From Strangers to Family in a Month
Amanda Gibbons '12 is a Wesson Honors Program student from Kingston, Mass. She hopes to be an English teacher, and has dived into life at Colby-Sawyer. In her short time on campus, she has been elected class secretary, and has gotten involved with the dance club as well as the new group Students for a Greener Campus.
An option for Wesson Honors students is to take Professor Ann Page Stecker's Honors Pathway, Betwixt and Between, which examines the ways people map paths from one place - one creative, cultural, or intellectual experience, one set of relationships - to another. Students are encouraged to ask impertinent questions about change and growth and devise ways to map their own process of being in-between. What is not an option for Wesson Honors students is learning to pronounce the program's official motto, which at 27 letters also happens to be the longest word Shakespeare ever used: honorificabilitudinitatibus, Latin for honorableness.
Honor honifitu dini-tati-bus Even as a candle-wasting Shakespeare enthusiast, I still have not been able to master the pronunciation of that word. The word honorificabilitudinitatibus, from Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, is prominently posted on the wall of the fourth-floor Wesson Honors suite in Colgate Hall. As a freshman at Colby-Sawyer, I cannot believe it has already been one month since classes began, but whether it went by quickly or slowly is hard to decide. It is complicated; when you never leave school everything runs together: class, homework, and making foam-shaped pictures at campus socials. It is like an educational, residential camp minus the s'mores - actually, one of the socials had those.
As a freshman in the honors program I have, besides becoming tongue-tied, been thinking about the concept of liminality, that is to say, of being on a threshold, betwixt and between. In Professor Stecker's Honors Pathway Betwixt and Between, we have been exploring borders, thresholds, and margins. It seems we have only skimmed the surface, but it is already clear that we inhabit a border, or several, right now as college freshmen. Arnold Van Gennep, a German anthropologist, argues in his book Rites of Passage that society follows a repeating pattern of separation, a liminal/border stage, and reincorporation. I am separated from home, my family and friends, my comfort zone. On the other hand, is this campus not my new home? How do I know when I am an independent adult? I am split between many ideas, and I am in the grey area. It's a wonderful place, really.
Early, Valuable Lessons
This first month at Colby-Sawyer I have come to love the college, experience new things, and make new friends. The first few features I have noticed about college life at Colby-Sawyer only make me love it more. The library is beautiful, and it is my favorite building, but it has the most ironic stairs I have ever encountered. There is a slight creak in every step, and even though it is probably softer than I imagine, I always hope that I am not disturbing anyone when I ascend or descend them.
I also have had to brave the elements walking from class to class - an observation that makes upperclassmen laugh because it has not even snowed yet. I am in thankful shock at the amazing amount of closet space in my McKean room. I have realized it is possible to have a refrigerator's thermostat turned up so high that it freezes your forgiving roommate's peanut butter. (The frozen strawberries, however, were delicious.) I have also been told I have neat handwriting, which would make my friends from home explode with laughter. I thought I was great with names from working as a counselor at Girl Scouts camp, but after meeting a few hundred people in one weekend, I realized I am still less than perfect with that particular skill. I have not watched any television except for one random re-run of Home Improvement, and my new favorite form of communication is via white board. I have only forgotten my ID/room key twice and know one student who has a sign on the back of their door that reads Do Not Leave Room Without Keys.
A Little Bit of Magic at Colby-Sawyer
Clearly, dorm life is an adjustment. I am grateful for how fast a group of strangers can feel like family, a family skilled at the game Rock Band, and all this after we have had just one of our three cups of tea together as prescribed by the Orientation program. Sitting in McKean's common room reminds me of Harry Potter a little bit; maybe it has something to do with the fact we are referred to as first-years.
For now, as a freshman, I am still adjusting to life at college. I am learning vital information such as what temperature to set the fridge to, and not to even try doing laundry during the weekends. I am enjoying this stage of in-depth learning, and living on my own. This liminal stage is crazier than skipping classes for a day to hike a mountain, and just as much fun. Honoritudu Give it time.
This article reprinted with permission from the Oct. 2008 issue of honorificabilitudinitatibus, the Wesson Honors Program Newsletter.