Written January 2012, Ecuador
K College students are a lot of things. Let’s start with the negatives. We can be elitist. Oftentimes, we find ourselves with a metaphorical stick up our social-justice-inclined asses. We like to over-analyze everything, taking a majority of the fun out of it.
Give a Kalamazoo College student a banana split, and they might ask you if the banana was fair trade organic and if the ice cream was from a dairy farm within fifty miles. (This is an exaggeration.)
Give a Kalamazoo College student a moon bounce, and they will ask you, “Why the fuck did you get me a moon bounce? You’re wasting my money on frivolous things that are only meant to be fun when all I want are tickets to the Nicholas Kristof lecture.” (This is not.)
And while preferences for local food and socially-conscious student activities are not at all bad, they tend to wear on the likes of us who don’t mind eating DQ soft-serve and rolling around in a moon bounce like a four-year-old without much further thought.
But these acutely aware habits come from places of genuine intelligence, compassion and critical thinking - traits that I’ve seen in every K student I’ve met. We work harder and we think deeper. It’s the way our liberal arts education has trained us. And even if I am always game for a good moon bounce, I also appreciate the value of being surrounded by people who prefer something with more substance.
For a while towards the beginning of our Ecuador trip, I got tired of hearing my own complaints and those of other students about piropos, host family drama and eating way too many damn carbs all the time. Why couldn’t we just forget about the bad stuff and appreciate the beautiful experience we have? It’s the K Complex in us. The inability to appreciate something wonderful that’s right in front of you when you know nothing is just plain wonderful.
Everything has it’s ups and downs, it’s positives and negatives. Yeah, thinking about gender inequality and racism Ecuador isn’t fun, but the fact that we’re honest with ourselves about the challenges we face here have allowed us to appreciate this experience for all that it is (not just a dulce-de-leche-coated view of the Andes and the Amazon). It gives us a more complete experience, and I would even say one that we’re able to appreciate more. We’re enjoying what’s real, not an romanticized view of what life here is supposed to be.
Sometimes K makes us so hyper-critical of things that we don’t take the time to enjoy the opportunities we’re given. We will analyze the shit out of that banana split until it is nothing but a puddle of milk on the floor. And we’ll sit on the side of the moon bounce and whine about how inflatables don’t contribute to a better society, even though we’ve been drowning in the stress of seventh-week and could probably use a good endorphine boost. (Well, maybe you’ll be whining. I’ma be all up in that moon bounce.)
We criticize this fully-packed, socially-conscious lifestyle we live for any number of reasons, but by the time that bachelor’s degree is in our hands (which, weirdly, is not that far away), that mindset becomes one of the most valuable things we’ll take away from this school.
I think it’s good to be critical of our critical thinking. And it’s great to value critical thinking the way K College students do in the first place.
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