Turning a New Leaf Over

Autumn on college campuses is a picturesque time of year. However, the changing colors can also signal a change in seasons of life for Quest Scholars, making it more important than ever to seek support from your Quest Family. Today we’re featuring a post from 2013 by a Quest Scholar at Grinnell who reflected on her first autumn in a new place.

Stop and take in nature once in a while.A huge, orchid-like tree stands reaching into the heavens. With colors of purple, orange, red, yellow, pink, and green, it stands magnificently. It is untouchable and beautiful. That was how I always pictured fall. The colors of the trees changing and nature changing itself into something even prettier than it was before. Fall is my favorite season and has been for a while now. But moving away to college, it hit me why I really love fall. The changing of the tree colors means time has passed by since I moved to Iowa from Missouri. It means that I am starting to notice things around me that I haven’t noticed before. It means that I am also starting to miss family and friends. Going off to college, it is easy to miss family, friends and places. For me, the idea of missing home was never really a problem until fall started. I guess you never really notice something until there is a physical reminder.

Experiencing fall in the small town of Grinnell, Iowa, was not something I envisioned at the start of the year. I guess you can say that I am one of those people who doesn’t think about what’s to come but who lives in the moment. I pictured myself freezing in the cold winter of Iowa, but I never pictured the fall and all the beautiful colors I might see. I always thought that fall was experienced the same way no matter where you were. But that is not the case. During the early days of fall when the leaves were starting to change and my friend and I were walking to the store, he looked over at me and said, “Wow the colors are so beautiful. Now I know why artists paint trees in the fall.” And with that remark, I wanted to laugh and ask if he had been living underneath a rock. But as he continued to talk, I soon realized that every place in the U.S experiences fall differently. He is from Miami, Florida, and the trees don’t change colors into the dark reds and purples he was seeing right then and there.

Stop and take in nature once in a while.

It made me realize that that fact was also true for Missouri. Where I lived in Missouri, the colors varied and were more vivid than the ones in Grinnell. Thinking about those trees made me miss my home, my school, the huge orchid-like tree, and my friends. The seasons change. It is a fact of life. No matter where you are, you are sure to notice the difference. Moving to a new state, however, makes you notice these changes even more. Fall signals the change into winter when everything appears bleak and dead. However, fall is also a reminder of time and the beauty of nature that we all tend to take for granted. Nature is something that has always intrigued me, so whenever fall rolls around, I am reminded of all the things around me that I don’t notice during the other three seasons. It is not simply because of the colors (well, it has a lot to do with the colors), but it’s also all the things you can do during fall like celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. So with each year, I impatiently await for the arrival of the fall season. And each year, I am not disappointed no matter where I am.

— by Charlotte Gbomina, Quest Scholar, Grinnell College

This was originally posted on 11/07/2013 on the Quest Scholars Network Blog.

My Personal College Bucket List

Emily1Live off campus with friends. Living on campus is a great way to make friends your first year at school and eases the transition from home. You don’t have to clean your bathroom or make your own meals and you get to live with your classmates. However, as a third or fourth year, living in a house with friends sounds ideal. I can imagine cooking dinner at night and sitting on the porch in the evenings doing readings together; it would be lovely.

Study abroad. Between high school and college I took a gap year through Global Citizen Year and lived in Senegal for eight months. The program was oriented towards cultural immersion rather than education per se. Since then I’ve been itching to go abroad again. I would love to spend my third year in another country studying.

Be an SA. Getting involved is important in high school, but somehow feels more significant in college. SA stands for Student Advisor at Grinnell. They are the two 4th years assigned to each dorm floor who are in charge of the residents on that floor. But unlike other schools, they’re not disciplinary. They’re just there to help in any way you need and make you pancakes on Sunday mornings.

Have a meaningful summer internship. Internships allow you to experience the work market in an impermanent, less scary way than your first post-graduation job. You get to test out what you might be interested in pursuing down the line, but whether you like it or not, it only lasts a few months.

Visit a friend at his/her school. Why not visit your friends where they go to school? Colleges are not all the same. It will help you to understand what environment they’re experiencing and for you to put your perspective on your school into context.

Play a sport. I miss playing tennis. I played in high school and then didn’t play over my gap year because, well, Senegal doesn’t have many tennis courts. I then decided to ease into college by not committing 3 hours a day away to tennis in the fall and spring. While I think it was a wise decision for my first year, I cannot wait to play next year. Athletes do an amazing job balancing academics and their sport. I want to see if I can do it too.

Emily Stevens, Quest Scholar, Grinnell ’19

College Isn’t As Hard As You Think It is

emily_stevens_1As a high school student all I heard about was how tough college would be and how all the work we were given was to prepare us for the even greater workload to come. Now that I’ve been in college for a little over two months I can attest to the fact that yes, my classes are challenging, but by no means are they unmanageable. So far I haven’t pulled any all-nighters; in fact, I haven’t stayed up past midnight doing work once. I’m taking Introduction to Biology, Calculus, Spanish, and a required tutorial class that introduces first years to college reading and writing called Constructions of Childhood. It’s not the most difficult schedule but not a walk in the park either. My advice is to work effectively.

Your room is your sanctuary. Keep it a positive space associated with sleep or socializing. Most schools offer abundant study spaces and you’re sure to find the perfect one for you after a little searching. Also, know yourself. Few people I know actually study better with company. It can be tempting to study in a friends dorm but if you’re like me, you’ll probably get more done off on your own somewhere away from distractions. This way you can be more productive in a shorter amount of time.

What I didn’t expect coming to college was truly what a social experience it is. Especially at a small liberal arts school, it feels as if you spend around 90% of your time with or around people. Between roommates, eating with friends, group projects, and general hanging out with people, there’s hardly any downtime left for just you. Working out or going on a coffee run can be great solo activities to relieve stress and get you of your head. Sometimes a night in with Netflix is what you need to get away from the bubble life that can consume college students.

Alternately, don’t worry about silly things. If you don’t know where the party is on a Saturday night or weren’t invited – you’re not a social failure, if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend – you’re not gross, if you don’t have a million friends – you’re not unlikeable. You’re doing just fine.

Emily Stevens, Quest Scholar, Grinnell ’19