Just under a year ago, when it was time for my friends and I to part our separate ways and head off to college, most of my friends headed towards a new city. ‘City’ being the key word there. They headed off to new places that, while a total change in scenery and maybe not a bustling city, still had some semblance of “civilization” – aka a downtown that consisted of more than a couple of restaurants and usually at least one Starbucks.
I, on the other hand, headed to Hamilton, New York. The absolute middle of nowhere.
It sounds really exciting, I know.
One of the first questions I am usually asked by friends, family, or prospective students on tour is something along the lines of: “what do you do for fun?”. Read: “isn’t it boring up here?”. Some of people’s first concerns when they learn I go to a rural school is how the hell I manage to escape.
Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of times when I miss the busyness of being in a city. And there are times when I venture off campus towards “civilization” in search of Chipotle. The middle of nowhere can become a bit boring and when I do get off campus, whether that be for an afternoon or for a few weeks of break, it can feel liberating. Freeing.
That being said, there is something special about the middle of nowhere.
When thinking of what to write about for this next post I was a bit stuck. I couldn’t find a topic that inspired me. I sat in our downtown coffee shop for close to two hours searching my brain for an idea worth writing about. When the coffee shop became claustrophobic I took myself on a little walk. I walked in a straight line for 10 minutes and found myself surrounded by greenery. It was quiet. And it was beautiful. I looked up and saw my gorgeous campus up on the hill and an overwhelming sense of gratitude fell upon me. This was my home. And it could not be prettier. The ability to walk, even just a short distance, and find yourself surrounded by nature is an opportunity too often overlooked and underappreciated. Say what you will about rural campuses, but there is a beauty that comes with them that is irreplicable on suburban or urban campus.
This is not even to mention the opportunities (i.e. hiking, camping, swimming, etc.) that come when you venture more than a mere 10 minutes off campus.
Going to a small school in the “middle of nowhere” breeds a certain sense of a community. We are all here because of Colgate. Not because we love a certain city but because we love a certain school. And so we invest ourselves in it. Because we can’t go a block away and consume ourselves in city activities, students find themselves truly a part of campus and campus involvement. And I mean not to say that heavy on-campus involvement doesn’t occur on city campuses, I just mean to emphasize that the isolation of a school like Colgate maybe provides some extra encouragement.
The way I see it, I have the rest of my life to live in a city. I have the rest of my life to live in a city bursting with noise and people – to live in the midst of the best kind of chaos. But I only have four years to live on a campus. To live in the middle of nowhere. I think we could all benefit from spending some time in relative isolation – if we spent it doing something other than thinking of a way to get out.