chance that any two students will be able to find common ground about some specific class, issue, or topic is slim. However, if we flip back the clock 10 or so years, we were all learning grammar, fathoming the phenomena of weighted averages, and puzzling over the best one-liner about a bodily function.

It’s this common ground, shortest laughter distance, etc. that I found in Kids Art. Each week, a handful of college students still make the journey over to the middle school, but for every paper plane flown by one of the rascals, there’s a corresponding dive-bomber launched by a college student. Where destructive behavior might ensue, an intellectual challenge arises: let’s make the plane that will fly the farthest. Let’s draw the scariest monster. Let’s make the most complicated hopscotch pattern. Let’s find out what it is to be a chair. But ultimately, we’re there to laugh and to find out a little bit more about ourselves.

Victor Colussi '09 is a Physics and Mathematics major from Madison, Indiana.

Lacy Bonnet and All

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Boy, did I feel stupid that chilly October day during my senior year of high school, sitting in the Career Development Office with two fellow classmates. Across the table, a very professional-looking Grinnell admission rep (completely at ease, unlike my heart-pounding self) chatted to us all about that small college in the cornfield state I’d never before visited.

And that feeling of stupidity wasn’t really put to ease by the fact that I was costumed for the day in an 18th-century frilly flannel nightgown purchased straight from the Felicity collection at American Girl.

Yes, complete with the lacy bonnet. I don’t even remember why I was wearing the nightgown anymore. It probably was pajama day for spirit week, and being me I couldn’t just wear sheep jammie-pants like everyone else. I had to be the one girl who looked like she’d just walked straight out of a Charles Dickens’ asylum.

Asylum material. That was the first impression Grinnell had of me.

College, I always thought, was the place where you finally had to grow up. High school was fun and dandy, but college was not the type of place where you could throw scavenger hunts or Star Wars parties or eat as many donuts as fit in your pastry-bloated stomach. Honestly, I don’t know where I got these assumptions, because every single one of those things has happened at Grinnell.

I guess I always associated college with the academic, and the academic with “serious” and “dull.” Even with my college application essay, I struggled and struggled to find a topic that was boring enough for colleges to think I was intellectual, yet showed the “originality” every college-prep book and guidance counselor pounds into your head from day one.

But let me share with you a little secret. Here’s what I learned about essay writing in college that I wish I’d known back in high school: academia gives you permission to write papers about some of the coolest things in existence, some things you’d never even been able to mention to a teacher in 11th or 12th grade. It’s in high school where they give you all those boring five-paragraph essays (oh, how I loathe five-paragraph essays!) about the motif of blood in Macbeth or about the causes of the American Revolution. In higher education, professors will accept with equal seriousness an analysis of wearing red on Star Trek or of the Midwest’s obsession with Brett Favre’s final break-up with the Green Bay Packers.

I know. I was as flabbergasted as you when I finally figured this out. Say what? I can have fun writing essays? Dear lord, if only I’d known that in high school. I might have actually cared about some of those papers I wrote. I might have actually chilled out a little bit when figuring out my college admission essay. I might not have threatened to abandon the college search entirely to go pull a Henry Thoreau and live by myself in the woods (I might have followed through, too, if trees had a place to plug in laptops).

Frankly, the whole college application process would have been a whole lot easier if I’d known that entering college did not mean throwing away my Felicity nightgown. It might mean putting it in the closet for certain occasions (such as when a college representative comes to talk to you), but there’s certainly no need to build a funeral pyre. In fact, after writing multiple college papers on Harry Potter, I’d say my childhood’s pretty happy right now.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major and Gender and Women's Studies concentrator from Madison, Wisconsin.