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Good Conversation and Dining Hall Food

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



 Winter 2007


 Patrick Busch ’08

I’m not a regular visitor to language tables, but I do drop by occasionally when I have the time and happen to wander up to the second floor of the dining hall at the right time. At Grinnell, most language tables take place on a weekly basis in a room devoted almost exclusively to the purpose, just off the dining hall. For example, German table takes place every Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Every week most or all of the German professors come to the dining hall to eat dinner with the students who show up. My last visit to the German table occurred the week of Thanksgiving.

I didn’t plan it ahead of time, but I noticed that German table was starting and decided to go in and sit down. Soon I was drawn into a discussion with a professor about how my semester was going, which somehow evolved into a debate about the fastest route to St. Paul (which is where I’m from).

The discussions around the table were quite varied, in part because of different levels of language proficiency. One student had only taken German for two months, and because no English is spoken, she mostly sat and listened until another professor asked why we had all chosen to come to Grinnell. The novice German student spoke slowly, but kept going, misplacing a verb here and there. When she came to a word she didn’t know, her own professor stepped in, supplied the word, and explained that she had only started learning past tense the week before.

As much as I like German, I am a college student with lots of academic commitments and I do have a life beyond studying — much of it centered around dinner. At Grinnell, dinner is one of the few times on weekdays most people have relatively free. Before dinner there are classes, and afterwards homework, club meetings, and rehearsals occupy people’s time and attention. Thus, dinner is a time to unwind a bit, to take a short communal break and enjoy the company of others. One reason I have hesitated to go to language tables regularly is my reluctance to miss out on social time with my friends.

But when I did start dropping by the German table, I found it was actually a lot of fun. The people were fun to talk to, and even the professors didn’t talk about boring things like homework. Instead, there was talk of movies, of musical and dramatic performances, of trips to Europe, and of experiences with summer jobs. There was even a discussion of the merits of Facebook as a way to maintain relationships.

None of these things are unique to German, and I’m sure the other language tables would offer a similar experience — although of course their languages aren’t as cool as ours. Still, if you insist on learning a language other than German and you need to practice it, language tables give you an opportunity to do just that, while having a nice meal at the same time.

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


Goats, Not Tractors

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



 Fall 2008


 Jacob Gjesdahl '10

When I first heard about a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) using goats as a tool to manage invasive woody vegetation at Grinnell’s Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA), I was incredibly excited about the opportunity to get hands-on experience with an idea I had toyed with as a possible business venture. And even though I was rejected as a primary member of the MAP, I ended up having the opportunity to work on the project anyway.

Every summer, two students help manage CERA, primarily pulling and spraying weeds. This summer we also helped with the goat MAP, organized by Brian Perbix and Curran Johnson (both ’09). Among other things, we maintained fence lines, moved goats to and between paddocks, and sampled vegetation. For all of us, it was a great way to get hands-on experience with research and environmental work and get paid for it. At a big university, research opportunities usually go to graduate students, and few small liberal arts colleges have the financial resources Grinnell does.

My summer had lots of great memories, from wrangling goats to the goat that always yelled if we didn’t give her corn, to more peaceful moments examining the impact on vegetation. I remember seeing rare prairie plants that had somehow avoided being choked out by the invading vegetation. I saw native impatiens (I. capensis) come into bloom with a flower totally different from the impatiens planted en masse in garden flowerbeds. Once we saw the goats actually playing (or maybe fighting) with each other. They would rear back and then butt their horns together with a mighty crash. This doesn’t hurt them, but it was impressive to watch.

At CERA, I learned that using goats for restoration work probably wouldn’t be a very effective commercial venture, but it was definitely less damaging to the habitat than a tractor with chains or herbicides. Comparing the enclosures with goats to those without, we could see the differences as well as feel them as we attempted to walk through the thickets. It was interesting to see how the vegetation regrew in the goat enclosures; doubtless it will be even more interesting to watch how the land changes over the next several years as the experiment continues.

I hope to revisit CERA in 10 years and see the thicket of vicious multiflora rose transformed into a beautiful prairie and savanna through the healing power of goats and fire (another integral part of almost all ecosystems in Iowa).

Jacob Gjesdahl '10 is an Economics major from Birmingham, Alabama.


Caucus Season

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



 Spring 2008


 Smita Elena Sharma '08

The Iowa caucuses came a few weeks early this time around, on a chilly evening three days into the new year. College was out, and winter break was on for another three weeks. There was no reason for us students to be around town. None, that is, but for the excitement of participating, whether watching or voting, in the first part of a yearlong process that will determine the next president of the United States of America.

But this article is not about the specific procedures of the Iowa caucuses. That may be of interest to the political science major, but for me personally, it’s more interesting to watch the coming together of a community. Perhaps for the first time ever, I was able to see democracy in action. And not just any democracy, but a specifically Iowan democracy that emphasizes acting as a community.

My friend Vicki and I headed to Harris Concert Hall after a pre-caucus dinner at my downtown apartment. We were feeling all grown-up and excited, and still quite unsure about our support for Barack Obama. Along the way, we met another friend, Abby, who announced her intention to vote for John Edwards. In trying to argue Obama’s case, I think we did a better job convincing ourselves than we did her. Of course, my “vote” would have been academic, that is to say, moot. I am not a citizen of this country, let alone a registered Democrat. Thus I could only talk to others and watch the process itself.

We got to a very crowded Harris Center and joined the queue to register. As an independent observer, I had to sit on the stage apart from the registered Democrats. Some 500 people were in the auditorium. The mass slowly assembled into distinct groups, each bearing a banner proclaiming their candidate for president of the U.S.A. Each, that is, except for the six adults gathered in support of Dennis Kucinich and the lone woman who was supporting an alsoran whose name I forget. Obama and Edwards polled the biggest numbers — about 240 and 170 respectively. Perhaps more surprisingly, Clinton’s contingent was small: she had about 40 supporters, while 72 were required to attain viability (or in plain speak, to gain a delegate). Only one student caucused for her, perhaps in retaliation for her fudging on the issue of whether “out-of-town” students should rightfully be allowed to vote here. Don Smith, a retired history professor known for his genteel Southern charm, presided over the proceedings.

And so I sat onstage and watched. I saw people trying to make up their own minds about which candidate to support and trying to persuade others to agree with them. I heard people talk to each other about politics and about the weather and about travel plans. I exchanged greetings with faculty members, college staff, students, and the few parents of my friends who came down to see Iowa’s famous caucuses for themselves.

A couple in their 50s sat next to me, and we started talking. They turned out to be the parents of a friend who graduated last year. Talking to them, I realized why Grinnell appeals to me so much. Whether in politics or in ordinary conversations with almost-strangers, Grinnellians are polite, warm, and firmly invested in the everyday activities in which they engage. The Iowa caucuses are an important political mechanism, but more than that, they are also a manifestation of community at its best: all these people together in one room, trying to make a difference in the world.

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


Traveling with Friends

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

It occurred to me the other day that the Cycling Club at Grinnell is really more like a hive mind than anything else. When I started the club two years ago, all I really wanted was more people to ride with — and that is our philosophy today. The power of Cycling Club lies in its e-mail list and its Plan (an online community — not run by the College — that provides interested students with space where they can keep a blog of sorts). I haven’t been riding very much recently, but there are plenty of other rides going on.

We do coalesce as a hive for certain things, like fixing student bikes for free, dabbling in collegiate road racing in the spring, and running “theme” rides, like one to a local apple orchard in the fall. This past summer, we also rode RAGBRAI as a group.

The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, more briefly known as RAGBRAI, is the largest bicycle touring event in the United States. It is a sevenday party that travels across Iowa, along with you and your bike. You, and 20,000 other people.

I treasured the experience to get better acquainted with my current home state. There’s just something about riding through a tiny town, being greeted by the mayor in a cherry-picker, and stopping to eat sweet corn — fresh out of a butter vat — that made me love Iowa even more than I already did. It also makes 80- to 100-mile days in the saddle a whole lot more bearable.

There is also a lot to be said for variety. RAGBRAI is fairly representative of the Grinnell cycling community in that all sorts of people get involved. You can strap on your lycra and hammer away, or you can build a bike out of bamboo. I lost track of the number of bikes towing speaker systems blaring music. Even though it might seem strange, riding a bike for more than 450 miles can be fun. In fact, everybody was having a blast.

You see, I’m convinced that RAGBRAI works solely because it is in Iowa. Nowhere else would you be able to find so many friendly people statewide willing to put up with thousands of sweaty, dirty cyclists. We were invited into homes, offered food, and cheered along by old folks in lawn chairs almost the entire way.

RAGBRAI cemented my love for Iowa. It also made me realize what it is that I love so much about bike riding: it’s an experience. You can get on a bike and go somewhere and do something. A bike trip can be exactly what you want it to be. I’m not going to say something contrived like, “and in that way it’s like a Grinnell College education,” but … I suppose I just did. My apologies. Rest assured that if you come to Grinnell and go somewhere with your schoolmates, you’ll be traveling with friends.

Hugh Redford '10 is a Philosophy major from Pound Ridge, New York.

Check Out My New Crib

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



 Fall 2007


 Nmachi Jidenma '09

Every morning when I wake up and stagger to the bathroom downstairs in my lovely new Cowles apartment, I do so with a great degree of pride and satisfaction. I love the wooden furniture, I love the stairs, I even love the smell. When I walk, cook, lounge, dine, and whine, I do so with the same degree of comfort as I would at my home in Nigeria. I love the novel and the crisp, the new, and the exciting, and my Cowles apartment feels like all that and more! In many ways, I feel privileged to be able to live in such style as the stereotypically poor college student. But who am I to complain?

Though I live in one of the smaller apartments, it is huge compared to the living accommodation I had last year in the dorms. The apartment has a sitting room, a kitchen, a very spacious bathroom, and four bedrooms. Other perks include a TV with cable access, a DVD player, and lots of comfy furniture, perfect for both studying and relaxation. It’s great — I get an off-campus experience without ever having to worry about paying rent or taking out the trash, and I still live close to all the campus hotspots. If I want, I can isolate myself within the four walls of the apartment; but at the same time, I know I can enjoy the comforts of communal living with a quick skip over to visit my friends who live on North Campus.

In addition, the Harris Center is just a stone’s throw from my apartment, which makes weekend activities particularly exciting. On any given weekend night, my suitemates and I can often hear the blaring music emanating from Harris. Some might consider this a negative, but I love it. From the comfort of my apartment, I can gauge the vibe of Harris parties just by listening or by peeking to see if the people hanging outside the entrance look appropriately merry and gleeful. When I’m feeling the vibe, I make the quick trek to Harris to mingle and unwind. When I’m not, I simply indulge myself in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: yet another marathon of America’s Next Top Model on MTV.

Most important, it does not hurt to have the additional attraction of being able to show my apartment off to friends or share it with the rest of campus through forums such as this publication. Thanks to my new accommodation, I have the added privilege of feeling like something of a campus celebrity, just by inviting the rest of the world to “come view my crib.”

Next semester, just before room draw, I intend to ask Grinnell’s housing office if I can live in my apartment again next year. I can’t imagine my senior year without my lovely new living space. I would love to have another year of watching cable TV without the additional stress of having to reserve a hall lounge, of cooking with my suitemates in our very own kitchen, and of checking out the vibe of weekend parties without ever having to get up off the couch.

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


Write On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

German and Russian and Arabic — Oh My!

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



 Winter 2007


 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.


It’s All in the Palate

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



 Winter 2008

It has been almost one year since I was in South India, and the memory that still elicits an intense visceral reaction is the food. Show me a picture of a dosai on Google and I can’t tear my eyes away. I hear the crunch in the back of my mind as I first eat the crispy edges of this cracker-thin, rice and lentil “pancake.” The middle is next to go — I tear the soft, chewier center into strips and wrap it around a helping of coconut chutney, shoveling the entire combination into my mouth with my hand. Now I really want an Indian thali meal, common to most restaurants: a banana leaf sprinkled with water lines the bottom of a round, stainless steel tray, and about six to eight small stainless steel cups filled with various edibles hug the sides. When I should be writing a literature review for class, I fantasize about the earliest time I can drive to Des Moines and get my hands on some instant dosai mix, or at least some paneer(cheese) for another dish.

Food definitely dominates my memories of my study abroad experience. My second evening in South India was absolute foodie heaven: palak paneerchappatialoo gobidalsambarrotiiddlidosas, and chutney all passed from plate to mouth to the shock of my taste buds. Having arrived the day before, my sense of taste still reeled not only from the cholesterol-laden airplane food, but also from a general disconnect between my palate and brain. I bit into a potato chunk only to register a few seconds later the piece of hot green chili stuck to the side.

It wasn’t too long before I found out my spice tolerance was abysmally low. As the semester progressed, gentle teasing about my unsophisticated Indian palate, insignificant appetite (by Indian standards), and unrefined eating technique was not an uncommon activity in my host family’s household. “Is this too spicy for you?” my host amma (mother) would ask every night for a month even when barely a pinch of green chili was added. My paati (grandmother) chuckled whenever sambar juice dribbled down my chin as I tried to (unsuccessfully) scoop sopping rice with my right hand. Pause, rearrange fingers, demonstrate, now you try made up the substance of our initial gestured interactions. “You’re worse than a baby,” my amma teased on more than one occasion.

Eating food wasn’t all that enriched my experience — discussing the gastronomic effects of curd rice versus onion chutney added another dimension to the edible experience. That first week, I bonded with my program mates over our stomachs’ revolt against the new bacteria cultures. Bathroom activities took center stage in our daily conversations as we debated the various gastrointestinal effects of the rich, spicy cuisine. As the semester progressed, “bathroom humor” ceased to be a trademark of an immature mind and instead became a fact of daily life for us American students in India.

I’m proud to note that by semester’s end, my spice tolerance had increased to rival that of any self-respecting South Indian family. There was a lilt of surprise in my amma’s voice one day when she told me she no longer made my food separately from the family’s. “I didn’t think you could handle it, but now you can. You have become truly Indian,” she joked. It had only taken two months for the complete transformation.

Though my tolerance levels have probably plummeted to dismal levels in the year since I studied abroad, I still look forward to the occasional reconnection to South Indian cuisine and memories of my time in Madurai. Sometimes visceral memories are the strongest. The next time I am lucky enough to take a bite of chutney and dosai I’ll be certain India

Alisha Saville '09 is a Sociology major from Carbondale, Illinois.


Burling Library

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


In high school, I was always one to come home after sports practice and go study in my quiet room — I concentrate more easily when it’s quiet. Before coming to Grinnell, I was nervous that it might be difficult to find a good space to study. However, this has not been a problem at all. I have found a plethora of places to study on campus, and Burling Library has become one of my favorites.

The library community is what makes Burling such a unique spot on campus. Although it’s mostly a quiet place to study, you still get the company of all your friends. I have been with company even on those late study nights when I have stayed until 1 a.m., and I know I can find somebody else to keep me company on the way back to our dorms.

Inside Burling, there are a million little nooks in which to study. One can study downstairs in the unique jungle gym desks, at larger group tables, or on couches, many of which are in front of huge windows. The second through fourth floors have individual study carrels, which are great when you want to get a lot done with few distractions. Almost everywhere in the library, you’ll find individual lamps you can adjust to position the light on your homework.

Another perk: the library provides free tea everyday and free cookies every Wednesday. One of my favorite things to do before class is to come to the library and drink tea as the sun shines through the huge windows covering the north and south sides of the building. The library also presents displays with different themes, sponsors open mic poetry readings, and brings in authors to read excerpts from their books. During finals week, the library throws great study breaks, including performances by the improvisation team and by a cappella groups.

In the basement of the library, the College archive has all the old Grinnell College yearbooks, as well as priceless copies of rare and ancient books. You can also check out CDs and DVDs for free from the listening room; oftentimes on the weekend I like to find movies to watch with friends for a relaxing night. The best part of the basement is the bathrooms, where student graffiti covers the walls, allowing them to vent a little and express their feelings. I smile every time I go downstairs and see the “body-prints” on the wall that some of my friends made as a celebration of self-expression.

From the feeling of community to the performances to the multitude of resources offered, the library is a great place on campus to study, and like me, most Grinnell students grow to love it.

Diane Meisles ’12 is undeclared and from Northfield, Illinois.


Give My Regards to Student Affairs

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



 Spring 2009


 Deborah Berk '12

I’ve been a musical theatre kid my whole life. Though I never wanted to make it my career, most of the music on my iPod is musical soundtracks. While other middle school girls mooned over Justin Timberlake and Adam Brody, my computer desktop boasted Christian Borle and Norbert Leo Butz. An autographed photo of Bernadette Peters hung next to my mirror. I felt certain my interest in musical theatre would be compromised by moving to the cornfields of Grinnell, and I readied myself for four years of illegal bootlegs.

I realized how wrong I was early in my second semester at Grinnell, when I learned student affairs had extra tickets to the musical Spring Awakening on its off-Broadway tour in Des Moines. Did I want to go? I nearly fell out of my chair in my rush to get to the student affairs office. As I was giving my name and e-mail to the woman behind the desk, she asked me what my plans were for spring break and handed me a bright yellow flyer.

“We’re taking a group of students to New York City to see some shows, if you’re interested. I think it’s something around five or six shows over a four-day weekend. Sound like fun?”

I was in a state of pure euphoria. Half an hour ago, I had thought I’d be a grown-up before I could see live musicals again. Now I was hip-deep in them! After some mental calculations (about $450 bucks for the whole trip), I signed up then and there. Even discount Broadway tickets can cost anywhere between $50–150, not even taking into account hotel and travel costs. Sure, the trip wasn’t free, but it might as well have been. I, a girl from Oregon, was going to have a magical, wonderful weekend for easily a third of the normal cost. And Grinnell was helping me do it!

That weekend, the good deal got even better. The ticket I had purchased for Spring Awakening turned out to be one of a dozen seated onstage. I sat not five feet away from professional actors and actresses. I could feel their energy as they did what they loved. I left the theatre misty-eyed, and I suddenly realized I was wrong—even though I was passionate about musicals, I’d always thought I could live without them. But as I watched those people work, I realized I could not live without musical theatre.

I am now trying to figure out how to pursue a career in theatre production and management, and looking forward to my spring break more every day.

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