Has campus felt empty to you lately? Noticed a lack of tiny, living bodies running aimlessly across the Bald Spot? I know I’m not the only one who’s noticed the stunning lack of squirrels studying on campus. For the first few winters of my Carleton career, I’d simply assumed they’d all died, only to be resurrected by some primordial squirrel god in the spring to continue their ceaseless pursuit of compostables. But something in me told me there had to be a better explanation than a yearly squirrel apocalypse. Recently, it became my quest to find out just where our furry friends go when the weather gets cold.
My quest for knowledge began by asking my friend, a Biology major, whether or not all squirrels are raptured sometime over winter break. She looked at me with a mix of curiosity and awe, and I could tell from her confused expression that, like me, she had no idea where the squirrels went. After asking whether I’d recently hit my head or fallen down a flight of stairs, she left for her comps meeting on a topic she called “hibernation.” I then did fall down a flight of stairs, only to find myself in the basement of Leighton, where I ran into an OCS director. Our conversation, which at times was so eye opening it felt like a trauma induced hallucination, revealed some exciting news.
As it turns out, Winter 2020 is an exciting term for our furry friends. Instead of dying and coming back to life in a terrifying revelation of some fundamental squirrel-related truth, it turns out most squirrels take winter term off to travel the world, see the sights and gain meaningful experiences. This year, a record 98 percent of campus squirrels are studying abroad, either through established Carleton programs or through partner organizations. Some are even taking on internships for credit, which apparently is something you can do, even if you’re a squirrel. Seven squirrels, all named Jessica, have even started their own student-run travel program, heading to Budapest to study the history of squirrels in the thermal baths. I spoke with Jessica over the phone about her experience, but because she was a squirrel I could not understand her. No translators were available, so I learned nothing from speaking with her.
So there you have it! The squirrels are not dead, just seeing the world. All is well. Squirrel God does not exist.