By Katie Rice '10
CONWAY, Ark. (Sept. 15, 2006) - Today is the one-month anniversary of the start of my Hendrix College Experience. I've had 31 days on campus, and each day I love Hendrix more than the last. I had prepared for an impersonal world of term papers, bad food, roommate drama, and sleep deprivation. Instead, I found a comfortable, relaxing, engaging and accepting environment. Though I could never put them in order, these are a few of my favorite things:
As a northerner, I was surprised to find that Arkansas isn't the hick-haven it's made out to be. Yes, the natives have accents. They say, "I'm fixin' ta..." and "y'all." Yet Conway has all the amenities of a "real" city, replete with Target, Bath and Body Works, Office Depot, Chick-Fil-A and - you guessed it - Starbucks. There are movie theaters, pizza places, and shopping centers. And if a true cultural experience is what you need to make your week complete, a half-hour drive can hook you up with everything from the Heifer Project International Headquarters to Central High School National Historic Site & Museum.
Hendrix makes a big deal of its Orientation (OR) trips, and rightly so. Accompanied by a faculty member and several upperclassmen, groups of about 20 freshmen leave campus as strangers and come back two days later as friends. In between, they each learn or improve a skill - whether rock climbing, horseback riding, or shopping. The trips say, "Welcome to summer camp! Let's make s'mores together!" rather than, "Welcome to prison, here are your fellow inmates."
One of the most impressive aspects of Hendrix's orientation week was its focus on drinking and behaving responsibly. Hilarious skits and thoughtful presentations made awkward topics like date rape and underage drinking easier to talk about. Rather than lecturing, Hendrix made sure to invite students into the conversation. Choices 102, a mandatory follow-up seminar to the Choices 101 skits, gave each student a chance to ask questions in a comfortable setting. The most responsible part: students were given information on how to identify alcohol poisoning.
The F Word
During my college search, "fun" was the last thing I was looking for. Luckily enough, it found me on its own. While the first month of school was far from a non-stop party (thank goodness!), Hendrix does an amazing job of facilitating fun. The school sponsors movie showings, dance competitions, concerts, and more - there's more fun to be had than one person could ever manage.
Not all fun is school-sponsored, of course. One Monday night, I returned to my dorm after dinner to find almost 20 people gathered around outside, guitars, violins, bongos, and harmonicas in hand. They weren't good friends, necessarily, and they weren't even all from the same dorm. Each had heard the music and moseyed on over. The country renditions of "Baby Got Back," "Hey Ya" and "Dragostea din Tei" were hilarious enough to make my eyes water, but the sense of community was what really made me want to cry.
The more upperclassmen I talk to, the more amazed I am. One spent his summer volunteering in rural Mexico. Others researched the vibrations from Hurricane Katrina. These are normal, average students: they stand behind you in the lunch line and sleep in the dorm room next door. The best part: within three years, each member of the class of 2010 will be saying, "I went to ___," or, "I researched ____."
Hendrix's dining services department wins awards every year, and I know why. The food is so good that I've never eaten off campus if a meal was available on campus. Each meal features two vegetarian entrees and two meat-inclusive entrees, plus an express line, plus a salad bar, deli bar, dessert bar, wok bar, pasta bar, and soup bar. Phew! The cafeteria also features a "Recipes from Home" box, where diners are invited to deposit family recipes for re-creation at Hendrix.
Each teacher has made it more than clear that he or she is approachable. My math professor sends the class e-mails. My Journeys professor wants us to call him Rod. My Spanish teacher stopped by my table at lunch yesterday to see how I had liked the assigned reading and to make sure I had understood it. I had thought "demanding but supportive" was a Hendrix catchphrase. Now I know it's a Hendrix reality.
(Katie Rice, a Hendrix freshman, is from St. Louis, Mo. She is a student-writer in the Communications Office.)
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