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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.

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.

Editor’s View: Finding Diversity in Surprising Places

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

 

When I applied to Grinnell, my admission essay opened with the line, “I am a 17-year-old, Caucasian, upper-middle-class suburbanite from a public school.” I knew that colleges were looking for a “diverse” student body, and I was well aware that my diversity credentials weren’t very impressive. In order to combat my statistical shortcomings, I tried to poke fun at my seemingly non-diverse self by mentioning some of the “Erin-esque” qualities characterizing me — qualities such as rarely leaving the house without saturating all exposed areas of my body with sunscreen (even in the winter) and my goal to one day pet a cow. The theme of my essay was that although I sound like everyone else on paper, in reality I have enough idiosyncrasies to make me (hopefully) stand out from the huge pile of applicants vying for admission at Grinnell.

Looking back at my essay three and a half years later, I am a tad embarrassed by the clichéd nature of my claims. Yet, when I arrived at Grinnell, I realized that at least my cliché was apt. The Grinnell website provides the following information about the class of 2010: 51 percent are female, 19 percent are students of color, 8 percent are international, 74 percent are from public schools, and 11 percent are first-generation college students. But Grinnellians are also peculiar, eccentric, quirky, and diverse in ways that do not fit into neat and tidy categories.

For example, one of the first times I ever took a shower at the Physical Education Complex (or the PEC, as it is fondly known), I felt nervous about being naked in front of strangers. This nervousness subsided when the student showering next to me suddenly turned to me and said, “Whoa … You have the smallest wrists I’ve ever seen! Can I touch one?”

Well, it certainly wasn’t the question I was expecting from a stranger in the shower, but she seemed friendly enough, so I obliged. I guess you can say my wrists added “diversity” to the shower that day. It was something small, both figuratively and literally, but it felt good to have something characteristically me.

Another time a friend teased me about the nasalized vowels of my “Chicago accent.” I have an accent? I thought. I never knew! Everyone from my suburb called their mothers “Mahhhm.” But here, that wasn’t the case.

Similar stories exist for many Grinnell students. Not until we were all thrown together in small-town Iowa, originating in countless different places, did we notice our own eccentricities that seem so peculiar to others. Aspects of our personalities, our speech patterns, and our interests that fit the norm at home were “different” at Grinnell. Thus Grinnell is filled with lots of strange and “diverse” people. We’ve got small wrists. We’ve got large wrists. We’ve got accents. We’ve got people who claim they have no accent (but they probably do). We’ve got people who say pop. People who say soda. People who say Coke. We’ve got drinkers. Non-drinkers. We’ve got whistlers. Tree climbers. Streakers. People who prefer to remain clothed in public. I’ve met people who enjoy the Beach Boys as much as I do (and many who do not). There are those who shower twice a day, those who shower twice a week, those who shower when they get the chance (which isn’t that often). We’ve got chefs, photographers, athletes, cat lovers, and pumpkin carvers. We’ve got those who have intense crushes on the collective childhood cast of the Harry Potter movies, and those who defiantly refuse to even pick up a Harry Potter book. We’ve got a little bit of a lot of things.

It’s true that in any community there are ways to pick out differences that make each person unique. But never have I been part of a community with quite the large array of characteristics that not only make each member unique, but also that make the entire community better. I am surrounded by 1,500 other students whose joint-diversity transcends easy categories — whose idiosyncrasies cannot be reduced to a pie chart and sent out in an admission brochure. I agree that socioeconomic/racial/etc. diversity is important to any environment, especially in the intellectual haven of academe. But it’s also important to know that Grinnell is a fab place for the discovery and appreciation of all types of difference. Even if it’s only the size of your wrists or the way you say “sahh-sage.”

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

ISO "Awes"

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

 

It was midnight when I arrived in the Des Moines airport from Honduras. As I walked through the empty corridors of the airport, nothing could be heard but the hum of the air conditioning and the sound of my footsteps. As other late travelers strolled past, I repeated the instructions I had received in a packet from the International Student Organization (ISO), just to make sure I was doing the right thing: “Go to the baggage claim area, and students in gray T-shirts will meet you and take you to Grinnell.” It was hard to imagine that someone was actually waiting for me in the middle of the night, especially when the airport seemed so dead.

When I finally got to the baggage claim area, all I felt was relief. Right in front was a table covered by a scarlet and black banner that read “Grinnell College” beneath the distinctive Grinnell insignia. Scarlet and black balloons floating above made it seem even more cheerful.

All of my worries abandoned me the instant I saw a person in a gray T-shirt approach me. He must have assumed I was the person he was waiting for, as I was the only nervous-looking girl amidst the older travelers. He introduced himself with a welcoming smile and said his name was MQ. He was from Korea. I noticed his shirt said, “Come to Grinnell, Experience the World.” My first thought was, how is this possible? By the end of that week, I already had the answer.

As I later found out, 59 other students from 33 countries around the world had also arrived in Grinnell on the same day. Within the next four days, the College staff would guide us through International Student Orientation (ISO), a program to prepare us for college life in the United States. There were sessions like “Immigration ABCs,” “Academic Life in the U.S.A.,” and “Academic Honesty.” We also visited downtown Grinnell in an exciting scavenger hunt. ISO concluded with an old-fashioned barn dance at the Lang Farm. This was our introduction to the United States, and in this way we rightfully claimed our titles as new “Grinnellians.”

Only during our last session was I able to see how diverse our group was. Karen Edwards, the coordinator of ISO, said, “Go to a place in the room where your country would be located geographically.” As I walked to the middle of the west side of the room, I glanced around. Everyone seemed to be thinking critically about where they would be. After a few seconds, we were all in our places. North of me there was a smiling Mexican and South of me there was a cheerful Costa Rican. Even farther south, I saw two girls, one from Ecuador and the other from Brazil. Across the “Atlantic,” the Europeans were chatting. To the east, the Asians were finding their seats, and to the south, the Africans were already settled down. As I looked around the room, everyone was speaking cheerfully to their neighbors, and I realized that this was how vast our world was. Despite this, we were still united here, in one place under our new title: “Grinnellians.”

When you come to Grinnell, make sure to travel the world. You can do this by simply speaking to an international student and asking him or her to speak to you in his or her native language. Ask about culture, and the many different things he or she has seen. When I think about it, the message on MQ’s shirt had a lot of truth: “Come to Grinnell, Experience the World.”

Glenda Lopez '12 is undeclared and from S.P.S., Honduras.

Tilting with Windmills in Tutorial

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

 

Issue: 

 Fall 2007

I remember sitting at my computer, scrolling through the list of choices for my tutorial class. My eyes jumped across the screen, and my mind nearly exploded with excitement. There were so many different topics to choose from, I could barely contain my geeky self. There were courses ranging from environmental science to Icelandic sagas to weird music to basically anything that could be possibly studied at a liberal arts college. There was even a class entirely dedicated to studying Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I mean, how many college students get to do that for an entire semester?

After about two hours of shuffling through my choices, I settled on “Don Quixote and the Modern World.” Since I am interested in Spanish language and culture, I figured this class would be a perfect opportunity to read one of the classic novels of the modern world. Never mind the literary analysis aspect; I just wanted to read about a crazy old man who tilts with windmills. Stepping into class on the first day, there was that familiar first-day awkward silence. Not only did most of us not know anyone else in the class, it was also eight o’clock in the morning, an hour at which most of us could barely function. Just as we were about to fall asleep, the door swung open and our professor, Esther Fernández, greeted us with a warm smile. “Good morning, clase!”

After briefly discussing the purpose and goals of the class, we dove straight into the book. That’s what I found great about tutorial. Although its focus is teaching first-years how to adjust to college- level writing and research, the bulk of class time goes into discussing your topic. I quickly became engrossed in dissecting every bit of Don Quixote’s literary adventures. I fell in love with the text and was surprised with the amount of vulgarity and satire Cervantes was able to get away with without censure by the post-Inquisition Spanish government.

New discoveries such as these make class discussions fun and exciting. Not only is our professor always challenging us to dig deeper than generic answers and move beyond the literal words on the page, she is also very animated and engaging. The day we discussed the windmills story, Profesora Fernández reenacted the dialogue between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in her tiny, but fierce, Spanish manner, and the class couldn’t stop laughing. Another time the class got a kick out of trying to explain the concept of “emo” toProfesora by using the character of Grisóstomo, an astronomy-student-turned-shepherd who writes bad poetry, as an example. With experiences such as these, I’ve found that I enjoy the content and dynamics of the class so much that I no longer mind getting up early to attend.

After this semester, the class will be over, but the relationships we have forged will not be. Yes, that sounds like a big ball of cheese dipped in more cheese, but it’s true. Our class chemistry is pretty tight, and I can easily see my classmates spending time together in the future. Our professor, meanwhile, will serve as academic adviser for each of us until we declare a major. Essentially, the tutorial is our social and academic core. And to keep myself from sounding like a college brochure — because I’m sure you get enough of those — I’ll stop there.

For now, I’m excited for what the rest of the semester has in store for my tutorial class. Maybe some more role-playing? Or using more 21st-century slang to explain a 17th-century text? Who knows? But what I do know is that I’m actually having fun while working my tail off to adjust to college life. While there is a good-sized leap from high school to college-level writing, I assure you that it isn’t anything to fear. Tutorial is a challenge to look forward to when you get to Grinnell. Think of it as an adventure, like Don Quixote. Just don’t go off and fight windmills. Knowing the end results, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try it.

Aki Shibuya '11 is undeclared and from Orinda, California.

 

A Place of My Own

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

Being from a foreign country and knowing little about Iowa or the Midwest, I thought of Grinnell as a little campus in the middle of the tall prairie grass. Indeed, I chose to come here not only because I wanted the isolation and oneness with nature that Grinnell seemed to offer, but also because I desired a retreat where I could nurse my tired body while nourishing my hungry mind. I had a fantasy image of Grinnell as the perfect retreat center, where all was quiet and serene.

Stepping off the plane, I was shocked to see that I was at a proper, if somewhat small, airport. Even so, Des Moines — the capital and one of the biggest cities in Iowa — paled in comparison to my hometown, Kuala Lumpur. I lived in the heart of KL, seven minutes from what were at the time the world’s tallest towers. I was also seven minutes from Malaysia’s very own Times Square, which houses thousands of shops including Asia’s largest indoor theme park, as well as the biggest Borders bookstore in the world. Des Moines simply could not compare.

While driving to the College, I spotted fields of corn and soybeans all around me. I could not recall ever having seen cornfields before. I tried to brace myself for what I expected would be an introduction to a remote, uninhabited prairie, but it never came. I spotted a Subway and a KFC. I saw Wells Fargo and Radio Shack, and even a Pizza Hut. This turned out to be the town of Grinnell. The phrase “in the middle of nowhere,” I discovered, was actually something of an overstatement.

I remember my first time gallivanting about town. I liked it immediately. I liked how personable it felt, how quiet and restful. I shall not deny that the absence of a Starbucks, or a 7 Eleven, or a restaurant that stayed open past 10 p.m., or a building taller than three stories, was not lost on me. Yet, these were not obvious disadvantages. In place of Starbucks, Grinnell offered me Saints Rest, which, while it did not serve my favorite green tea frappuccino, offered better music and wonderfully affable company. In place of late-night restaurants, there were cozy pubs. In place of chain stores, quirky, agreeable little shops tried to cater to my needs and wants.

I did not immediately like certain things about small-town Grinnell. I found the lack of streetlights rather disturbing at first, coming as I do from a metropolis where snatch-thieves and other dodgy characters abound in dimly lit areas. Now, I feel comfortable going for nightly jaunts by myself without feeling the need to look behind me every 10 seconds. I enjoy a clear vision of the sky and the stars. The town of Grinnell is not exactly diverse: many of the townies are white, Christian, and somewhat conservative. Having said that, these same townies are friendly — they will open doors for you, smile when passing you, exchange greetings on the street, and offer to help you with those heavy bags. Again, not something a city-dweller is used to.

The weather here is also very different. I come from a tropical country where the temperature never dips below 77 degrees and never rises above 95 degrees. The sun rises at 6:30 a.m. and sets at 6:30 p.m. every single day of the year. This is my third Midwestern winter, and I have yet to get used to it. Here, winters can be brutal; they can also be wildly unpredictable. I love how one can wake up in the middle of January to a warm and snowless day. Similarly, we can and do get a week of crazy cold weather in the middle of April or May.

As a child, I lived in several countries before moving to Malaysia. That early nomadic existence meant that while I felt comfortable moving around and could settle in easily enough, I never felt like any place was my place. I was always a traveler — every “home” was merely a temporary dwelling. From the moment I came here, I liked the College and the town. Obviously then, I was still in my honeymoon phase. Yet, two and a half years later, I am still in love with this place. A longer honeymoon phase, perhaps? It does not feel like it. It feels like I have finally found a place of my own.

Smita Elena Sharma '08 is a Philosophy major from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Roommates

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

 

It was late July, and I sat at my computer, feverishly checking the Grinnell PioneerWeb networking site for my first-year housing information. It was probably the third or fourth time that night I had checked, and yet I still had hope that another click on the refresh button would yield the answer to my question. Certainly knowing which dorm I got into was one thing — I could have seen myself in any of the rooms at Grinnell, from the cozy residence halls of South Campus to the high-ceilinged modernity of East Campus — but it was not the room I was concerned with, but rather the roommate.

Who would he be? I had always envisioned my roommate in the vein ofThe Catcher in the Rye: an outgoing, big-shot roommate to contrast with my own reserved self. I pored over the roommate questionnaire I had hastily answered earlier that summer. What had I checked again?

Then I saw it. An e-mail in my new Grinnell mailbox from my prospective roommate. My existing conceptions of him were shattered. I knew nothing. His name was Chinese, this much I knew. Later I would enlist the help of my Chinese-speaking friends to ensure that I would not make the fatal error of mispronouncing my future roommate’s name.

I eagerly read through the e-mail, starting with his humorous assumption that I was “from Deutschland,” to his introduction of himself, his city, and his hobbies. He told me we would share “tears and happiness” together at Grinnell. As excited as I was to meet him, I was worried my ignorance of his culture would make it difficult for us to connect as friends.

One month later, after occasional but regular e-mail communication, I was ready to meet my roommate, Wenyang Qian ’12. I arrived at Grinnell and unpacked my stuff in the already half-filled room. I found a note explaining Wenyang’s momentary absence and his excitement to finally meet me.

The door burst open, and in bounded the raw energy that I came to know as Wenyang. While I was exhausted by my day of traveling, he had spent the last few days getting to know Grinnell during International Student Orientation. He was all ready to show me around and introduce me to people. We went to dinner together, talked about how we had chosen Grinnell, and the strange hands of fate and coincidence that had brought him, from Nanjing, China, and me, from Redmond, Wash. (not Germany), to the same dorm room at a small college in the middle of Iowa.

We both marveled at the stars in the night sky and the openness of the Midwest, and shared our photos and stories from our lives at home. As it turned out, we were not so strange to each other as we had each imagined. We both possessed the intellectual curiosity and courage that had brought us to Grinnell. We both had experience with long-distance relationships and similar views of romance. We even found out that we enjoyed some of the same movies, including the French film Amélie.

As the academic year commenced, we still found time to enjoy our talks together, even when we busied ourselves with activities outside the room. We shared our tears and happiness.