Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Musings on Friendship at Macalester

When I first visited Macalester, on a Fall Sampler Day in 2013, I attended a student panel in which five students talked pretty openly about their lives at Mac. I got the sense that Mac was a place of diverse interests, social/political awareness, and acceptance, so I applied Early Decision, and was happy to get in for those reasons. Of course, I was right about all of them.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that, as important as all of my considerations were, the most valuable factor in my college experience would be friendship. This sounds like a no-brainer—the people make the place, after all—but I didn’t worry too much about making friends. I assumed it would happen, but didn’t really think about how the people I met would change me. So far, friendship at Mac has been full of pleasant surprises; I’ve learned so much about myself because of it, and I have become a happier human being.

From left to right: Bridget, Sarah, Claire, and Andrew singing an impromptu version of Taylor Swift’s “Forever and Always.” I’m not a big Taylor Swift fan, but this was too sweet not to share.

I made a lot of friends within just my first few weeks at Macalester. Most of the friends I have today are people who lived on my floor that first year in Dupre, one of the three residence halls available to first-years. Quite a few of them shared a first-year course and had met that way; others, like me, did not have a residential FYC. One day I joined the big group of laughing kids gathered in the floor lounge, and the rest is history.

Although I had some friends at my high school, I never quite felt like I fit in. At Macalester people are kind and want to like one another, and my circle is considerably wider here than it was in high school. So much of what makes my friends my friends isn’t about common interests, such as liking the same TV shows or having the same worldly ambitions (though those things don’t hurt, either). Instead, they’ve become my friends because they are kind, fun-loving people with tremendous senses of humor. We take care of each other and affectionately mock each other. They are my fellow armchair philosophers, overflowing with big thoughts about the world, as well as fodder for jokes about its minutia.

From left to right: Sarah, Thali, and Sean. Thali chose to pose with his eyes closed. Sarah and Sean, mired in chemistry homework, were grateful for the distraction.

I’ve really enjoyed my classes, and have had a lot of fun in the orgs (a.k.a. clubs) I’ve joined, but living with all of my friends will probably be what I miss the most when I return to New York this summer. (However, a lot of my new friends live near me, so I hope we’ll hang out.) When I move into a new dorm this coming fall, I know I’ll miss the days when we all gathered in the Dupre 4 lounge.

Me (right) and my friend Mikayla in the locker room at the Leonard Center, taking fitness seriously.

At Macalester, people really do care about ideas. Don’t get me wrong about that. We have strong social and political convictions. We challenge and argue with each other. We are excited to learn. But everyone should have a safe space to relax, to rest unchallenged for a few moments, to feel that the connections they make are not conditional on a constant sharpening of their intellects—to feel cared for, and even loved. Macalester provides many of these spaces. I’ve seen students make those connections among themselves, and I have been one of those students. It may be a standard part of the Mac experience, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel immensely lucky—both that I have these friends, and that I get to be at Mac.

—M.L. Kenney ‘18, Queens, N.Y.