From Athens to Gambier

I thought I had the college thing down — which is why coming to Kenyon surprised me in all kinds of ways.

By Valeria Garcia-Pozo ’23
Valeria Garcia-Pozo

As every internet bio I have proudly proclaims, I’m from Athens, Georgia: home to an amazing music scene (we birthed R.E.M. and the B-52s! And also Tituss Burgess from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”!), a hipster-townie-liberal food scene (we’ve got stellar restaurants both vegan and not so much) and perhaps our main claim to fame, our big, Southern, Division I state school, the University of Georgia. 

I was well acquainted with UGA: as a professors’ kid, I had grown up running around the field on North Campus with my brother and eating lunch in the faculty lounge of the Romance Languages department with my family, or sitting in on my parents’ Spanish classes when they couldn’t find a babysitter.

During my second semester of senior year, it became a part of my daily routine: I signed up for a multicultural environmental literature class there, as a dual enrollment student. 

I was thrilled to finally get a taste of the college experience by myself. And it was a highly positive experience: I made one of the best grades in the class; the TA who taught it was passionate and accessible; the readings were insightful. 

I thought I had the college thing down — I understood all there was to understand about what my next four years would be like, no matter where I went. Which is why coming to Kenyon surprised me (mostly for the better) in all kinds of ways. So many ways, in fact, that I had to compile a list.

  1. Kenyon is small.

    My senior year, I got used to traveling around the expansive UGA campus via bus. Every morning I’d get on the bus that stopped at my high school and travel to the local coffee shop a few miles down the road, or I’d take it to my class or the library, which required an additional few minutes’ walk. Coming back to school, I battled it out with frat guys and sorority girls for a spot (if I was lucky, a seat) on the packed bus back to school.

    Here, everything is within 15 minutes of everything else on campus, walking, a definite convenience when I see I only have 10 minutes before I have to be at rehearsal at the other end of campus. 

  2. Kenyon is insulated.

    It’s true what they say — Gambier can feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere. While you don’t really need a car to get around this campus, if you want to get off it, having access to wheels (either your own or a friend’s) is a big help (I personally rely on the KAT shuttle to get to town for free!). Here, going to town is like a little adventure, which took some definite getting used to after living in a small city for most of my life.

    In contrast to the five-or-so dining halls over at UGA, we’ve got one — Peirce — which is actually a great source of social comfort for me. My group of friends all usually sit in the same place for every meal, so I never have to stress about social coordination. No matter what time of day it is, if I wait long enough, I’m bound to bump into someone who I can talk to about my day. 

  3. Kenyon has amazing, accessible professors.

    I came to Kenyon looking forward to the professors, and they’ve lived up to the hype. Never have I seen anyone more excited to talk about psych for an hour at nine in the morning, or explain exactly how neurons work to me for an hour with the utmost patience and kindness. My professors make me more excited to learn about my own culture, facilitate discussions for me to learn about those of others and assure me that I do, in fact, belong here when they think I need to hear it most. There’s never been a moment where I’ve doubted a professor knows exactly what they’re talking about, and their willingness to meet me within office hours, or outside of it when I can’t make it work, is a testament to their kindness as people.

  4. Kenyon has passionate students.

    I have to admit that at UGA, sometimes I felt self-conscious about being the student who was raising my hand most often and held back, attempting to not appear presumptuous or overeager to my 29 classmates, whose level of passion and enjoyment of the class seemed to vary greatly.

    One of my greatest joys since I’ve been here has been sitting back in my English class of 12 or 13 people and just listening: listening to my classmates’ interpretation of a passage, using their own experiences to inform their own as well as my understanding.

    Outside of class, everyone has something that they’re leading, trying to start up or helping with. Never having been involved in a student production before, I was shook by the professionalism of the team for “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” all made up of students who took it upon themselves to produce a play. I was recruited by the Spanish newspaper A Medio Camino to redesign their publication — in my first few weeks here, I already felt that I was making a change on campus. All of my friends are passionate about something like this, whether it’s a soccer team or an a cappella group, and they put their hearts and souls into it. Kenyon has been filled with positive surprises, and I wouldn’t give up this intellectual environment for anything.

Valeria Garcia-Pozo ’23 is an English and Spanish major with a concentration in Latino/a studies from Athens, Georgia.