The first years: Character in unexpected places

Abbey Stirgwolt

Maybe I spent my freshman year in the wrong place.

I mean, who voluntarily attends a school with midnight curfews (1 a.m. on weekends) and mandatory chapel three times a week, and — oh yeah — is stuck in the middle of the endless cornfield known as Indiana?

Well, I guess I do . . . or did.

Obviously something must have gone wrong, or I wouldn’t be writing a column for the newspaper of one of the most “liberal” state schools on the eastern side of the Bible Belt.

Or maybe nothing went wrong. To be honest, I didn’t really care about the curfew (there wasn’t much to do after midnight in a 13,000-resident town in the middle of Indiana, anyway), and chapel wasn’t as bad as its reputation might suggest. Two semesters and a few personal failures later, the real problem dawned on me: I wasn’t in the real world.

So many times I’d heard of people who went off to college and had such a rough time transitioning because it was a slice of reality. You know, full of people with different opinions, different values, different skin colors (I should mention that I graduated high school with about three black people). But it seemed ridiculous to me. What could be so hard about living in a new place, mingling with a couple thousand students and not having to take a math class every day?

Just to make sure, though — to “ease” my transition — I decided to postpone my submersion into actual human culture until after I graduated college. You know, to get my “Christian base,” etcetera.

The problem was that instead of strengthening my character (the original plan), I entered a bubble.

Of course they say that all colleges are “bubbles” — which, I believe, is true to some extent. But part of the learning experience of college is to break out. Push yourself a little bit. Meet some new people. Don’t spend all your time in an all-white, middle-upper class, private Christian school full of people exactly like everyone you’ve lived with your entire life.

So I burst my bubble.

After I transferred to Kent for my sophomore year, I realized what a jerk I’d been for the better part of my teenage years. My little Christian blinders would barely let me consider making friends with people who went to clubs or smoked cigarettes or, God forbid, drank alcohol.

If you’re perturbed right now, it’s okay. I realize how arrogant it all was.

I soon became aware that I’d been living a life contrary to what I’d been taught all along: Christians are supposed to love people.

Whoops. My bad.

I’m not trying to preach, just attempting to philosophize. At Kent I met (and continue to meet) some of the nicest, funniest, most intelligent people I’ve ever known. People whom I never would have let myself speak to if I’d remained in my “bubble.”

But I guess that’s what college is all about: popping the bubble, as clich‚ as it may sound. Learning — and not just in the classroom. I guess sometimes you have to understand who you’re not before you really get to know who you are.

I don’t believe I was in the wrong place my freshman year. I never would have understood my problem if I hadn’t spent some quality time in the cornfields of Indiana. But now I know what the real world is like, and I realize that I’m just a person like everybody else.

And I love it.

Abbey Stirgwolt is senior magazine journalism major and news editor for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].