I just got back from a trip to a liberal arts college here in Illinois. It was pouring rain half the time I was there, but it stopped eventually. The campus was modest in size. There was an intriguing historic vibe to it (one of the buildings is the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and houses several Lincoln-related artifacts). The campus is obscured by lush trees, lending me that sense of comfortable isolation. Paths of concrete and cobblestone mingled in a charming fusion of history and present.
I attended a lecture on romantic literature. The professor was legendary around campus, known for her ability to develop personal relationships with her students and her amazing teaching skills. Several volumes of her poetry have been published. The class sizes there average around seventeen. There are no massive lecture halls--the rooms are all small and personal. She lectured about William Wordworth's poem "The Thorn." It was a true slap in the face; her analysis was far deeper and more complex than anything we talk about in AP English. Hard to follow, but still captivating.
I was escorted to the cafe for lunch by a very nice sophomore named Ben. I threw questions at him over our taco salads and he had nothing but positive things to say about the place. Just walking with him and observing others gave me the impression that this is not some run-of-the-mill university, where everyone slips into anonymity. There was an overwhelming sense of community; everybody says hi to everybody, everybody knows everybody's name. People were so accommodating and friendly. Ben actually told me that students leave wallets and laptops and other valuables on chairs to save seats and nobody steals anything. People just really trust each other.
I then was given a tour of the whole campus in a bit more detail than Ben could provide. The guide was an adorable senior named Michael, who happened to be a member of the college's LGBT club. He was funny. I really wanted to pinch his cheeks, he was so damned cute. A creative writing major, just like half of the other students. Apparently the place is one of the greatest colleges for creative writing in the country, among the top three. Hopeful writers swarm there from all across the globe.
The dorms are cozy and quiet. The library, over 175 years old and built with limestone, is stunning. More books than I've ever seen all in one place. There are ancient volumes from the 18th and 19th centuries, even some writings by Galileo and stone tablets from the BC's. The whole place just breathed history, from the fragile books to the rooms reminiscent of the 1800's, which was when the college was built. If I wanted to I could get a job at the library either as a librarian or a tutor.
I loved that place. I know I have nothing to compare it to, but I could easily imagine myself going there. If you picture that stereotypical college boy or girl, the students there are nothing like that at all. All of them are artsy, unconventional, and I like that. Professors give you personal attention. It's peaceful. There are so many clubs and activities, including the college's award-winning literary journal, which I plan on submitting to or becoming a staff member of. Famous authors and poets from around the world give lectures there. There are poetry readings held on the lush green lawns. So many people there have a passion for writing or some other art.
I think I could grow as a writer there. Definitely. An admissions counselor told me that a double major would be doable, because there are only three courses per term, unlike the typical five or six in other colleges. And there are no general education requirements, so I could get started on the courses I love immediately. The work will be challenging, I know that, but I feel like it'll be worth it. Being surrounded by caring professors and students who share my passion will do me a lot of good.
I'm going to visit more colleges, of course. Just to see if there's something better out there. I don't see how there could be though. I can't even think of one thing I didn't like about the place.