i love kollege

The K Complex (Part 1)

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.  

Things the BIG NEWS at Kalamazoo College Could Possibly Be:
  • All Students Who Dislike Moon Bounces and Finger Painting to be Reimbursed for 2010-2011 Student Activities Fees
  • Spring Quarter Wind Down Wednesdays to Feature Beyonce, Kanye and Lady Gaga
  • DOGL Extended to Weeklong Celebration
  • Life-Size Statue of Di Suess to be Erected in Front of Humphrey House
  • Grass for New Athletic Fields Grown Exclusively from Local Vegetables 
  • Whole Foods to Replace Abandoned Supercuts Location
  • Sodexo Contract Guarantees Buffalo Chicken Pizza Will Be Served at Lunch Every Day for Next 50 Years
  • All Fitness Center Equipment Functioning Normally
  • Summer Quarter Reinstated to Resolve “Quarter” vs. “Trimester” Confusion
  • Major No Longer Required to Graduate
  • Concrete Definition for “Social Justice” Determined by Arcus Center
  • Student Health Center to Provide More Than Condoms, Salt Packets and Hand Sanitizer
  • CIP Will Again Cover Flights Abroad, 2011-2012 Participants Will Not Be Reimbursed
  • Barb and Omelet Rob Announce Engagement
  • Buzz the Hornet Looses Stinger, Dies Tragic Death 
  • Alex Morgan to Replace President Wilson-Oyelaran as Kalamazoo College President in Academic Coup D'état
The K Complex (Part 2)

Written January 2012, Ecuador

We may be a bunch of socially-awkward nerds, but don’t fuck with us.
Tonight I witnessed a spectacular feat of alma mater defense as some incredibly intelligent K women verbally duked it out with a poncho-sporting bro who was currently living and working in Ecuador before returning to the states for his Master’s. He was also a recovering drug addict, which he mentioned to me in passing, kind of like a bragging right, which I mention in passing because I feel that it speaks to his character.  

To his credit, I’m pretty sure he was trying to agree with us. We had started off the conversation by complaining about the incredible amount of work we had to do, how ridiculous some of the requirements for our volunteer work were and what a joke some of our classes had been. (Does this sound at all familiar, K College?)

He didn’t get us. He lamented, I just don’t understand why you guys would pay somebody to make you volunteer and go to school. Why wouldn’t you just take an extra class or something? 

We didn’t get him. Our general response was: Duh. Because I’m actually actively participating in this culture while you’re trying to say that “giving back to the Ecuadorian community’” means maintaining your dreads and occasionally giving money to kids on the street while upholding some bullshit imperialist agenda. (ZING!)

K College students complaining about the K College workload, K College extra-curriculars, and K College classes are more-celebrated student traditions that streaking the quad or Day of Gracious Living. But as soon as someone else steps on our turf and tries to talk down on our alma mater, their ass is flatter than our million-dollar-a-year quad grass after everyone ignores the “Please do not walk on the quad” signs.

So when Druggie Dread Buddy gaffed at our 100-hour ICRP requirement and six-class schedule, things got heated.You’re in Ecuador. You’re supposed to live! he stated between puffs of his hand-rolled cigarette.

But after going to this school for over two years, I have come to understand that this is living. Life for an overwhelming amount of K students is about putting the majority of your energy into stressing out more than you need to about your homework and then throwing everything you have left into engaging with whatever weird little community makes your brain tick and your heart tingle.

This is the other part of the K complex. We can be critical about Kalamazoo College. You should stop blowing smoke rings in our faces and show a little respect to people who do more in four years than you might do in a lifetime.*

And I heard you say you don’t like Detroit, ya little bitch, and I don’t think Detroit would like you very much either.

*Editor’s Note: Only after six months away from Kalamazoo College would I ever feel so motivated as to take ownership over our cheesy catch phrase. Let this be a reminder of the powers of nostalgia.