(In which I move to Carleton)
It’s been a few weeks since I started classes, but I simply cannot write about what freshman year at Carleton is like without describing the experience of moving in.
Carleton starts in early September, which is later than most colleges. This means that the great majority of my fellow high school senior friends (who went to The University of Illinois, UW-Madison, and assorted other non-Carleton schools) were gone for a few weeks before I left, so there was not much going on in my life.
In a matter of days, “not much” turned into “everything you could possibly imagine.”
When we arrived at Carleton, the “Carleton College” sign was surrounded by dancing upperclassmen, who waved and cheered loudly with each arriving vehicle. When we started unloading the van, the Carleton varsity girls’ track team was waiting in the parking lot to help carry up the luggage of the freshmen moving in--as it turned out, different sports teams had been mobilized to aid the freshmen of each dorm.
My dorm is Nourse Hall. I am in love with Nourse, and have been ever since I set foot in it on the first day. Nourse is old (almost 100!) and the glass in my windows is the wavery kind of glass which you see in old buildings. I get such a kick out of that every time I look out my window. Nourse is also home to cool balconies, the Nourse Little Theater (in the basement), and a secret entrance to the mysterious underground tunnel network, which I discovered with some of my floormates during the first week, but didn’t use, since the tunnels are strictly off-limits. ALL of the buildings here, not just Nourse, are beautiful and full of personality, and I could write a lot more than this about them. But I’ll get back to the story of settling in. Maybe we’ll talk about the buildings later.
My entire freshman class and our families filed into the stately Chapel to hear the deans and President Oden give serious, moving speeches about college, and then we all said our goodbyes and parted from our families, who left the Chapel. Almost immediately thereafter, electric disco balls switched on, music started playing, and the deans began dancing at the front of the chapel. The abrupt shift of moods was too incredible to describe.
Then we all took part in the Opening Frisbee Toss, which is a tradition to kick off the college careers of incoming freshmen. We all received Frisbees, stood around the Bald Spot (the central grassy area that any other school would have called “The Quad”), and at the same moment tossed our Frisbees into the air. This is a nod to the special place of the Frisbee in Carleton culture- Carleton’s teams CUT and GOP play Ultimate Frisbee VERY competitively, and even those students who fail utterly at Ultimate (that’s me!) get together with friends and throw Frisbees around very, very often.
So anyway, that was the first day.
The rest of the first week had no classes whatsoever. It was New Student Week, which was full of stuff to do other than classes. Describing New Student Week in detail would make this post horrendously long. Instead, I will present a selection of highlighted moments:
***A Selection of Highlighted Moments***
Before the Opening Frisbee Toss: A masked figure runs past the crowd of Frisbee-holding freshmen, holding the legendary bust of Schiller high in the air. A crowd of people chase the Guardian of Schiller, attempting to claim the bust for their own, but fail. This is an old, old tradition, deeply rooted in Carleton history and culture, and it never fails to stir excitement in a crowd.
At President Oden’s Reception: As rain pours down outside, hundreds of freshmen pile into Nutting House, the residence of President Oden. I, having walked through the rainstorm, am soaked. (For those who are wondering what President Oden is like, Hogwarts is to Carleton as Dumbledore is to President Oden. He gives profound yet hilariously quirky speeches, and has a collection of wind turbine-themed ties.) He made a point of shaking the hand of every freshman he met and asking their name. Our conversation went like this:
President Oden: What’s your name?
Collin (shaking hands with President Oden): I’m Collin.
President Oden: And you’re wet!
At the Freshman Variety Show: Dustin, a guy from my floor, sings the Periodic Table Song, consisting of every element known to humankind. His friend Justin then sings the same song in about 40 seconds. A girl rides a modified skateboard around the stage. A guy solves a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute. A masked figure throws open the doors behind the stage, holds Schiller above his head, yells “Schiller!”, and slams the doors shut again. A guy puts a bunch of dice under a cup, shakes the cup back and forth as intense music plays, and lifts the cup to reveal the dice stacked up. In the last act a girl named Hannah, whose lunch table I had sat at the previous day, sings a beautiful song and plays the guitar. Nearly all audience members pull out their cell phones, hold them above their heads, and sway. Hannah and her friend Jacob (who I also lunched with) produced an album together in high school, which you can listen to at http://www.prismschism.com/.
At the Sayles Dance: The dance party in the Sayles-Hill building turns out to be EXACTLY like every high school dance I have ever been to. It is socially awkward, but awkward in a way that is familiar and thus makes me feel more at home.
In 3rd Nourse Lounge: Members of our floor (3rd Nourse), sitting around with nothing better to do, play the card game Fluxx, then play Egyptian Ratscrew (a card-slapping game), and then are inspired to create 3rd Nourse Ratscrew, a game in which the winner is allowed to create a new rule which goes on the bulletin board.
Plenty of other things happened, but hopefully this is enough to give you a sense of the progression from summer-with-nothing-to-do to fall-with-everything-to-do that is New Student Week.
The rest of the posts’ topics will not be nearly so scattered, I promise. It’s just that New Student Week is a whirlwind of activity, and any faithful description of it must be the same way.