Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What to look for in a college.

Largely, my favorite experiences at Saint Mike's are outside the classroom. More often than sitting at a desk, I'm outside with Wilderness or planning an event or debating with peers about that reading last night. 

For example last week I attended the Onion River Review open reading, which happens periodically as a forum to share writing, art and music. People often read their own work, but it's common that attendees will share the works of other writers and artists as well. Not only are the stories, poems and songs incredible, but the atmosphere fostered in this environment is engaging and intoxicating. I watched a friend do slam poetry (which I'd never seen her do before) and for the rest of the night couldn't get her words out of my head. Connecting, not networking, but connecting with people on another level (insert: spiritual, intellectual, etc.) is something from which I've benefited invaluably at Saint Mike's, and this is also how I've learned the most alongside of and outside of my classes.

Saint Mike's is also beautiful in the snow.
I had no idea what I was looking for in a school as a high school student, but something about Saint Mike's caught my attention. I couldn't articulate it 5 years ago but now I think I can. At Saint Mike's, I found a school where I dig people not for what they do or who they are, but how those two things align. Part of being genuine is practicing what one preaches (I think), and by and large the people I like at Saint Mike's do just that. I think that at least one theme transcends academic discipline (at any school), and that's the problem of 'where is the world going?' We face a formidable set of very embedded, very global issues that are not easy to fix, and it is easy to fall into bleakness because of that. There is a word in Finnish for having guts in the face of adversity, and from what I understand many Finns like to identify strongly with this word, sisu. My intention is not to offend by borrowing it here, but sisu is a quality that I admire, and it's one that I find frequently in the people that I connect with intellectually at Saint Mike's. This is a virtue that I think will be part of the 'global solution,' to speak vaguely, and I believe I picked Saint Mikes (not necessarily cognizant of this at the time) because I was drawn to this quality in the people that come here (as faculty, staff and students).

Sisu, I imagine, takes many forms in day-to-day life. I think one of those forms is sharing slam poetry at an open reading and going rock climbing or whitewater paddling for the first time, When we graduate and the world is ours to solve (if it's not already), and the people I've connected with will connect with others and share their sisu, just as many people are already doing the world over. The future is challenging but that doesn't mean we have to submit to the intimidation of the unknown. The people I know at Saint Mike's are unwilling to submit, and thank god I knew enough to see that, even if I couldn't say it, four and a half years ago when I decided to attend.

If I can pass along any advice about what to look for in a college, I recommend you look for sisu. If you don't want to go all the way to Finland, then you might end up at Saint Mikes.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rock Climbing in Vermont: Falls of Lana.

Saturday morning this past weekend Betsy and Lauren (fellow Wilderness Instructors) and I took a group of Saint Mike's students down to Falls of Lana for an intro to rock climbing day. Like most WP trips (hiking, paddling, biking, etc.) we met early in the morning around the fireplace in Alliot Hall, where we checked in, made sure gear was sorted, and then piled in the van for the drive down Route 7 (Falls of Lana is in the Middlebury area).

It was a bit of a cloudy day, but rain held off until the mid-to-late afternoon. We started the morning by setting a couple of routes to the right of the main wall (a short hike up from the state campground). After establishing belay and lowering techniques, everyone took turns climbing each route and belaying one another (don't ask me the names of these routes, not too sure about that).

We took a brief lunch at the top of the cliff (which had a great view of Lake Dunmore and the state park below), and then moved down the wall (climbers left) to set two more climbs for the afternoon. Since we were already at the top of the cliff, Betsy (our SPI-certified student instructor) set a releasable rappel and everyone took a turn descending back to the base of the climb (pictured). We climbed until it rained (and a little beyond that, actually) before taking down the climbs, coiling the rope, and trekking back to the van.

It was a solid group of participants that day, a memorable intro rock trip for sure! Some people are understandably shy their first few times out, but every participant on this excursion was engaged and excited to climb; we had a great time taking them out. If you'd like to sign up for a climbing program (or any program for that matter) visit the Wilderness program office on the second floor of Alliot Hall! It's right across the knight-card office.

Hopefully see you out in the field!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I'm a Senior: Lesson One as an Undergrad.

More strange than actually uttering the 'S' word is being in a state of accepting this fact. I got my 'Intent to Graduate' form in my mail box the other day (still haven't filled it out), and the first thought that occurred to me was 'I hope I didn't leave the stove on this morning'. I'm not looking forward to graduating by any means, but I'm dreading nothing.

These first two weeks I've spent most (too much) of my time sitting in front of the townhouse with neighbors, chatting over grilled food and some combination of moon and stars framing the steamy shadow of our long exhales. If it's getting chilly in Vermont, I won't be surprised when it takes a while for us to notice.

Since I've been at Saint Mike's I've visited two countries, done summer research, had a favorite prof every semester, moved seven times, seen dozens of concerts, and passed too many nights without sleep. Nights spent skipping out on that last bit of reading for an impromptu gypsy punk show downtown have taught me just as much as disciplined study time has. I took five semesters to declare a major, and even still I'd change it again if I had more time. If a single thing I've learned, it's that I'll never know as much as I'd like to.

As a way of acknowledging my culminating year here as a student, I'll devote a certain amount of my posts these coming semesters to lessons I've learned as an undergrad. Numero Uno: Being Okay with the Fact that I Can't Do, or Think, Everything.

My first year here, I claimed to want to study two majors with two minors, while also ski racing, while also participating in clubs and completing liberal arts requirements and sleeping and eating (seriously, I blogged about it). Senior year that is not the case, and I'm a happy person for it.

Having changed majors from social sciences to natural sciences back to social sciences and everything in-between, I feel I learned most by struggling to eventually find my path. Being open to taking classes that don't necessarily fill requirements (that might even make next semester harder) has broadened my base of inquiry, and part of that has been growing to accept that I don't have to be an expert in every field that I'm interested in. I probably won't be a  biologist or a philosopher, but having exposure to those fields has given me a breadth of experience that I can't attempt to articulate. I realize that if  at any moment I think I know something, that's probably because I'm not thinking.

Ideally I'll have some semblance of job prospects when I leave this campus, and my econ professor assured our Macro class today that this is true. But even if I end up in a cabin in the woods or a van down by the river, I doubt I'll ever be at a loss for things to think about (mostly, how I'll miss the french fries in Alliot).

Thanks for reading ;)