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Today’s the Day the College Kids Have their Picnic!

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)
Author:  Erin Sindewald ’08

It is a clear blue day, the flowers are in bloom, and the birds are chirping songs of grandeur. Smiling students of all races, genders, and socioeconomic levels are sprawled out on the lawn eating lunch, presumably loving life and everything around them. Scenes like these often adorn college admission brochures and used to make my high-school-self roll her eyes. These smiley lunch-eaters couldn’t possibly represent real  people, I thought. They must be the handiwork of some photographer trying to lure students in with a gimmicky hook that doesn’t truly represent the school in question.

But all skepticism aside, I am here to tell you that at Grinnell, such an experience is real, it’s anything but cheesy, and it’s called Grab and Go.*

Grab and Go is a meal replacement program that allows students to pick up a bagged lunch rather than make a trip to the dining hall. Students swipe their Pcards and in exchange receive a paper bag filled with an apple, chips, two cookies, a bag of carrots, and either a vegetarian or meat sandwich, depending on their dietary preferences. A fountain drink of one’s own choosing completes the ensemble. What happens from there depends on the student in question.

Many take their meal back to their dorm rooms or into the library to munch while they finish homework before class. This practice is a very legitimate use of the system, but others have different plans for lunch. As opposed to using Grab and Go as a means to increase homework efficiency, these students use it as a way to expand upon and enhance the lunching hour, a way to take the already social experience of the dining hall and enjoy it on their own terms.

Monday through Friday afternoons, weather permitting, I take my bagged lunch outdoors and gather with a group of friends on one of Grinnell’s many lawns. The sky really is beautiful. The grass feels nice beneath our bottoms. Depending on the day, the squirrels scamper, romp, or frolic. And there is a sense of satisfaction in escaping the fluorescent lights for a bit of natural sunlight.

In between bites of hummus, these real live lunch-eaters talk about interesting happenings from class (like the time my psychology prof’s dog threw up all over the floor during a demonstration of operant conditioning), discuss politics (which presidential candidate we support), plan weekend activities (checking out the local pumpkin farm), and relish the ones from the previous week (flying kites naked).

Once our tummies are full, we pass around the sections of the New York Times, catch up on current events, and share articles we find particularly amusing. And what’s really spiffy is how often people passing by stop to chat and even join us. There’s something about a picnic that inspires passersby to slow down and enjoy the afternoon.

Grab and Go picnics may not be all you can eat, but the company is all you could want, the scenery is all you can see, and the conversation is all you can imagine. Plus, outside the dining hall you have the freedom to shout, to roll around in the grass, to play bocce ball amongst the squirrels, and to collect pretty leaves to give to a friend later that day.

We’re probably not quite as photogenic as those folks you might see in college mailings — some of us have been wearing the same T-shirt for the past three days, others are bleary-eyed from a long night of paper-writing, and we don’t necessarily represent every single demographic breakdown. But we do come together on green lawns, under blue skies, for one hour each afternoon, to eat, to socialize, and to connect. We are beyond the viewbook. We are Grab and Go.

*Last year, Grab and Go’s format and menu changed in order to accommodate its move to the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center. Since the move, the program has been renamed Outtakes. Regardless of the name change, those old enough to remember the old format continue to adamantly call it Grab and Go.

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

 

Rollicking Roomies

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

Author:  Mona Ghadiri '11

Like every other eager Grinnellian, I had a countdown to the day I would get the chance to find out who my roommate would be for that exciting and scary unknown that is the first year of college. I had my doubts about living with a complete stranger, so I did what so many of us often do: I worried.

“What if we have absolutely nothing in common?” “What if she doesn’t like me?”

When the highly anticipated day finally arrived, I logged onto my computer and waited for Pioneerweb to load. Since I knew there were a couple hundred likeminded first-years trying to find out the same information, I worried that all the students on the server would crash the entire system. Luckily, the Internet was able to handle our enthusiasm, and I carefully followed the directions I had received via e-mail. Finally, I had it. Her name was Jessie (a fine name!). She was from a town not too far from me (how convenient!). We were going to live in Rose Hall (new dorm, sweet!). My final verdict: I was excited to meet my new roommate. In a traditionally curious fashion, we looked each other up on the popular social networking site known as Facebook. Technology is a fabulous thing, and we used the website to start messaging each other. We started with the basics: our families, our backgrounds, our favorite things, and then branched out from there. It was really interesting to learn more about Jessie before actually meeting her in person, and I felt this online communication helped quell some of our fears. Since we lived only 15 minutes apart, we decided to put our online chats on hold and meet in person.

After much discussion about whether coffee or tea would be best, we settled on apple cider and donuts from this great little place near my house. We met and chatted for about an hour. As it turned out, living close to each other gave us more common ground, and even though I worried our first meeting would be awkward, the conversation flowed easily. Topics like books and movies led to a philosophical discussion, and by the end of our first meeting, we had also agreed on the who-would-bring-what logistical stuff. Overall, the experience was quite painless and actually a lot of fun. I was relieved to feel comfortable with my roommate, even before we stepped on campus.

Jessie and I kept in touch online for the remainder of the summer, and when I actually got to campus, things just got better. Even though we are very different people, we get along great, and living together has been wonderful. We joke around and have periodic sing-alongs that our neighbors can probably hear from the opposite end of the hall. In our short time together, we have laughed over cookie dough, ranted (and raved) about professors, done homework together, and just mused about life in general. I really can’t imagine having a better first-year roommate.

Although it was helpful to meet Jessie over the summer, I know that even without our preemptive meeting, we would still have gotten along just fine.

Mona Ghadiri '11 is undeclared and from Long Grove, Illinois.

 

Self-Defining Self-Governance

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

Author:  Caitlin Carmody '08

Two years ago I led a small group discussion about self-governance during New Student Orientation. I tried my best to explain the fairly nebulous concept and did a passable job, but there was one persistently inquisitive first-year who just would not let the topic rest. All the other newcomers were squirming on the hard concrete floor because the hypnotist beckoned, and the NSO hypnotist is not to be missed (what better way to bond with your new friends than to see them do humiliating things?). However, this particular new student kept challenging me to further explain self-governance.

After several minutes of a shoddy comparison to John Locke’s social contract theory, I finally threw up my hands and said with exasperation, “It’s about community! Forget Locke. It’s just about living in a community.” He still didn’t seem satisfied, but self-governance can’t really be taught in the way he wanted to learn it. There can and should be dialogue about it. It can’t be reduced to a bullet-point list.

Back when I myself was a skeptical first-year hell-bent on damning The Man, I thought this self-governance thing was a bunch of hooey cooked up by the administration to make us behave ourselves. I thought it was some sort of reverse psychology thing: make the students believe they’re following the rules because they want to, and they’ll feel empowered and be obedient.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The ideal of self-governance has become one of my favorite things about this school. Living in Grinnell, it’s always very clear that you live in a tiny, interdependent community. Self-governance means being cognizant of this fact, understanding that your actions affect the lives of others, and therefore taking appropriate actions in your day-to-day activities.

Self-governance means being honest and actively engaging in the community in which you live. It doesn’t mean doing whatever you want, nor does it connote the absence of any rules. I don’t think there can be any “upholding” or “adhering” to self-governance. It’s more of a philosophy and way of living that translates into your actions in everyday life, and that’s not something anyone can regulate.

You’re expected to clean up after yourself, and people will call you out on it if you don’t. You’re expected to own up to fines you generate, and are usually rewarded with reduced fines for your honesty. People take care of each other, drunk and sober. Classmates lend you books even if they don’t really know you. Instead of complaining to your roommate about the loud music down the hall, you ask your hallmate to turn it down. Instead of complaining to your hallmate about your roommate’s slovenly ways, you introduce your roommate to the wonder of Clorox Wipes. You’re expected to act like the adult that you are, but you’re not required to be perfect. It’s very liberating, sometimes annoying, and helps create an amazing community.

Earlier today my friend and I were walking across Mac Field when we encountered several abandoned tables in the middle of the big grassy field. A few of them were broken down the middle, looking very much like wounded soldiers forgotten in the Saturday night battlefield. We stopped suddenly in our tracks, perplexed by the carnage.

“Well, there’s the graveyard of self-governance,” my friend remarked cynically. Sometimes people like to talk about the death of self-governance, like it’s rolling in its grave somewhere whenever anyone vomits in a stairwell and doesn’t clean it up. Terrible extended analogies aside, I disagree with the proclamation of death. Self-governance is manifested in countless individual actions, both miniscule and large, some of which no one will ever be aware.

No college campus or community can exist in complete harmony. That being said, I do not suggest that Grinnell is a utopian society. What it is, though, is a group of interconnected, thoughtful, and passionate individuals. Stuff does happen, but we are generally a responsible bunch, and are treated as such. While I cannot define self-governance in a way that will please every new student who joins our ranks, I do hope that you can find a way to use the philosophy to create your own worthwhile Grinnell experience.

Caitlin Carmody '08 is a Political Science major from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

 

HIV Testing and Drag Shows

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

Author:  Lindsay Robinson ’09

As a first-year student, I dabbled in a little bit of everything. I went to half a dozen meetings every week and signed up to be on all the mailing lists. I was planning events with Concerned Black Students, Grinnell Multicultural Alliance, and the Stonewall Coalition. I was tutoring Sudanese refugees, sewing quilts, and working with the Office of Admission. I joined whatever happened to interest me, whether or not I really had the time for it.

This is a common problem for first-year Grinnellians. With so many organizations to join, it’s difficult to choose just one, or even a few, on which to focus our energies. Even with all of the opportunities to be active, sometimes there can still be something missing — as I discovered.

Luckily, it’s easy to start your own organization here. After attending two conferences on student leadership during my second semester, I was confident I could do just that. Last year, with the help of a group of friends, we re-founded an organization called Queer People of Color (QPOC). We resurrected it to bring focus to a community on campus that we thought needed more attention. We found immediate support.

That semester, we organized a successful panel on the intersection of race and homophobia during Pride Week. Students had a chance to publicly discuss their experiences and personal issues. We held an “Apples to Apples” study break and offered QPOC-themed prizes (Bessie Smith, Margaret Cho, and Bad Education CDs). The study break gave us all a chance to kick back and pretend we didn’t have 10-page papers to write for the next day. We also organized the National Day of Silence on campus, and more than 150 people participated. Students ate silent meals in the dining halls and gathered for a group scream at the end of the day. Afterward, we talked about why participating in Day of Silence was important to us, and we wrote our thoughts on a huge cloth that hangs in the Stonewall Resource Center today.

This year we’ve continued working toward visibility and awareness for various issues. During Coming Out Week, we held a bake night where we watched a film about being Asian American and queer. At one of our meetings, we showed a documentary on being Latino/a and queer. But our biggest event so far has been a “Drag Extravaganza,” organized with the Transgender Advocacy Group and Multicultural Manor (an on-campus project house). In the afternoon, people could learn the history and how-tos of drag at a workshop. That night we held a drag show where the performers collected tips as a fundraiser. With that money and donations from other organizations, we raised $300 to provide free HIV testing for students on campus during AIDS week. We don’t plan to slow down anytime soon. Currently in the works is the planning of the first annual Midwest QPOC conference.

I won’t pretend that leading an organization like this doesn’t take lots of time and energy, sometimes more than I have to give. But as stressed as I am in the days, weeks, and sometimes months leading up to an event, I love doing what I can to make things happen. Being part of this group has shown me there really are lots of opportunities at Grinnell to do the things you want to do. The resources are there, the support is there, and even though I have to sacrifice a lot of my sewing time and some of my naps, I am grateful that QPOC has been able to grow and provide a niche for me and for others.

Lindsay Robinson '09 is a Sociology major from St. Louis, Missouri.

 

We’ve Got Each Other—and That’s A Lot

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

Author:  Erin Sindewald '08

As an oh-so-recent Grinnell grad who has oh-so-recently experienced the final ticks of my college clock, been handed a piece of paper of supposed symbolic significance that cannot adequately contain nor express the magnificent years that have so recently ended, and moved back home in hopes of finding myself/finding a job/finding a way, recently I’ve come to reflect on my time here at a Grinnell. In short: it’s been quite a ride.

Here I am, diploma in hand, nearly four years since the medallion ceremony in which I was told that my odds of marrying another Grinnellian were significantly higher than those of marrying my biggest celebrity crush (at the time, 1980s John Cusack); four years since I first ate breakfast in the dining hall with three guys from tutorial who later morphed into three of my closest friends; four years since I ran my first of many unseasonably warm runs with my cross country teammates along the rolling Iowan hillside.

It’s been almost four years since my first PEC shower, my first Grinnellian crush, my first of many Oreo cyclones from Dari Barn, my first bakery run, and my first day as a dining services employee when I accidentally dropped six cents into the cup of coffee that a professor had just purchased.

Over the past four years I’ve shopped at the local farmer’s market, eaten approximately 1,500 pounds of crispy fried tofu from Choung Garden (my all-time favorite meal on this planet — for serious), swung on the swings at Merrill Park, and watched a friend give a research presentation in Chinese even though I don’t speak Chinese. I’ve baked a lot of cookies, written a lot of papers, lounged on a lot of rooftops, and played a lot of Ani DiFranco on my iTunes.

During my time at Grinnell, I’ve worn rainbow suspenders, a maroon unitard, a unicorn hat, a rainbow beanie, and my fair share of gaudy spandex. At various parties I’ve rocked out to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” rocked out harder to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and found ways to make music deemed undanceable by many very danceable indeed.

As an Iowa resident, I’ve visited the bridges of Madison County, run the bases of the Field of Dreams field, sat in the world’s largest rocking chair, and used the bathroom at the world’s largest truck stop. As a study abroad participant I managed to contract dengue fever despite the safety my mosquito net and insect repellant theoretically provided.

As a Grinnell student I have flown kites naked as a study break during finals week, ridden dorm mattresses down the stairs in academic buildings, studied in the library without pants, participated in wheelie chair races in Noyce, explored an abandoned building in town, taken midnight bike rides off campus, taken a dip in the pond beyond the college president’s house in January, attempted to sit on every bench on campus (a work in progress), and engaged in silent dance parties outside of Burling.

And at the core of all these experiences, through every class attended, every test taken, and every paper researched, through every all-nighter and excursion to the dining hall, every concert, play, presentation, lecture, and sporting event, were some of the finest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with. I’m talking about the kindest, kookiest, most intelligent, most compassionate people I could ever have imagined into existence. People who have inspired me to be a better person, challenged some of my most steadfast opinions and beliefs, picked me up when I was down, and giggled incessantly with me every time a giggle was warranted (which was often).

I love the individuals who have made up my Grinnell experience, to quote whoever originally coined the phrase, “with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.”*

All of which won’t burn out for at least 5 billion years or so.

So as that oh-so-recent Grinnell grad who is both excited to approach a new world of untapped possibility and nostalgic for the community she’s leaving behind, I’d like to send out an invitation. If you’re kind and inquisitive, passionate and loving, open minded and open hearted, you might want to consider spending a few years at Grinnell. It just might be the ride you’re looking for.

*I most recently saw this expression used in a campus newspaper article written by John Guittar ’07 in September 2005, used, unsurprisingly, to express his love for Grinnell students. I feel it is appropriate to credit him here.

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

Un Feliz Año Nuevo en Guatemala

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

 

Issue:  Spring 2008
Author:  Stephanie Rosenbaum ’08
 
As a travelin’ woman, I’m proud to say that I have never spent New Year’s Eve at home during my time in college. My first year, I spent time in Overland Park, Kan., with a friend from school, along with her friends from home. Second year, I was on a flight to Israel when the clock struck midnight. Third year, my high school friends and I watched the ball drop from Milwaukee, Wis.

Even with all these amazing experiences, I must say that my senior year New Year’s Eve was by far the most memorable. I mean, not everyone can say they watched fireworks from the beach in Guatemala.

My best friend, Camila Alarcon ’08, is from the beautiful Central American country of Guatemala. We’ve been friends since the end of our first year. Ever since we met, she has been on my case about coming to visit her during a break. I was finally able to save up enough to go this past winter break, and the trip was well worth the wait. I’m from a suburb of Chicago, and the day I left the weather in the Windy City was abysmal. I’m talking wind, sleet, and snow that even a postal worker wouldn’t tolerate. Arriving in warm, breezy Guatemala City was the perfect remedy for wintertime blues.

I spent two weeks with Camila and her family in Guatemala this winter break. Apart from the fantastic New Year’s on the beach, we did everything from tanning on the beach and watching the waves roll in off the Pacific Ocean, to climbing ancient Mayan ruins in Tikal, to exploring crypts in 17th-century cathedrals in Antigua. I ate traditional Guatemalan food (and would recommend the beans to anyone), fed crocodiles part of my breakfast, and danced in clubs in La Zona Vive. It was a perfect vacation. Her family and friends were so welcoming (and a bit impressed that I knew un poco de español), that I felt completely comfortable and at home. When it was time to leave, I didn’t want to go! It was a great opportunity to not only meet the family and friends of someone I had known for four years, but also to experience a culture and lifestyle completely different from anything I knew growing up in Glencoe, Ill.

That’s probably the best part about going to Grinnell. The students here are able to learn not only inside the classroom, but also from people they encounter in the dining hall, at the various parties around campus, and from the friends they make during their four years here. If I hadn’t gone to Grinnell, I never would have met so many diverse and amazing people and gotten the opportunity to learn so much and expand my worldview. It just goes to show that the people you meet can take you on adventures you never even imagined!

Stephanie Rosenbaum '08 is a Spanish major from Glencoe, Illinois.

 

Simplicity Gets a Bad Rap

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

 

Half an hour ago, as I walked back to my dorm after class, a pair of gorgeous monarch butterflies flitted across my path. Now, I have seen butterflies at home in Oregon — the white-winged kind that are actually just a prettier species of moth — but these were not Oregon butterflies. Dancing in front of me was a pair of true, orange-and-black, fluttery-winged monarchs looking for all the world like two butterflies in love.

I smiled and kept walking, but movement on a nearby tree caught my eye. I stopped and stared as two dozen more monarchs, which I had mistaken for orange leaves, took flight. They paired up as well, dipping and diving. Orange and black wings flashed and fluttered all around me as I stood breathless under the tree’s dappled sunlight, my eyes wide and my mouth agape.

I had flashbacks to the reactions of my high school teachers and friends when I told them I was going to Iowa for school. “Iowa? Why are you going there?” I’d shrug and tell them, “Because Grinnell is there,” as though that were the be-all and end-all of Grinnell.

But tell that to my roommate from China, who stood in the middle of Mac Field and looked up at the sky for 20 minutes because she had never seen stars before. “That’s the Big Dipper,” she squealed. “There’s Scorpio!” And I nodded, looking up at the sky with new eyes.

Tell that to a friend of mine who woke up in the middle of a particularly loud thunderstorm and couldn’t get back to sleep, not because she was afraid, but because she was fascinated by the unmistakable feeling of energy in the air, by the pregnant pause that came between eerily silent flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, by the soothing sound of the rain.

And tell that to the classmate standing next to me in the cloud of monarch butterflies, trying futilely to take a picture with her cell phone.

There is so much more to the town of Grinnell than a college. It’s an adorable and caring community of 2 a.m. bakeries, ice cream cones as big as your forearm, farmers’ markets, hardware stores, and cafes ready to welcome a group of college students who just want to get off campus and play a loud game of cards. In fact, when it comes right down to it, everything you could ever want or need you can find in town, whether it’s a knitting store or a professional photography studio.

Most importantly, however, Grinnell is a place where it’s easy to take the time to have fun. It’s not uncommon to be walking around on campus and see students happily climbing trees, reading on the grass, or even trying (and failing) to hang up a tire swing. Grinnellians know how to work hard, but they know how to relax just as hard and to make their own fun by just appreciating the little things in life … like a cloud of dancing butterflies.

Debora Berk '12 is undeclared and from Clackamas, Oregon.

An Idiot’s Guide to Procrastination

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

 

Issue: Summer 2008
Author: Patrick Laine '08

Going to college is a big step. When I arrived on Grinnell’s campus as an enthusiastic first-year, I was filled with grandiose visions of the four years that lay ahead. I was eager to immerse myself in the exciting world of higher learning and embrace a new lifestyle. I was ready to become an adult and use the liberal arts education to forge a new identity. I was so caught up in these romantic musings that the simplest of adjustments took me completely off-guard. For the first time in my life, I had to use the Internet!

At first, the challenges of navigating the World Wide Web addled my brain. I don’t doubt that most prospective college students practically think in 0s and 1s. However, there must be a few others out there who have never been to JSTOR or attached a word document to an e-mail. In order to deal with the pressures of college’s technological requirements, some Internet virgins seek refuge in a few frivolous websites. This is understandable; we college students spend so much time in front of a computer screen, it’s healthy to have a few recreational outlets. Internet procrastination seems harmless, but it can be devastating if conducted improperly. Having wasted many hours surfing the web instead of writing papers, I consider myself a procrastinator extraordinaire. I feel compelled to impart some of this hallowed knowledge to future Grinnellians, lest their souls become trapped in the “about me” sections of their Facebook profiles. To this end, I will tell you about a little website called Grinnell Plans.

In January of this year, Plans was reported to have 3,809 members, consisting of current students, alumni, and some faculty, staff members, and, by invitation, other friends of the College. Much like Facebook and MySpace, Plans is a virtual community consisting of individual profiles. However, Plans is different from these run-of-the-mill time-wasters. For one, the profiles are not little boxes for filling in your favorites. Plans members’ pages are akin to blogs: full of opinions, anecdotes, and unadulterated expression. Reading my classmates’ Plans lets me know what’s going on in their lives on a day-to-day basis. This allows me to actually learn about people as unique individuals, as opposed to reducing them to a list of their favorite things, and it can actually inspire real social interactions. In fact, my friend’s witty Plan impressed an admirer so much, she asked him on a date. Surely it’s better to ask someone out because of their scintillating wit, and not simply because he or she is listed as “single” and looks hot in the profile pic.

Facebook claims to be a social networking site, but I consider it a source of insecurity and a vehicle for divisiveness. Friend counts encourage people to quantify their social worth. Exclusive events can make people feel left out. Basically, sites like Facebook and MySpace perpetuate the social dynamics that govern junior high. As a college student, you should seek to expand your social horizons and develop mature relationships with people. Plans fosters this type of social growth by allowing you to connect with the people in your life in meaningful ways. Digital socializing will never replace face-to-face interactions, but in today’s fast-paced world, technology is central to communication. This doesn’t mean we need to interact as robots.

In light of this, I exhort you to spend two minutes on Plans for every minute on Facebook. Wasting time is too important of an activity to be carried out poorly.

Patrick Laine '08 is a Philosophy major from St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

Judaism in the Cornfields

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

Until Grinnell, I had lived my whole life in the East Coast Jewish bubble. I went to a private Jewish day school, ate Chinese food on Christmas, and attended more bar mitzvah ceremonies than you could shake a stick at. Don’t get me wrong, I love Manhattan kosher delis as much as the next girl, but I needed to meet different people in a new environment. This was hard for most of my friends and family to understand, and most thought I was throwing away my upbringing to live in the Iowa cornfields.

To be honest, I was a little wary, too. On the surface, Grinnell didn’t have a large Jewish population, nor a separate kosher dining hall or a bustling Hillel (the national Jewish college and university organization). As a prospective student, I attended the Chalutzim (our campus Jewish organization) weekly Shabbat Table, but I felt a little out of place. Still, I couldn’t help falling in love with Grinnell, from the down-to-earth student body, encouraging professors, quirky traditions, and social justice ideals. I accepted Grinnell’s offer with little hesitation, speculating that I would figure out the “Jewish part” once I got to campus.

The more time I spent at Chalutzim events, the more I realized that there were other ways to be Jewish besides my familial traditions. Grinnell’s small, family-like Jewish community and supportive rabbi allowed me to think about Judaism in a new way, a way that I would have never found at a heavily Jewish East Coast college. Slowly, Grinnell’s Jewish traditions have become my own. The candid conversations about religion, the student-baked challah, the familiar Friday faces — these have all become part of my daily life at Grinnell.

With the supportive environment and unique student body, Grinnell is a meaningful place for students who seek faith, fun, or just the freedom to be themselves.

Rebecca Heller '11 is a History major from Cranfield, New Jersey.

Grinnell is Swell

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

Grinnell and Carleton. Those were my top two college choices when I applied. I’ll be truthful — Carleton was my top choice. I had a friend going there, and he sounded like he was having a lot of fun. “Oh man!” I thought. “I wanna have fun too!” I hadn’t figured out by this point that most people have fun at their school; that’s why they chose it.

I’ll be truthful again: I got wait-listed at Carleton. So while I hung around to hear back from them, I went to go check out Grinnell. I drove down here for an overnight stay and was 100 percent terrified. I’m not a big fan of stepping out of my comfort box, and I considered sleeping on a stranger’s floor in a state I’d never even stepped foot in before as definitely outside the box.

My host picked me up at the admission office and took me over to her dorm. We made small talk, and by small talk, I mean I’m-really-outside-of-my-element-here-someone-please-take-me-back-to-high-school nervous talk. Then I noticed this giant paper clock on the wall next to her room, divided into 12 sections, each with a different location on it (Food, Burling, Class, etc). There were several hands on this clock, each with — as I soon learned — the name of one of my host’s roommates on it.

That’s right, they had built themselves a Weasley family clock from the Harry Potter books. It took me about five more minutes of small not-so-nervous-anymore-because-you-guys-are-awesome talk for me to realize that, forget Carleton, this was the place for me. Actually, the clock was just one of many little tip-offs I got as a prospective student at Grinnell. There was also a shirt. Specifically a T-shirt worn by a rather attractive friend of my host, a shirt that came from the same webcomic as the one I was wearing. It was the connection to the webcomic that gave me the clue: maybe I was in the right place. It wasn’t the attractiveness of the guy wearing it (but while that didn’t influence my decision, it was nice that Grinnell students turned out to be about 41 times more attractive than any possible prospects I had at my high school).

After that initial awkward walk, I felt more at ease, as if I was with people who could understand me. I hung out with a handful of Grinnellians and one other prospective student who was visiting at the same time (whom I forgot all about, only to later re-meet in my American Lit class three semesters later). We played Loggia Frisbee, which meant I got to run around on the roof of our first-floor walkways catching Frisbees thrown from the ground. Wicked fun, even if my catching skills matched that of, say, a T-rex. But a T-rex who was thoroughly enjoying herself!

Some people talk about a sign they received in the final decision-making moments — a sign that somehow told them they needed to go to Grinnell. Someone got cut off in traffic by a car with a bumper sticker from her other top school. Another met a Grinnellian in their as-far-away-from-Iowa-as-possible hometown. While I was still deciding, I learned that my own hometown was like a Grinnellian super-magnet or something, because Grinnell people were popping up out of the woodwork. My across-the-street neighbor’s mother was a librarian at Grinnell; the mother of the family I babysat for was an alum; the son of a woman in my mother’s exercise class had just been hired by Grinnell’s English department.

Grinnell just wouldn't leave me alone!

I never regretted choosing Grinnell over Carleton. And often, such as when I’m running off to the Star Wars trivia contest where I’m maybe only the 34th most knowledgeable person there, I’m thankful I decided to come to here.

“Your father and I didn’t want to say anything to influence your decision,” my mom said to me after I’d sent in my housing application to Grinnell, “but we never thought Carleton would have worked for you.”

And as parents usually are (much to our disgruntlement), they were totally right.

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