Twenty thousand hours: the amount of time, approximately, between orientation and where I am now, a little over halfway through my first semester of college. But farther away from now, almost a year ago in December of 2018, I can see myself sitting on a plane and looking out through the tiny cabin window on my way to William Jewell College for the first time to complete my Oxbridge interview. I saw the snow-covered ground and the bare trees. I thought: here is winter, which shall give way to a new beginning.
My time at Jewell represents the springtime of my life – a rebirth. I am not the same person that I was 20,000 hours ago, and I find that I do not mourn for the change that has occurred. Instead, I am in awe at my own transformation, which was prompted by the nature of my time at Jewell.
The college simultaneously met and did not meet my expectations. When I was participating in all the activities associated with orientation, I figured that this would be the last time that I would ever be socially active. College, I thought, was a time to devote myself completely to the zealous pursuit of knowledge – my days of lounging about with friends were over.
It is undoubtedly true that I spend most of my waking hours thinking, writing and reading. Right now I have around 20 books checked out from the library. I have nearly run out of space for notes in my six-subject notebook. In this way Jewell is exactly what I expected and wanted – I am constantly challenged, particularly by my professors. My way of thinking has radically changed, but even then I am only just beginning to scrape at an entirely new way of conceptualizing the nature of my reality.
My classes have left me in a scramble. One day I examine the life of a butler after the world wars, the next I read about the prodigal son’s return to Christ, then again I rush off to another room and find myself exploring the root causes of civil war. It never ends, and I think that’s so wonderful.
My notion of the death of my social life, however, could not have been further from the truth. I’ve spent my entire weekend on the fourth floor of Eaton having a studying frenzy with my best friend. We pushed two couches together and fell asleep on them at about 4 a.m. when the fifteen cups of earl gray we had downed finally wore off. I have played countless board games and danced to a weird genre of music called k-pop more times than I’d like to admit. Jewell is irrevocably tied to the word friendship for me.
I have been reminded of my humanity throughout my college experience – about my capacity to belong, participate and share. My days of lounging with my friends are in some sense over, for I can’t truly remember the last time that I lounged about, but I was silly to think that being in college would somehow radically alter the fact that human beings seek connection. If anything, going through this weird, terrifying and exciting transition has pushed my classmates and I closer together.
In a few words, my experience at Jewell can be described as the process of learning to be vulnerable. I can’t know everything that’s going on in my classes, and that’s okay. Some of the things we learn about don’t even have solutions yet. I don’t have to be afraid to raise my hand and say that I don’t understand something. I can also raise my hand and say something completely wrong – it’s not a big deal. What’s important is that I put in as much effort as is humanly possible into my coursework so that I can, to the best of my ability, cooperate with professors and students to track the truth.
Vulnerability has been central to my emotional and social development here at Jewell. I’ve faced some pretty big difficulties in my life that I would refuse to examine whatsoever. With the help of my friends and my professors, I’ve slowly been exploring who I am as an individual and not just as a student. There are people here that really care about me, and I care about them too. We can all talk about our past and our worries for the future without fear of being judged or punished.
Being here at Jewell is like having a massive weight lifted from me. Even though I’ve still had some rough patches during my time here, I’ve been able to communicate my emotions to other people and get advice on how to deal with my problems instead of just pushing them away.
I love Jewell. I love the Oxbridge program and my wonderful professors. I love the way the wind blows right through you on really cold nights on the hill. I love the way the bells of Gano chime to mark the hour. I love what I’m studying. I love the people who make up this wonderful little community. I’m so grateful to be a part of it, even if it’s in a really small way.
When I visited for the first time last December, a part of me always knew that this campus would end up being my home. It’s good to see that my initial instincts were correct in this sense. I can’t wait to see how my time at Jewell will continuously surprise me and, more importantly, change me.