The first thing people think when they hear about Shimer is, “Wow, that’s a really small school!” Actually, I’ve already lied to you. The first thing they think is, “What? That’s not a real school, is it?” But right after that, I promise, they think, “Wow, that’s a really small school!”
Judging strictly by numbers, I would have to agree with that statement. Shimer’s number of students doesn’t exactly topple the scales (in fact, it tips over at about 120). However, Shimer has proved to me that numbers aren’t everything. I’ve seen that each these 120 students is simply adding him or herself to the reach of Shimer faculty and alumni to create the biggest sense of community some of its members will ever experience.
I live in Gunsaulus Hall with many other first-years, and I can already tell you that there is something to appreciate in each of them. Just last week, I opened my door to find a dorm-mate writing on my door’s whiteboard, another coming to see if I’d received his copy of The Communist Manifesto, a third asking if I’d like a soda and a fourth telling me he loves me. Every weekend, a Shimer student has advice to give on which museums are free, what shows are open or what restaurants are best. Any transition pangs I felt from leaving Texas and coming to Illinois were almost immediately calmed by the sheer force of togetherness the dorm provides.
At Shimer, every second in the building has the possibility for conversation. When I walk into the Student Lounge, I can see half a dozen conversations at once, whether it be over the chessboard, the Great Books, or the great people. Faculty and students alike crowd into conversations and each offer some new perspective I had yet to consider. One morning, I had a discussion about Integrative Studies 2, and I’m not even taking that math class yet! The people here make it easy to become involved and aware just in conversation.
With every interaction with a member of the Shimer community, I realize this school isn’t very small at all. It extends beyond just the individuals within it to the ideas we share with one another. Each person doesn’t just represent a height, weight, GPA or hair color but a wide perspective on life itself. Before I came to Shimer, I thought, “Wow, that’s a really small school!” (among other things). After less than a month here, I see that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.