Nonacademic Lessons I Learned at Kenyon

College: the place people go to get educated, and to gain a competitive edge to find a job. A place of higher learning (whatever that means). But, if done well, a college education (and a liberal arts one in particular) is about more than just academics. College is a time to become a well-rounded person—and not just academically. Since I’m about to graduate from a liberal arts institution that values interdisciplinary learning, I wanted to take the time in my last article to reflect about some of the things Kenyon taught me outside of the classroom.

 

1) The Importance of Planning Ahead

Okay, I’ll admit that this skill springs primarily from learning how to manage a hefty academic course load. In fact, I considered naming this section “the evils of procrastination.” I include this lesson in this article about nonacademic lessons, though, because learning how to budget my time effectively encompassed not just meeting paper deadlines, but also making time for other things like exercise and seeing friends and organizing trips. Although it may seem counter intuitive, it’s a lot easier to be carefree and spontaneous when you’ve got your sh*t together than when you’re stressed and unable to do anything because there’s too much to do. 

2) What Friends are For

For me, one of the best parts of coming to college is the lifelong friendships I’ve made. College is a somewhat unique time, at least in my experience at Kenyon, in which you essentially live among friends in dorms and apartments for four years. Of course, that means it can be hard to find alone time, but the strength of these friendships is unlike any other I’ve had before or will probably have since. In college, we encounter some of the highest highs and lowest lows of our lives, and good friends stand by you for both. The good ones are even there when you both just want to forget the world and sit in comfortable silence, occasionally sharing mutually relatable memes. I know I would not have made it these past four years without the group of friends I made at Kenyon, and I will always be grateful to them for taking care of me and inspiring me to be better.

3) How to be a Feminist

Before coming to college, I didn’t really understand feminism. Moving to a liberal school and being surrounded by people with a wider variety of backgrounds and opinions than what I was familiar with helped me expand my awareness about the state of the world. I came to understand that certain issues matter to me and it does nobody any good to turn a blind eye on politics, no matter how smarmy politicians might be. After four years at Kenyon, my brand of feminism means looking out for and empowering marginalized people, but also educating myself to be the best advocate and ally I can be.

4) How to Drink

Now that I can legally buy a drink in the States, the under 21 law baffles me. It seems absurd that American teenagers are not (legally) afforded the opportunity to experiment with their personal limitations with alcohol until they’ve practically out of college. One of the most useful lessons I learned at college, both at Kenyon and abroad, was how to be a responsible, classy drinker. It takes many a botched night to realize how alcohol is much is too much, and what sort of measures you need to take to avoid that dreaded hangover in the morning. What’s also embarrassing is that by the time we’re allowed to buy our own drinks, we’ve grown used to disgusting fraternity beer or low-quality vodka, because the goal of drinking is to get drunk rather than enjoying the actual drinking. Also, I still feel embarrassed going to a bar and ordering anything other than the five cocktails in my repertoire because I don’t want to seem juvenile.Recommended: drinking beer to make homework less awful senior year (although I love translating Latin!)

 

5) To Speak Up

I’ve always been shy, and when people meet me the first thing they notice tends to be how quiet I am. The transition into college, as well as the adjustment that goes along with spending a semester abroad, did wonders for making me less afraid to talk to strangers and people who are older than I am. Being forced outside my comfort zone helped me realize that people are usually genuinely interested in what other people have to say. Now, I’m more willing to speak up in class, in large group conversations, and even strike up a conversation with a stranger if I’m feeling particularly adventurous (and usually a little drunk).

 

6) Passion and Curiosity Go a Long Way

As a Keyon student and a humanities major, I consider myself someone who lives her life more to explore and have new experiences than for the sake of making money or becoming traditionally successful. I declared my double English with Creative Writing and Classics major because I loved books and stories, and because I was fascinated by ancient culture and language. I include this on a list of nonacademic lessons because what got me through a lot of demanding Kenyon classes was that I genuinely enjoyed learning the things I learned. I took advantage of a class paper to explore further a topic I was interested both inside and outside of class. Toward the end of my Kenyon career, I find myself focusing almost solely on things that matter to me deeply—creative writing, death, and ancient material culture—and I will likely keep pursuing them even after I graduate. That’s just to say, if something matters to you, it will make the work all the more worthwhile.Me, being super excited to be learning about archaeology in Italy

 

7) That You’re On Your Own

I’m choosing to end on probably the grimmest, but also what I see as the most practical, lesson I’ve learned throughout undergrad. I’ve already mentioned that I have irreplaceable friends and I know that my family always has my back, but at the end of the day, at least during the nebulous period of post-grad and being in your twenties, the first person you need to be able to rely on is yourself. You’re the one that has to drag yourself out of bed in the morning and take care of the menial tasks that need to get done from day to day. And, it’s true that friends and family love you and want to be there for you, but sometimes that’s impossible for whatever reason so you need to know how to take care of yourself. You’re the only one who can shape and fight for a life that resembles the closest approximation of your dreams.

 

Being at Kenyon has been an enormous privilege, but it has also been one of the most difficult times of my life. But because of the challenges I’ve faced during my time here, I have grown up. I am more tired and worn out, but I am also more compassionate and more confident. I will miss Kenyon, but I am ready to move on to my next challenge.

 

Image Credit: Emily Stegner, Drew Meeker, Lexi Bollis