I suspect that for students with a passion to become a smarter, better, more competent person, Castleton has a resonance that it may lack for other students.
When I first came to Castleton, the sheer size of it was the first thing I noticed and remembered. Later on, I hear Castleton described affectionately as ‘the small university with a big heart’.
You must be kidding!
I am a transfer student. My first taste of college was a dip in the water. There were only 580 meters between the westernmost edge of the school grounds and the turn in the road that led to the school. The distance from the Casella Theatre to Ellis Hall would cover the entirety of my former school from north to south.
Previously, I was in a school as small and remote as an island in the South Seas; cloistered away in a valley. There were perhaps two hundred other students on campus. When disease swept through the campus, it was even emptier; looking like the aftermath of nuclear war. And there was no school newspaper, no Rotaract, no Environmental Action Club, no Peer Advocates for CHANGE.
Castleton is a huge step up, and from the step, my legs are getting good exercise even as they ache. Everything is bigger; everything is more difficult; everything is scripted on a vaster scale. There are more clubs, more sports, more organizations, harder material, larger geographical space, more frequent homework, higher stakes and more opportunities.
In my former school, we lived under a gray sky always groaning with rain or snow; winter began early and ended late. In my previous school, there was a kind of sleepy inactivity. Not here. I am out of the darkness. I am in the bursting sun! I swelter with fever and mop my brow in the autumn winds.
Someone once said that the most difficult thing about writing is sitting down at the typewriter and writing. I think the most difficult thing about being a university student is each day there. Each day in university includes personal hygiene, finance, food and a variety of interpersonal experiences.
The pace of Castleton is deep and difficult, but it is also brisk and wild. Castleton is a beast, and in the first few weeks you learn how to tame it, and might get some pleasure in doing so. You must learn every nook and cranny, every diverse vein in its totality.
If you approach an obstacle, you have to train your mind to recognize it immediately, whirl around, dash around, find another way through, change plans at the last minute, remembering to focus on the things that you can change, and ignoring everything that you can’t, and thus empower yourself.
In the midst of this bewilderment, you can’t shake off the feeling that you are accomplishing something; and so you enter your dorm with a cracked shoulder blade and a bleary smile; you throw your hands in the air. You’ve won, and you’ve won the right battle.