Midsemester Break is, for many students, the first real time during the fall that we’re able to get off of campus (unless you live in Vermont/Boston, etc….) and got do something for the weekend. I, being the adventurous type, decided to go off and see my cousin, Kristen. To give a bit of background, Kristen is my cousin, exactly (almost to the hour) two weeks older than me. Nearly the same hair color(hers is a bit lighter), same Major(though I added Chinese), same year in school(both academic Seniors). Growing up, even though we didn’t see each other very often, we were inseparable. There were four of us girls, but Kristen and I just always seemed to “get” each other. And the weekend of Midsemester Break was the first that I was able to actually spend some quality time with her, just the two of us, no outside family, and relax. It was strange, but wonderful to not only see my cousin for the first time in a few years’ time, but also to experience (albeit briefly) what it’s like to go to a “normal” college.
Kristen goes to school at the University of Kentucky, which, for everything I saw, is nearly the opposite of Norwich. It’s big, warm, full of civilian students (all with very distinct fashion sense), has a not only active but thriving Greek life, and, did I mention, cultural diversity/artsy majors/local flavor abound. Oh, and it’s the top of “the South”. Right from the beginning, I elicited a couple of laughs from Kristen by rubbernecking at students when we drove by, honestly un-used to all the different styles of dress. It was pretty typical, and though I felt a little naïve, I know that I’m just being honest in say that I was fascinated; for all our love of the military, most Norwich kids are secretly (or not so secretly!) a little jealous of the freedom of expression that comes when you only wear your uniform once a week- or not at all.
My second shock came in waiting for Kristen to finish her last class for Friday (I had flown up the night before). I was minding my own in a little café-type setting when my ears picked up the familiar strains of someone practicing Chinese vocabulary words. I looked up to see two students, both of non-Asian heritage, early practicing the words. And no one was giving them funny looks. That, for the record, is not a naturally occurring thing at Norwich. Soon enough, they were joined by four or five more students, also not of Asian heritage, and the group began to converse in nearly flawless Mandarin; to the point where about 30% of the conversation flew right over my head.
I’m not saying that I regret studying a foreign language here; in fact, this is my school and the language is my calling. But since we’re in the first real year of having Chinese as a major, compared to UK’s thriving and well-established Chinese major, I have to be truthful in saying that it got me pretty depressed, sinking further into my seat and sipping Mocha, turning up the music through my headphones to drown them out. The thought followed me through the course of the night, ad Kristen, being a spookily good reader of body language, finally cornered my in the car after dinner, asking what was wrong. I admitted, a little hesitantly, that I felt a little envious of the “normal” college experience. And I did. It was easy to be content at Norwich, but here, with the life I –could- be living…. UK is far cheaper than Norwich, and bigger, -and- they have AFROTC… Kristen listened to me and, after a few minutes, pulled the car over and turned to me, smiling gently. “Rikki… listen.” She said. “UK is amazing, and yes, it has a lot of, let’s say, “attractive differences” over Norwich. But the environment, the friendships, the challenges you’ve overcome, and the brotherhood you’ll be a part of when you leave…. That, you’ll never find anywhere else. And it’s worth more than some cool clothes and a few parties.”
I felt pretty chagrined. In a few sentences, Kristen had, as always, laid things out perfectly with her precise, pointed logic. And I grinned back, realizing that though we’ve led very different lifestyles, Kristen and I are very alike; and we’re both right where we belong.
Band Co. '15
(The picture is a treat; something I drew while at art class with Kristen. What can I say; I love to doodle.)