Merel Timmermans

Merel's Journey


Merel Timmermans


Political Science & Spanish


Los Angeles, CA


Hours By Plane

When I visited Grinnell during my senior year of high school, I knew that it would be an academic fit, but I wanted to see if I thought I would be able to find a place in the community.

Throughout my visit, the students who hosted me went out of their way to show me around campus, take me to meet their friends, and show me their favorite parts of Grinnell. They made me feel incredibly welcomed in a place I'd never been to before, and since that sense of community was what I was looking for, I came.

Three years later, as I start my senior year, I am certain that I made the right choice in taking a leap of faith to leave my urban hometown and move to rural Iowa.

First Year

My first year at Grinnell, I came a week before New Student Orientation (NSO) to start practice for cross country. This is where I met my very first friends at Grinnell, and found a community that I knew I would be part of throughout my college career.

As more people began to arrive for other pre-orientation programs and eventually NSO, I began meeting other first-years on my floor, and many of them became part of the group of friends I still have today. I also discovered the joys of hammocking!

Poster drawings pinned on wall
Group photo with smoke behind them
Two people in hammock
Group picture of college students.
Group picture at table
Group photo of students working with wood carving.

Snapshots from my early days at Grinnell

This video is from pretty early on in first year, hammocking and studying with a group of friends in what is one of my favorite spots on campus.

Exploring Iowa

Coming to a rural town was my biggest hesitation about Grinnell, but I have found that there is a lot to be said for living in a small town. While there aren't nearly as many food options as there are in LA, there is still plenty to eat, see, and do!

During my four years in Iowa, I have really enjoyed getting off of campus and exploring. There are multiple beautiful parks nearby, plus seasonal attractions like Uncle Bill's Farm, a kite festival, and the Jingle Bell Holiday winter festival in town.


Cross country has been a big part of my college experience. I was not a recruited athlete, but I emailed the coach at the time explaining that I had run in high school and would love to continue running in college.

I really enjoy the sport, but the team has given me so much more than a place to run: I've met wonderful people and been able to visit different parts of the Midwest. The photos featured below are from my very first cross country meet, going to see my teammate Emma after her performance in Des Moines, a track meet at Mount Mercy College, me and my now co-captain Ailsa, and after a very memorable and muddy meet in Chicago!

Girl standing in green field with grinnell shirt
Cross-Country girls group photo
Girls group photo lying on grass
Two girls standing in front of building
Girl giving piggyback-ride on beach

Women's Cross Country through the years

Summer in Oaxaca

The summer after my first year, I lived in Oaxaca with my Grinnell friend Tallulah. While there, I worked with an nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Fondo Guadalupe Musalem, which gives scholarships to girls in rural areas of Oaxaca so that they can continue studying in high school and college.

Oaxaca was a beautiful place to live! Tallulah and I would spent hours exploring the city, enjoying the colorful architecture, trying different street foods, and hanging out with our landlady's cat, Maya.


Iowa Politics

Iowa is a great state to live in during the presidential election cycle. I met every single Democratic candidate at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, but I could have met most of them just by living in Grinnell. Most candidates came to campus or town, including Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Julían Castro. We caucused in Darby Gym on campus, which was a truly incredible experience. Democracy in action!

Photo of student with banners behind them
Picture of speaker on stage
Picture of speaker Julian
Picture speaker Sanders on stage
Student group picture in crowd
Picture from bleachers looking at gym floor
Picture of crowd in gym

From the Polk Country Streak Fry to candidates on campus to a raucous caucus night in Grinnell!

Community Through COVID

When the pandemic became serious in March 2020, Grinnell made the call to send all students home. This was a really difficult time: both immediately-- as we tried to balance taking midsemester exams, packing, and saying goodbye-- and long term, as we adjusted to online learning and moving back home.

My friends and I did the best we could to make the most out of truly unprecedented experience by having weekly meetings, sending letters in the mail, and eventually living together and exploring the outdoors.

Senior Year and Beyond

Hero Image with Text

I think I always wondered if a big global event would happen when I was in college, but I truly did not imagine that my four years at Grinnell would be disrupted by a global pandemic. Sometimes, I still struggle to accept that so much of my college experience was taken away from me: a year of track and cross country, my study abroad plans, in-person classes, time with friends.

There is no way to change what was lost, but I am determined to have a wonderful senior year! When I graduate, I will be proud to say that I worked hard to make the most out of virtual learning, and to appreciate my time on campus, both before and after COVID.

As I start my senior year, I'm still figuring out what I want to do after graduation. I definitely plan on taking a gap year, and am considering going to Spain to make up for not being able to study abroad. Afterwards, I want to go to law school, or serve with AmeriCorps. It's a little scary to not have everything planned out, but it also means that there are so many options to explore!

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