BackgroundInterview Date:May 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: Private school in Baltimore, MD with about 100 students in my class
Major: English with a Creative Writing concentration
Extracurricular Activities: I worked on the newspaper, The Kenyon Collegian, and worked on the Kenyon Review, which is the literary journal on campus.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
I would say the newspaper and the Kenyon Review had the biggest impact. I did both of those things in high school, but at Kenyon they were really transformative experiences for me. The newspaper is a weekly publication so it requires a lot of time and energy for all the roles I held when I was there. It taught me a lot of writing and editing outside of the classroom and introduced me to a lot of people on campus because I was interviewing people all the time and I would say it really improved my people skills by working with the staff and interviewing people.
The Kenyon Review was also good because I had heard of the Kenyon Review before I went to Kenyon because they’re a pretty famous literary journal. So, it was really exciting to be able to read submissions for them and give feedback to the editors. It’s nice because they have a pretty robust associates program, and, even though that’s unpaid, you can apply later to be an intern which is paid. So, I did social media for them later in that role.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I usually took about two English courses per semester and it was a lot of writing because I took so much English and also because Kenyon courses really emphasize writing in whatever department you’re taking the class in. So even when I took calculus, there were writing assignments and that was an important part. It was a lot of writing, but because I loved it so much it was never too much for me. But I could see it being quite a lot if someone isn’t used to it or just because they’re so writing intensive.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
I loved every English class I took. The one thing I wasn’t always a huge fan of and other people weren’t a huge fan of were the requirements for the major. You have to take two classes from a variety of time periods and the requirements are kind of stringent because Kenyon’s known for its English program so they want you to have a really robust education in the department. But, I think a lot of people felt like it was either too much, or they were prevented from taking classes that they really wanted to take because they have to focus on the requirements, like two classes in the pre-1700 time period weren’t always the most interesting classes. But, in general, I thought the professors were excellent, I was really lucky to never have a bad English class. I think the strength is really in the professors they have teaching English.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
For English, it was pretty collaborative. The classes are very discussion based, so it felt like we were all kind of learning from each other. For me, it never felt super competitive. I think at Kenyon the learning environment can feel competitive because everyone is doing so many things and it seems like everyone around you is doing really well and it feels like maybe you’re not doing as well as they are. But, I never felt particularly competitive with a particular individual. It never felt super negative to me, I just think it helped me do my best.
What was your favorite class in your major?
I think my first English class I took freshman year might still be my favorite. I have a lot of favorites for different reasons. That class was with the professor who ended up being my adviser and it was just such a good experience because everyone in the class really wanted to be there and the subject matter was so interesting and we read really good books. It was about memory. Memory was the main theme of the class, which is kind of broad. I think because my professor was so good and the class dynamic was so good, I decided I wanted to be an English major. The people who are in the class can really affect the experience because it’s a discussion-based class so if people don’t really want to be there or people aren’t reading the books that can be really problematic for not only learning but your experience in the class.
What was your least favorite class in your major?
I took a Shakespeare and Milton class for my pre-1700 requirements and I was expecting to really not like them. I was especially expecting to really not like the Milton class, but I ended up loving it, and again it was because of the professor. I really liked it, I loved reading Paradise Lost and I loved the class I was in. I really didn’t have a bad English class that I took.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: I lived in McBride Residence Hall. All first years have to live in first year housing. I had one roommate and got really lucky who my roommate was because we got along really well. The person who we were living next to connected us with a bunch of friends she’d made during her orientation program, and neither my roommate or I had done an orientation program so we were feeling like we kind of missed out on that. But, because we knew someone who had done it, that gave us a whole group of friends.
Sophomore: Caples Hall with the same girl I lived with freshman year in my room, but with 5 other people total. Two people had singles, I was in a double, and there was another double.
Junior: I lived in an apartment in the Taft Cottages with a different roommate and then went abroad for second semester
Senior: I lived in the New Apartments.
What was your favorite living situation?
I think the Taft Cottages were the nicest place that I lived in. They’re difficult to get even as a senior. I think my favorite was living in Caples Hall because I was living with five other people. It was great because of the people I was living with. The room was probably the worst room I lived in based on quality just because it was really small and didn’t have a lot of light.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel very safe on this campus on Kenyon’s campus. It’s very much in the middle of nowhere and is in a pretty rural environment. Even on nights when I would go out, I was usually with at least one other person, but during the times when I wasn’t, I still felt very safe.
What was your favorite off-campus restaurant?
I was a big Chipotle goer [laughs]. I mean we didn’t really go to restaurants. We did go to Fiesta Mexicana a lot. That’s the Mexican place that pretty much everyone goes to if you’re just going out with your friends to have a good time. It’s not that expensive but it’s a really fun place to go. Basically, everyone goes there when they want to go out with a large group of friends.
What was your favorite place to get away from campus?
I would go off campus when I brought just to get some food away from the dining hall. I would go to Chipotle and Panera pretty frequently. I would go to Mount Vernon every weekend by senior year. That was enough for me because it was hard to get all the way to Columbus with all the work I also had to do. Ideally, I would have gone to Columbus because there’s more stuff to do, but I couldn’t really swing that normally.
Pros and Cons of being in Gambier, OH?
Pros: (1) It’s very safe.
(2) It’s a very beautiful campus.
Cons: It can feel very isolated. Freshman and sophomore year when I didn’t have a car it could feel very hard to get space from campus because I just didn’t have access to transportation. There’s a shuttle that runs between Mount Vernon and Gambier but it’s still difficult. The location can be a con just because you’re at Kenyon, and you couldn’t really go anywhere else super easily.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
The nightlife at Kenyon is much more circumscribed than the nightlife at big schools just because we’re in the middle of Ohio. It’s mostly parties that Greek life throws but Greek life isn’t that big at Kenyon. They throw most of the on-campus parties and even some of the smaller parties. When I would go out with my friends as seniors we’d go to apartment parties. We did on-campus parties more when we were freshmen and sophomores just because they can kind of be chaotic, or there are too many people there so campus safety has to shut it down. So, I gravitated more towards the smaller parties as I got older.
What have been your favorite days or nights at Kenyon?
I have fond memories of my homecoming weekend not even because of sports, because I never really watch sports games at Kenyon. I just remember there was really good food and this really good cider. Homecoming is fun in a way because sports aren’t a huge thing, it’s fun to go to the game because it’s a more intimate homecoming than it might be at bigger schools.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar for a night out?
Junior and Senior year I had an apartment with my closest friends, so I spent a lot of nights just in the apartment with them. I think quite a few people do that. On the weekends if we weren’t going out we were just hanging out in someone’s room or apartment, which is also really fun.
Some people I imagine would do more stuff off campus, but my friends didn’t really do that. We did more stuff off campus when we had cars on campus. If you don’t have a car on campus it’s really hard to get off campus. If you were to go off campus you would go to the town right next to Gambier, which is called Mount Vernon, or you go to Columbus. But in Mount Vernon, there is still not really much to do except maybe eat out or go to the movie theater. So, I never really felt like I was missing out much by not being off campus. When we did have cars, sometimes we could manage to take a day trip to Columbus and I really enjoyed that.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I got really lucky in that I maintained a really great friend group from freshman year to senior year. Some people came and went, and we all were doing different things at certain points. But by the time we graduated we were all still friends. So, it was because I lived in that room freshman year, and the girl that lived next door to us had done the orientation program and connected us to a bunch of other people. And I also met the other group of what I would call my closest friends through the newspaper because we were working together so much. That didn’t really happen until I started getting more involved in my sophomore year.
Do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Kenyon is trying to improve diversity in ways of racial, socioeconomic, and sexual orientation. But I think it is difficult for different minorities on campus to always exist on campus because it is not a diverse place and some ways and I think it can be hard for people of different races, or at least that’s what has been communicated to me. I think they are trying to improve diversity but it’s still not great. And then in terms of sexual orientation, I think the number of people who identify as queer is still not a huge number. My friends who are LGBT have found it difficult to find new people because it’s a very tight-knit, small community and everyone knows who the other people are. [20% of students are African Americans, Asians, Latinos/Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans, and multiethnic students.]
How would you describe the overall social scene at Kenyon?
I would say that friend groups seem pretty defined to me. But, at the same time, I feel like the people who go to Kenyon are really nice people. I don’t know if there’s a better way to say that, but I’ve always found that I could talk to people I that I didn’t know at all very easily and that people wanted to get to know me. Even though I had my friend group that I spent my time with, I made a lot of friends in the dining hall or when I interviewed people for the newspaper and stuff like that. Even though I would say that there is cliquey-ness between groups, I’ve found that the social scene was very much a place I felt I could move around in too.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of Kenyon by senior year?
Yeah, in my experience my close friends and I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. I did have some friends who transferred after freshman year. There were two people I knew who stopped going to Kenyon. I guess it seemed to me that most people who weren’t happy left after freshman year, but those of us who remained close friends by senior year were all really pleased with their choice.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yeah, I did a job shadow program over spring break this year. I wish I had taken advantage of it earlier. It’s the kind of thing where the career office connects you with alumni and you can go shadow them at work. I shadowed someone who is a journalist professionally and that was really cool. Even though the job I have after graduation isn’t because of the alumni network, I know that people have really benefited from the alumni. I would say it’s something I wish I had done more and maybe people aren’t really aware they can do until later in their Kenyon career.
To what extent did you use the career office?
I used it the most this year. I went a few times to go in and talk to the career officers. I don’t think I used it to its fullest extent and I wasn’t using it enough prior to senior year. I think it’s an underutilized resource. I’m pretty sure I’ll go to grad school at some point, and I know that one of the career counselors there will help alumni with their applications and stuff.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Kenyon before entering as a freshman?
I would say to do an orientation program because I regretted not doing one. And I guess how intense the environment could be just because of how small and isolate it is and also because of the considerable workload. It can be an intense experience both socially and academically. Just remembering that there was life outside of Kenyon was sometimes hard to keep in perspective because it was such an immersive experience when you’re there. It could be overwhelming at times, I won’t lie about that. I think just being on a small campus in the middle of Ohio with a lot of people, who some of them are the best friends you’ll ever make, but at the same time spending so much time with the same people can be a very intense experience.
What is something that a student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I think I didn’t get a full sense of the community there when I visited, which I don’t think is really possible to see in a one day visit. Even though I could tell the classes were really good and all that, I still think it’s hard to know what the full experience is like. I don’t know how to put that into words.
Reasons to attend Kenyon:
1) The professors are really amazing.
2) It being so small is a reason to attend because you get to interact with people like your professors much more, and you can have leadership positions in ways you maybe couldn’t at a bigger school.
3) It’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been to. It’s a really pretty place to be even when things around you don’t seem great.
Reasons to not attend Kenyon:
1) The location for sure is not ideal especially if you can’t get away from campus easily.
2) It is very academically rigorous and the workload can be overwhelming.
3) The school being small can be a deterrent because that’s the circle you’re in and there’s no escaping it. It can be too small.