As I fold my t-shirts and pack them into my duffle bag, I realize that break is nearing its end. I also question why I brought so many clothes home. It is probably because this is the first time I am going back to campus after winter break. Last spring, my Kenyon experience was conducted through remote learning.
This break felt a lot more relaxing than last year because I know what to expect in the spring. I know I am going back to the same residence hall that I lived in last semester. And I know the style of courses I am taking—mostly upper level classes building off of my previous coursework.
During the spring semester in 2021, texting and video calls became the norm among my friends. We adapted, finding the board game Settlers of Catan online. The experience was nice, but as soon as the call ended, I looked up at the mustard yellow walls of my basement and realized the harsh reality: I would not see my friends or peers on Middle Path. The only times I interacted with my fellow students was in a virtual classroom or by texting.
The magic of talking with my friends was still there this year during break. This time though, when the call ended, there was no enchantment that wore off. The reality is I am going back to the Hill in a few days. Just like when I got back from Thanksgiving break, I know that I will talk to my friends. I went for a walk on Sunday evening to catch up with them before heading to dinner. The following day I exchanged pleasantries before class started with a few of my peers.
I finish fitting all of my clothes into my duffel and pack my coats into a spare box. Noticeably absent are my boots along with my hats and gloves. Despite packing way too many t-shirts, I forgot to pack my winter snow gear. This one can’t be blamed on a lack of experience—I have lived in Arlington, Virginia, my whole life. Usually when it snows, if it snows at all, the DC area only gets 1-3 inches. But this year we got slammed with a snowstorm the first week in January.
The only other time I have been on campus in January was when I visited Kenyon for the first time in 2020 for an admissions open house. The temperatures were in the teens then and I remember a gust of the cold Ohio air slapping me in the face. I didn’t realize that it would be the last college I would visit before I accepted an offer of admission. In the two years since then, I not only chose a college without attending one accepted student day, but also learned how to live with COVID-19.
As I close the overstuffed trunk, I think about seeing my friends again. We’ve gotten better at communicating over breaks when we are not all on the Hill together—an unexpected perk of the pandemic. The first question I will ask my friends won’t be “How was your break?” but rather, “How was your trip back?” I know what they did during the holidays. We will eat in Peirce before heading back to my room to watch a sports game. This time, I don’t have to worry about syncing the game with my friend some 580 miles away. Another night we will be reaching into the same bag of candy while playing Settlers of Catan or Dominion—another great board game.
I am also excited that this spring, my classroom will be on campus, not my computer—even if walking to class in January will be colder. Just like the Ohio weather in the upcoming months, I will continue to adapt. Over the last 24 months I have gone through and endured so much. Because of that, I am ready for the upcoming semester and the changes ahead.