As a student at Shimer College, I frequently find myself examining my past and trying to either justify the present or make changes for the future. I arrived at Shimer College after trying several other academic institutions, career paths, and life opportunities. The quick synopsis is: one semester at a private women's college, a summer of community college, half a year as an au pair in England, another year of community college, two years at a large state college, and another year at community college (this time online). I worked a variety of jobs: veterinary technician, waitress, bartender, cell phone sales, receptionist, and nanny. Pretty much if you named it, I’ve done it. During a rainy winter in Rhode Island, I felt incompleteness in my life. I was definitely surviving, but I struggled in a variety of ways. The hole in my life was never filled by enrolling in college, but by participating in learning experiences. I was happiest when reading, debating, and listening. I decided that I deserved a comprehensive education and began searching for Bachelors programs in the Chicago area.
I had pretty disappointing results; for some reason or another I was unable to find an institution, program, and financial aid package that met my needs as a transfer student. Just a few months before the start of Fall semester I discovered Shimer College. My decision to come here was initially hasty and poorly planned out, but quickly became not only the most influential but the best choice I had ever made. Nearly a year later, I’m confident that I am finally working towards the education that I owe myself.
Anyone learning about Shimer will ultimately hear about our community. It is definitely an “intentional community” and this is something that caused me to be very apprehensive. I lived off campus, worked an hour away from the school, and spent weekends with my friends from home. I was in Chicago to get a degree and had no time to hang out with a bunch of kids fresh out of high school. Within days I quickly learned that this approach was not going to work for me; it became nonsensical to participate in the Shimer classroom but refuse to be an integral part of the community. My fears of being too old or not relatable became trivial and I threw myself into the Shimer community without a glance backwards.
Since arriving in Chicago nearly a year ago, my life is radically different. Like a typical Shimer student I’m not rounding out a year with more answers; rather, I have more questions. My interests have diversified, my comprehension has improved, and best of all I’m a part of a community that inspires me. The curriculum here is excellent, but the education here is so much more than reading books. It’s about disagreeing with your best friend so badly you want to shout but saving it for after class, or discovering that someone you barely know is equally obsessed with Dorothy Parker.
I’ve tried nearly every type of academic institution and failed academically, personally, or both. For me, Shimer College is the first time that I’m not scared to fail, because I know I’ve got a whole community to back me up. Whether you are a prospective student or just an innocent bystander to the college process, I urge you to think about the communities we create versus the communities we happen to fall into. What are the advantages? Disadvantages? And where do you see yourself fitting best?
Look forward to more posts from me about my experiences as a transfer student, on-campus living, and the Shimer College Assembly.