I got here six months ago. Aside from the mandatory hassling from the TSA at the airport and some shenanigans in actually getting to campus, I had finally made it to America. Now what? I was hopeful, scared, anxious and confused. But, most of all, I was excited to learn everything I could about this strange new land. America, where the buildings are big and the food is even bigger. America, the land of opportunity and abundance, or so I had been told. What now?
Well, there was International Student Orientation and trying to understand the mess of bureaucracies involved in healthcare,taxes, social norms and friendships, among other things. Then there was New Student Week, wonderful (read: exhausting) morning CarlTalks and our Peer Leaders making sure we attended all the important bits (love ya, Marta and Bjorn!). It was fourteen days of trying not to lose my way around campus, learning so many names and wondering how I was going to manage it all — if I even deserve to be here in the first place at all. Nolympics happened and we dressed up in god-awful outfits while out in the soaking rain, screaming our lungs out to cheer our teams on. There was the variety show, with so many people from my year with so many talents. I put on my own little display, drawing my long-suffering RA in front of the audience while I serenaded him quite poorly with my rendition of “Tum Hi Ho”.
Then classes. Learning the ins and outs of Moodle, project-based assignments, citations, office hours and the other twenty things I can’t even remember since I just do them automatically now. Social events and clubs, bouncing from interest to interest to interest. Join this! Do that! Come to our social! It felt good coming from a big city where I had to use a car to get anywhere to the autonomy of riding my own bike wherever I pleased. When the noise and clutter of the adjusting process became too much, I pedaled softly under a sky where I could finally see the stars. I sat quietly by the lake sometimes, just gazing at them for as long as I could.
It was a struggle, it was happiness and it was a blur. And then it was over. The papers had been turned in and I flew the 40 hours back home, spent time with my family and friends and came back. I finally had time and space to think and reflect on the sheer rush of that first semester.
During that time, I felt as though everything was perfect and as it should be. Why would anyone want to change a thing about somewhere so great, so highly acclaimed? If it isn’t broken, why even try and fix it? But a little time removed from my rose-tinted glasses led me to a different conclusion. Why are the walls of the campus so empty of any student artwork? Why don’t all club sports get PE Credit? Why don’t I know more people in my year outside of my dorm floor and New Student Week group? Why do I barely know any of the upperclassmen international students? Why is it so difficult to access disability accommodations beyond just getting more exam time? Why isn’t there any flexibility in the meal plan for religious reasons, such as Muslims fasting in Ramadan, or even indications of whether the food is halal or not? These questions bothered me.
There are few things that bother me more than unanswered questions. Having done competitive debate for five years of high school, there’s this incessant need to find answers and figure out why things are the way that they are. It’s what arguably (pun entirely intended) got me into Carleton in the first place.. And so I did what I do best, grinding the gears in my head round and round until I figured something out andI came to a conclusion.
In theory, these are issues that the majority of people can get behind. Who doesn’t want their campus to look nicer or to get to know more of the weird and wonderful people who go here? The problem, then, is twofold: lack of consistent advocacy and apathy. Without somebody to constantly push for these things, you can argue about their worth in the abstract all day, but nothing will really get done until you push for it consistently to the people who can actually affect change. The apathy acts as a byproduct of each trimester’s frantic pace. How are we supposed to advocate if we don’t even have the time to take care of ourselves most days? Anything beyond simply surviving the next class period is already going above and beyond, let alone the Sisyphean effort of meeting with administrators and navigating a Kafkaesque bureaucracy where, at times, it feels like nobody knows who’s really in charge.
These problems don’t simply go away. They fester and get worse as time goes on. The walls only become more exhausting to glaze over every day you pass their unadorned surfaces. Fewer and fewer people see anything but varsity sports as worth pursuing. People only become more and more isolated from their class years and communities— unless something changes.
I don’t have the solution to all these problems. Like I said, I only got here six months ago. It would be the height of narcissism to claim that I have all the answers. I simply don’t. I know these problems are real, and that there are even more of them that I can’t yet see yet because they don’t personally affect me. Someone should at least try, and I feel like I owe it to the place that I now consider home to do that much. Another issue to resolve is another problem to break through with the help of others interested in the welfare of our year and the whole school.
That’s why I am running for class representative. To finally get the chance to begin changing some of the issues that I know myself and others have been facing, even within the short timespan we’ve been here. Will we create the perfect utopian campus if I’m elected? I mean, hopefully, but probably not. My promise is to try, to advocate for those whose voices are usually drowned out in the quiet loudness of campus life and to push for policies that I feel will actually make the lives of people here more forgiving and manageable. Thank you for reading all of this, and I hope to see you at the ballot box (or whatever equivalent the Senate has set up, I don’t know either since it’s my first time, too) in the coming days.
Be First to Comment