Bella Bennett writes from Skidmore

Bella Bennett with Argent Alija and other students on a hiking trip in Dorset, VT. — Photo courtesy of Megan Macomber

After 18 is an ongoing series about four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the second from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College and just completed her first semester in London. Bella has just started her second semester at the Skidmore’s main campus in Saratoga Springs, NY.

While spending your first semester of college abroad is in no way traditional, it is probably the best way to spend that awkward transition period. In fact, (don’t tell Skidmore) but half the reason I picked this school was for the opportunity to spend my first semester in London. And honestly, I grew more than I can probably comprehend. During my semester, I kept a travel journal, detailing all of my highs, lows, successes, stresses, self-deprecations and self-realizations, expressed through poetry, prose and doodles. It also contains leaves from all over Europe, pictures from various brochures of castles and other historic sites that I visited, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs from the Rugby World Cup Semifinals and the musicals “Once” and “The Lion King,” and a hoard of other precious scraps. While I’d love to continue on with this, there simply isn’t as much to do in a traditional college setting.

Thus, in my new journal I decided to instead write a few lines every day, beginning with “College is…” detailing what defines my college experience each day. Looking back over the past few weeks is already entertaining. While I won’t condemn you to all of my momentary and often dramatic thoughts on college life, a few of my favorites are:

“College is…”

“Still not knowing how to spell January,” (I only got it right this time because of spell check.)

“Growing mushrooms..” (During a field trip to Radix sustainability center in Albany, we were given bags of saturated straw, shown how to add mycelium, and instructed on how to grow Oyster Mushrooms inside of our dorms. If I don’t get in trouble with campus safety because this probably looks really bad, I promise to give an update on their success!)

“A halfway house to real life.”

“A place where stoplights exist!” (Probably the most jarring of all adjustments.)

“Incredible peers.”

“Roasting apples over the open fire.” (I borrowed a few apples from our gracious dining hall and joined the outing club on an incredible hike into the backwoods of Vermont, where a quarry exists within a cave. At this time of year the quarry is frozen, thus creating a private indoor skating area. For those of us who haven’t yet mastered the art of balancing on two blades and looking graceful, there was also a bonfire, upon which we roasted everything within our backpacks. I recommend roasted apples; they’re like apple pie without the pie!

“Falafel-less.” (If you’ve been to London, you may know that spoiled feeling of a) being in London, and b) being surrounded by falafel bars and Indian restaurants.)

“A heated indoor riding ring!” (Horseback riding in a t-shirt when you know that its actually negative five degrees outside is a beautiful privilege.)

“Choosing red or blue.” (No, this does not have any gang association; artsy kids simply tend to settle on the red side of our spaceship-shaped dining hall, while sportsters overwhelm the blue side. Apparently it’s always been this way, and being the indecisive person that I am, I enjoy switching back and forth between the two sides and checking out the general characteristics of both sides. On the red side, you’re far more likely to have a conversation with a stranger, while on the blue side you’ll get a head nod or a smile. Everyone is kind regardless of which side of D-hall (the affectionate and somewhat provocative nickname for the dining hall) they chose, yet the blue side is more team oriented and awash with Skidmore apparel while the red side is full of color, creative clashing and flannel. What really says something though, is that it is only my third week here and I already feel completely at home. The community is spectacular, no matter the divisions over dinner.

Basically, my college experience is redefined everyday by the people I encounter, experiences that I have, and the constant influx of knowledge imparted by truly wise professors. Together, these forces obliterate my perceptions of right, wrong, policy, power, etc. almost daily. The knowledge on campus is endless, so what you get out of college is really what you put in. This means that I cannot maintain an informed opinion for even a day without becoming aware that I am again uninformed, and because every day presents moments that can be approached as challenges or opportunities.

For me, college is perspective. I’m glad to report: the glass is spilling-over full with optimism.

Read Bella’s first post from London and Sicily.