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Future Students

An Alternative to Flipping Burgers

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

 

Issue: Summer 2007
Author: Lindsay Dennis '08

After spending last summer working as a cashier for a Safeway grocery store in Portland, Ore., I was very adamant about finding a more intellectually stimulating (and less customer service related) occupation for the summer of 2007. From the beginning of my third year, I had been planning to apply for summer research in psychology at Grinnell. I waited for an e-mail from the psychology department notifying me how and when to apply, but no such e-mail was forthcoming.

I got impatient and started trying to look up said information on the school’s website. To my absolute horror, I found that the deadline to apply for summer research was the previous day. I frantically e-mailed my adviser, asking if it would be possible to get an extension, only to be told that the psychology department wasn’t actually hosting any research assistants this summer because of the Noyce construction. My heart sank, and I began to mull over alternate possibilities for summer employment. Perhaps I could wait tables or make pizzas (I do have an extensive background in food service). None of these options sounded very appealing, but I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to spend another summer watching TV at my parents’ house.

In a stroke of tremendous luck, I received a different e-mail the next day saying that psychology professors were, in fact, hosting researchers, and that the application deadline had been extended to the following Monday. Alone in my room, I squealed with joy at my renewed possibilities for academic employment. I quickly but carefully filled out applications for each available research position.

Then, I waited. And waited. And, just for good measure, I waited a little bit more. By the time spring break rolled around, I had pretty much resigned myself to flipping burgers or sprinkling cheese on dough once again. Just as I was about to hit the maximum freak-out point — stuck in April with absolutely no summer plans — I received an e-mail from Professor David Lopatto offering me a position as a summer researcher. In less than a day, I had managed to go from intense stress and disappointment to ecstatic joy. I was going to get paid to do psychology!

Throughout the course of this summer, I have been working with Professor Lopatto and another student, studying the epistemological and vocational impact of the summer research experience on undergraduate students. Yes, you read that correctly. My summer research project is to study other summer research students. We began by reading a series of articles on previous empirical studies in this field, which was a very strange experience. My first day as a summer researcher, I was reading about how the research experience helps students solidify their graduate school plans, increase their sense of belonging to the scientific (or, more broadly, academic) community, and improve their research and communication skills. I had to wonder, would I be receiving all of these same benefits, even though my project was somewhat more unorthodox? Or, would knowing these were the things that were supposed to happen to me prevent them from actually happening? (I mean, a watched pot never boils, right?)

I became more and more interested in the topic. I’ve even caught myself referencing articles about the various stages of epistemological development in casual conversation with my friends. Fortunately, they are all Grinnellians and are willing to put up with my massive nerdiness (with the implicit agreement that I won’t judge them when they excitedly bring up obscure historical details about the Civil War Reconstruction period).

Summer in Grinnell does have the occasional setback. Hot, humid days without air conditioning, the responsibility of having to pay rent and feed myself, and the lovely task of researching in the science library as the cacophony of construction occurs not 20 feet away spring to mind. However, I am still extremely grateful to have been offered this opportunity, and I’m very appreciative of the fact that Grinnell does such as excellent job of providing research experience to its students.

Lindsay Dennis '08 is a Psychology major from Beaverton, Oregon.

 

 

Off-Campus Study

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

 

Off-Campus Study

Grinnell is affiliated with nearly 100 off-campus study programsworldwide, and we offer two of our own:  Grinnell-in-London and Grinnell-in- Washington. By the time they graduate, 55-60% of all Grinnell students have studied in a semester-or year-long program, either domestic or overseas.

As an adviser, it's important to raise the topic of off-campus study (OCS) early with your advisees.  Although they will not be eligible to study off-campus until their fifth semester at Grinnell, planning should start sooner. Students typically learn about programs and apply during their second year, but this process can start sooner if you direct it. Although studying in a new environment is a valuable learning experience in and of itself, the College believes the opportunity will be even more enriching if closely integrated with a student's coursework on campus. During the application process, great emphasis is placed on selecting a program that is compatible with academic goals, thus close planning among the student, his/her/hir adviser, and the OCS Office is advised. Further information is available on the OCS webpage.

Learning through Teaching

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

I didn’t come to Grinnell intending to become a teacher. I came to Grinnell to major in English, discuss James Joyce and Anna Nicole Smith (R.I.P.) with roommates until 3 a.m., and learn the ins and outs of a variety of liberalisms. I actually didn’t go to Grinnell to become anything; I went to live, learn, and love in the present.

However, Grinnell has this annoying habit of making you care a lot more about the future than the present: there are so many students, staff, and faculty who do things to make the world a better place that you can’t help but start planning how you’re going take part in social change.

So I took some classes in the education department and discussed educational philosophy; I journaled about what it means to educate the oppressed and how the school as an institution can be an oppressor; I learned about how, why, and when to teach a variety of reading skills; I even did a summer research project on the construct of “teacher” and multicultural literature. By the time last fall rolled around, I had taken as many education courses as English courses, and I felt ready to actually be in the classroom. I was ready to become a teacher.

I was placed at Marshalltown High School in Marshalltown, Iowa, a fairly large school situated about 45 minutes northwest of Grinnell (some of you may even go there — some of you may have even had me as a teacher … like whoa!). Marshalltown’s economy is built on the local meat packing plant. As a result, students come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and nearly 30 percent are native Spanish-speaking children of immigrants. As I began my student teaching, I was excited about my placement because of this diversity — it seemed like an excellent chance for me to use education to empower those who tend to have little voice in their communities. (Cue “Gangsta’s Paradise” as I change into Michelle Pfeiffer’s leather coat.)

Of course, it didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. Even though I worked hard to craft interesting lesson plans around research-based methods, there were days when my students would have learned more from watching The Daily Show than they did in my class. (It’s actually possible that my students would have learned more from Jon Stewart than in any of my classes — hilarious, good-looking, and intelligent? Nobody can compete with that.) Even though I vowed to make my teaching meaningful to all of my students, many still saw learning as a waste of time. Fortunately, among the low points came small victories: my freshmen organized a canned food drive for victims of domestic assault; one of my sophomores wrote an incredibly reflective letter to her sibling; and my seniors wrote college entrance essays about duck hunting, sporks, and family that made me laugh and think about life in new ways.

For the first half of the semester, the roller coaster days killed me — I loved the brilliant moments, but each time a student flunked a quiz or disrupted others, I felt I had somehow failed as a teacher. Luckily, though, I had a whole community of peers and professors to whom I could vent. Every Thursday, the student teachers gathered with two education professors to reflect on our teaching and discuss educational research. Additionally, four of us carpooled to M-town, so between NPR clips about Mark Foley and Ace of Base remixes, we talked about frustrations and began to flesh out what the act of teaching meant to each of us. My non-teaching Grinnell friends sent me supportive e-mails, and Grinnell faculty members shared teaching stories with me over cups of tea and sugar cookies.

In the end, I can honestly say the Grinnell community was an essential part of my teaching experience because it helped me reflect on my teaching. Yes, I still have a passion for using education to create social change; however, I’m beginning to understand social change usually happens quietly and slowly. As a result, I’m learning how to enjoy both the little changes and small victories — to do an awkward little fist-pump dance when all of my students bring their books to class — and hope and plan to make a greater change in their lives.

Maybe all of this sounds obvious to you, but learning to learn from failure and enjoy small triumphs is the only reason I’ll be teaching again next fall—well, that and the fact that I know I have a whole network of friends and profs who will support me, help me enjoy the teacher that I am, and guide me toward the kind of teacher I want to become.

Cori McKenzie '06 is an English major with an Education Certification from Elmhurst, Illinois.

When Prospies Enroll

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

 

It never seems to occur to prospies how much students pay attention to them. Surprise! We are a lot more curious and fascinated by you than we like to let on. My automatic response to being asked to write about my relationship with prospective students was to dig around my various fetid stacks of random information and give you a nice, steaming pile of overly factual/historical anecdotes. Statistics can be boring, but it’s just my natural Grinnellian desire to impress prospies with whatever I have to offer. Oddly enough, though, my job as a tour guide has often been a nice antidote to my affinity for facts and figures.

After hearing myself talk all day in lists and factual accounts (although I admit I still remain impressed with each item), I always relish the opportunity to be casual and personal. There’s usually one “leader” in each tour group, whether it’s a parent or the prospective student, and occasionally there will be a friend or younger sibling who gets excited about Dag, the foam sword fighting group, or the Grinnell Carnivore Society.

Most often the parent takes on the leadership role, leaving their child, the prospective student, mortally embarrassed. These are the sort of parents who get intensely excited about the giant “jungle gym” carpeted playhouse-style study rooms in the library (like my mom did when I prospied), or by the wide range of quality or bizarre extracurricular activities.

I spend an hour and a half with each family (occasionally longer if I get a theatre person and spend too long trying to get him or her into backstage areas). I’ve managed to enjoy each of these outings thus far, though I must admit that the enthusa-moms or enthusa-dads stand out. I tend to be an enthusiastic person, particularly when it comes to my college, and if you’ve had a tour with me you probably know how I can get even more bubbly at parental units who are equally entertained by the various anecdotes that seep out during those 90 minutes.

One of my other favorite things about being a tour guide—besides the captivated parents, the opportunity to learn more about our incoming classes, the cool people I work with, and feeling like hot stuff for getting lots of special keys for opening locked rooms—is the constant reminder of my own prospie days and how it puts my current student status into perspective.

I remember my first visit to Grinnell when my dad and I went to a free dance performance that made me realize that interpretive dance is not for the weak of heart (I had had a negative perception of it until I was completely blown away by this performance).

I remember being let up to the suspension grid in Bucksbaum and bouncing on wire mesh 30 feet above the black box theatre floor and daydreaming about all the clubs, sports, and activities I could participate in if I ended up at this place.

I also remember thinking my tour guide was one of the most amazing individuals I’d ever encountered. After all, my guide was in a place where he could not only join student government, religious groups, or sports teams, but also start a crochet/knitting club or whatever else struck his fancy.

Now I’m here. I teach tango (and have even gotten funding from the school to do so). I weld and took up harp. I’m involved in multicultural groups, student publications, and several (mostly theatrical) productions per semester. I have strong connections and friendships with several faculty and staff members, I hold various campus jobs, I’ve built houses in New Orleans with classmates, and I’ve joined in on the midnight Nerf wars in the science building.

I realize that I may have just made myself sound like the most pretentious liberal arts student out there, but the best part is that here, this sort of campus involvement is not considered impressive, but the norm. That’s the one big thing I try to show to my prospies on each tour: the diversity of opportunity.

Whatever level of participation you desire—from only being on the e-mail list, to filling an initiator or leadership role—Grinnell has it. And no matter your interest, whether it is athletic or academic, culinary or cultural—I’ve found that it’s possible to achieve it here. And at the risk of sounding cheesier (yep, it’s possible—sorry), the best part about the wealth of participation opportunities Grinnell offers is the strong community it creates. But regardless of my cheesiness, if you’ve had a tour with me or if you will later on, I hope I succeed(ed) in showing you our tight-knit community, at least on some level. Best of luck with the college decision!

Cait Scherr '09 is a Sociology major from Portland, Oregon.

Love in the Time of Dengue

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

 

Before going abroad, Grinnell students must attend an informational session about all the terrible things that can happen to you (but probably won’t) in order to prepare you to deal with the worst-case scenarios you will most likely never face (but then again, you might). So long before setting foot on an airplane, I listened to Richard Bright, the director of off-campus study, lecture on the dangers of rape, AIDS, armed robberies, kidnappings, murders, freak accidents, natural disasters, and potentially fatal tropical diseases. By the end of the presentation, my head overflowed with so many “what-ifs,” I began to wonder if I really wanted to spend a semester in Costa Rica and Nicaragua at all. After all, Iowa has corn. Central America has malaria.

Luckily, I got over my initial anxieties about crossing U.S. borders, because I ended up having one of those clichéd, amazing-life-changing-I-now-see-the-world-in-a-new-light-and-will-never-be-the-same-again experiences. Last spring I spent a month studying Spanish and globalization in San José, Costa Rica, and while there, I mastered the fine art of crossing the street without getting plowed down by towering buses and aggressive taxis (pedestrians do not have the right of way).

Then it was on to Chagüitillo, Nicaragua, where I volunteered for two wonderful months with a nonprofit community development organization. I spent my days teaching at the local high school and preschool, working in a museum, and learning lots of risque Nica slang words. My nights were spent with my incredible host family, talking, dancing, and rocking chair-ing. And it was in Nicaragua, amidst all the rice-and-beans-eating and sunset-appreciating, when I unexpectedly came face to face with one of Richard Bright’s “what-ifs.”

I got sick.

I woke up one morning with an upset stomach, and assumed I was being punished for drinking a soda chilled with ice made with unfiltered water. I figured the discomfort would fade as the day passed, and went through with my plans to travel with other students in my program to a beautiful organic farm situated way up in the mountains, several miles from paved roads.

As it turns out, I had more than food poisoning.

After a night in the hospital, a shot in the bum, an IV, two blood tests, having to poop and pee into separate cups, and explaining all of my symptoms to Dr. Rosado in my Gringo-accented Spanish, I was diagnosed with dengue fever—a pesky mosquito-borne illness with malaria- like symptoms that make the seemingly impossible expression “constipated diarrhea” possible — as well as a rockin’ intestinal infection.

Bummer.

But I’m pretty stoked to know that one day I’ll be able to tell my future grandkids about the time Grandma Erin fell violently ill while visiting an isolated organic farm in Nicaragua and then had to hike three miles through the mountains in 90 degree weather with all of her travel gear to get to the nearest bus station, and then spend another two hours using a combination of public transportation and hitchhiking to get to the nearest health clinic.

Even though my travel guidebook claims that contracting dengue fever “will put a stop to your fun in Central America like a baseball bat to the head,” getting sick didn’t detract from my time abroad — it enhanced it. True, I was bedridden for quite some time, I got terrible headaches behind my eyes, and my bowels were doing some pretty freaky things I didn’t know they could do. But my, oh, my. What an experience. So many stories to tell! And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Overall, Grinnell has been good to me. I’m appreciative of my five semesters here, and of the two remaining. But my advice to the young ’uns (and the advice that more than 50 percent of all Grinnell students follow) is this: go abroad. Some experiences just can’t be had in Grinnell. Iowa does have corn. And Nicaragua, along with its gorgeous lakes and volcanoes, has dengue. And I’m grateful that in my stint as an undergrad, I’ve had both.

Erin Sindewald '08 is an English major from Orland Park, Illinois.

The Midnight Flight of the Mattress Riders

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

 

Beneath Grinnell’s academic veneer, there lies a secret world. In this world, shadowy figures converge by a signal known only to them, unleash weeks of pent-up glee, and vanish in the haze. It is a world we hear of in legend and rumor, a world that keeps its secrets.

Mischief is always best kept secret.

Many tales are told of revels conducted in the dark of night: roller chair races, steam tunnel spelunking, naked kite-flying. Among these, only one brings the giddy thrill of downhill motion to the academic sanctum of the Alumni Recitation Hall: mattress sledding.

The story goes as follows: when the stars align and the wind is right, and when the scent of 10-page papers lies on campus like a slab of rancid butter, a band of rogues assembles. With bravado as their only armor, they leave the dorms with a mattress hefted over their heads. They send out a silent call. In ARH, the fun begins. Moments later, young students chancing to leave the computer lab will be invited to experience delight in its purest form. They will be offered a seat at the top of the stairs, on a mattress going down.

The mattress descends only half a flight, but oh, what a flight it is. Alone or in tightly embracing knots of friends, silent or whooping with joy, the riders dive like falcons down the stairs and glide to a gentle stop in the hall below. The moment a rider dismounts, waiting arms grab the mattress and haul it again to the top, where the next rider will step on.

As with any legend, the revelation opens the door to deeper mystery. Who are these midnight riders? Do they not have homework? Are they the same who run naked in the fields, who roll in chairs down the tile halls of Noyce? Why a mattress, and not a sled or plastic tray? Can more than four safely ride? Perhaps one day the revels will be observed and recorded, and we will know for certain. But certainty brings control, and if the legends are true, the revels thrive on freedom. Perhaps it is best, then, that they remain cloaked in shadow, a mystery to be explored and explored again by each coming generation.

Adam Barrett '08 is an English major from Norman, Oklahoma.

My Mad Love for Photocopying

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

Most mornings, I work at Carnegie Hall, copying, smiling, and helping my work supervisors and professors with clerical work. I really appreciate the job because it has helped me to get to know a really cool individual I like to call Mr. Copy Machine. My job has also helped me develop a genuine appreciation for photocopying.

I love photocopying. It might sound strange, but having so much association with this impressive machine creates a special bond of friendship and understanding that is for the most part incomprehensible to the average human. Mr. Copy Machine speaks to me. He whines when you feed him paper incorrectly and gives a deep sigh of pride at the end of each copy job.

He knows he is my buddy, and as such I treat him with a great deal of respect. When punching in department codes, I try to do so with the greatest degree of accuracy so he doesn’t get angry. If you accidentally key in inaccurate information, he rejects it instantly. He has no patience for sloppy individuals and values his time quite highly. Thus, if you don’t have your data right, you had best correct it before you start wasting his time. If you know you want your copy job double-sided, sorted, and stapled, you had best not key in double-sided and stapled, because no such job exists for him.

When there is a paper jam, it means you have been irresponsible and have either tugged at copied work before it has fully made its way to the paper tray or have fed in crumpled, unacceptable paper. Mr. Copy Machine is extremely high maintenance. He is, however, very forgiving and at least gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes by clearly indicating on his screen where the sheet of paper (or sheets as the case may be) got stuck.

After he alerts you about the paper jam, he then leaves you to your intellectual devices to figure out exactly where you went wrong. Usually, this is such a painful experience that most people try extremely hard not to feed in crumpled paper that does not meet his standards. In the end, it works out quite well for both parties, as Mr. Copy Machine’s users end up being efficient in their use of his offerings and Mr. Copy Machine continues to deliver quality, top-rate photocopies for their use.

I really like Mr. Copy Machine on a personal level because of his kind and understanding nature. After we established a connection, we became so close, we began to understand each other’s moods and energy levels.

For instance, one morning, I got to work extremely tired because I had pulled an all-nighter the night before. I had an urgent copy job from a professor to do and I had to get it done with a near-zero percent energy level. I dragged my weary self to Mr. Copy Machine and hit the start button sloppily. He could tell I was tired. I punched in the department code, copied the first page, and fell asleep, right in front of Mr. Copy Machine. He probably felt sorry for me, as he did everything else himself, all 50 of the copies.

Until today, I don’t know how my copy buddy got that job done, but somehow he finished and gave his signature satisfactory beep. I woke up and smiled. I inspected his work. It was as perfect as he is.

I am really grateful to the Carnegie Academic Support Office for granting me the unique opportunity to develop such a beautiful friendship with Mr. Copy Machine. I encourage every prospective Grinnellian to try to develop a meaningful relationship with the nearest copy machine they find available on campus. Hopefully, they will be able to experience the beauty of his humanity as a machine with values of efficiency, mutual respect, and professionalism.

Nmachi Jidenma ’09 is an Economics major from Lagos, Nigeria.

Hot Fun in the Summertime

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

 

I am the queen of playing things by ear. Plan ahead? No, thank you — I’d rather not. Of course, at times it’s necessary, but in most cases, I believe life is more enjoyable if I take each moment as it comes instead of worrying about the future.

However, I should be honest. It would be deceitful to claim that I play things by ear in a sheer effort to live in the present. Confession time — I often lack the ability to commit because I suffer from indecision. So, I offer this disclaimer: the following episode is rather common and not as painful as I may suggest. And so, we begin …

I can wait no longer. I have to make a decision. “It’s only three months,” I reassure myself. Yet I am not reassured. My mind and heart fight a fierce battle over a simple question: “Where will I spend the summer?”

Having returned from Argentina only days before, I am uncertain whether I can muster the strength to leave again so soon. But I can’t spend the summer at home. So I ponder my options and narrow my potential destinations to two. I can relocate to nearby Boulder, Colo., or settle back into the middle of somewhere — Grinnell, Iowa.

The next obvious step in the decision-making process seems straightforward, something I can handle even after my sabbatical from academia. However, as I begin methodically listing pros and cons, my mind quickly strays, and I slip into daydreams, indulging in memories of last June, July, and August …

After an unsuccessful job hunt in Colorado last May, I resigned myself to the fact that I was not destined to remain there. Disappointed, I looked outside the window of possibilities to which I’d originally confined myself. It was there I discovered an opportunity to venture into deeper waters, or in this case, into a sea of beautiful, rolling fields.

I called various restaurants in the Grinnell community, hastily packed my bags, and prepared myself for the 11-hour journey. Two days later I departed, grinning and wide-eyed. I felt childish, giddy, and a tidbit anxious. One might expect that after hours and hours driving through Eastern Colorado, across Nebraska, and into Iowa, my excitement would wane; however, on the contrary, my anticipation only grew as I approached my home away from home.

I had heard about “Grinnell summers,” but I wondered whether the tales could be true. Ice cream socials every Friday (perhaps heaven on earth for this ice cream fiend)? Community meals every Tuesday? Spontaneous dance parties anytime, anyplace? Biweekly vegan-coop potlucks? No overwhelming, burdensome stress weighing upon our shoulders, but rather a pleasant balance between work and play? This would indeed be a dramatic change from the Grinnell lifestyle I knew. I was skeptical.

I arrived in early evening, hesitating only a moment to take a deep breath before jumping out of the car and hurrying into Saints Rest. Rich aromas greeted me as I strolled into the quaint coffee shop, and knowingly, my sister, an employee there, glanced up and met my eyes. I had returned home. Welcoming smiles painted the streets, and I encountered friends and acquaintances everywhere I walked. I was starting to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the “Grinnell summer.”

As I settled in, slipping gently into summer, I found pleasant surprises everywhere. Tension and anxiety were practically nonexistent, people slept more regularly, and as a result, they seemed healthier and happier. Regardless of whether a student was doing research or working outside academia, he or she undoubtedly enjoyed more free time. So even though we were dispersed throughout town, we didn’t mind making a trek to visit a friend. On bike or on foot, any destination was accessible. Friends and acquaintances had more energy to sit and enjoy one another’s company, to throw together a delectable dinner, to discuss new ideas, and to reflect upon the last year. I delighted in picking raspberries, cooling off with a tasty Dari Barn treat at the end of a sweltering day, riding my bike on a warm, starry evening, running along firefly-lit fields, and watching the crops mature, gradually reaching up up up into the expansive blue sky. I discovered beauty everywhere I looked, in the landscape as well as in the interactions I shared with others.

My mind and heart are quiet, and a large smile replaces the furrow that earlier creased my brow. Hmmm. I inhale and exhale a deep breath. The sweet Colorado air lingers upon my lips, but the debate is over. I imagine the wind frolicking through the Iowa fields, calling me home with promises of another lovely Grinnell summer …

Meredith Groves '08 is an Anthropology major from Commerce, Colorado.

Having Due Fun with Fondue

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

Issue:  Spring 2007

Author:  Elizabeth Bologna ’08

“There’s nothing to do!” It’s the mantra of young adults everywhere, the perennial complaint of high schoolers and college kids alike. It was something I was worried about when I was thinking of coming to Grinnell. It’s a small college in a small town … what if I was bored every weekend? What if the only thing there was to do was drink? I didn’t like the idea of that.

My mother laughed at my worries. “What do you do now? Go to the movies, hang out in coffee shops with your friends. Grinnell has movies and coffee shops, you’ll be fine.”

I wasn’t convinced. And even though the brochures listed all of the free concerts, dances, plays, and lectures, I remained skeptical. The thing I didn’t count on as a senior in high school was the people. It’s been said that the people who decide to come to Grinnell are a unique breed, that we’re all a little crazy in our own way. I don’t know if I’d go so far, but I will say that I’ve never met so many people who are so good at creating fun out of nothing.

Last year, a friend of mine was given a miniature fondue set for Christmas, and we thought we’d make a chocolate fondue. We bought chocolate and pretzels for dipping and sent out an e-mail letting people know where we were hanging out and that we’d have food. Having food is key to luring a college student anywhere.

We thought a few people would come, but we didn’t have very high hopes, because it was a Friday night, after all. Boy, were we surprised. Not only did people come, but they also brought good stuff for dipping in the fondue. We had kiwis, strawberries, bananas, and Nilla wafers. Eventually we ran out of chocolate and started melting chocolate chips my friend had stashed in her room.

It was an incredibly fun night, and not only because there was chocolate. We invited all our friends, so we ended up with a mixed bunch of people who hadn’t known each other before that night. My friend Danny ended up giving someone impromptu ballet lessons in the hallway. Leda and Emily got into a fencing match with the fondue forks (which were, I might add, only four inches long). A whole bunch of us played cards, using Life cereal instead of poker chips.

It was a great night, mostly because it was so spontaneous. We didn’t have anything planned except fondue, but the night took on a flavor all its own. So while concerts and movies are great, sometimes just hanging out can be even better.

Elizabeth Bologna '08 is an English and History major from Fairfield, Connecticut.

 

Once Upon a Time

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

 

As soon as I learned to read, I was never without a book. Often the characters were just as real to me as my siblings. When my father took me and my cousins out on forced-march hikes to some middle-of-nowhere place in rural South Dakota, I invented elaborate families, lives, and conversations for these characters. Due to my wild imagination, my cousins dubbed me “that kid.”

Aside from my own imaginary stories, I remember sitting around the oak kitchen table at my home, listening to my father tell the story (for the 15th time) of how he climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland as a 20-year-old college kid. His guide drank an entire bottle of wine on the way up. I can still hear my mother tell me about the boy she beat the tar out of in elementary school because he stole her jacks. Bedtime at my house was usually enforced — except when my Aunt Marge was over yakking about the latest drama at her vet clinic, or when my older brother Frank was home from his most recent crazy endeavor in the Marine Corps. When there were stories to be swapped, I was allowed to stay up as long as I wanted, listening.

Having been saturated with storytelling as a child, an English major seemed a logical choice for me at Grinnell. It would allow me to read and discuss stories while I did my homework. But I was happy to discover that stories weren’t relegated only to the academic sphere. Nowadays, I hear less about my father’s ability to blow smoke out his eyes and more about the friends I have made in the larger Grinnell community.

I met most of these people at a wonderful event called Community Meal, which takes place every Tuesday at Davis Elementary School. Sponsored by the chaplain’s office, along with community and student groups, the Community Meal brings people together to cook a free meal available to anyone who wants to come. Usually, about 100 people show up. Last week’s menu consisted of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, grilled cheese, assorted cookies, lemonade, and milk.

I would never call the skills I’ve acquired at Community Meal “culinary.” For while I am now able to chop many, many onions, open numerous cans of fruit cocktail, and make 12 boxes of Betty Crocker brownie mix, I spend most of the meal talking and listening to the stories people tell me about their lives. While we sit at folding lunch tables under bad fluorescent lighting, surrounded by colorful crayon artwork, I tell community members about the French exam I have on Friday and how I don’t think I will ever truly understand the subjunctive tense. In exchange, Dave will tell me stories about his time in Germany during World War II. Later, I will move to a different table and sit in on Erlene and Rose-Marie’s reoccurring and rather heated discussion about George Bush and Wal-Mart. Moving yet again, I will sit down next to a 95-year-old retired minister who sings me songs and tells me about his long-ago trips to Israel and Palestine.

As a result of these conversations, when I am sitting on the park bench in front of Wells Fargo or getting tea at Saints Rest, I feel less like a student from out of town and more like a part of the community at large. Grinnell, the school, is intense in many wonderful ways, and there is no point in denying that it can be stressful. That is the way of college. But it has been crucial to my perspective and my sanity to remember that a five- to seven-page paper pales in importance to a good story about someone’s life.

Sarah Boyer '08 is an English major from Rapid City, South Dakota.