Thursday, October 19, 2006

Words from a Friend

I have hesitated to write on this, partly due to lack of time, but also because I've spent more time mulling over this particular issue. A friend of mine sent me an email not too long ago. This is a girl I met through similar missions experiences in East Asia, and we have tried keeping in touch over the course of these past four years. She spent time in South Asia for two years before working towards a masters degree at Wheaton, which is where she is currently. In this particular email I received from her, she responded to some areas of concern I had mentioned previously. What I cited briefly to her were my concerns regarding the isolation I sense at times when walking around on campus. I don't mean isolation in the way of feeling like some kind of outsider, surrounded by people who all know each other and are in their own social world. What I am talking about is the overall isolation I sense when simply passing by people on the sidewalk. I came from a small university where everyone knew everyone else, you were always being invited to this thing or that, and even if students were involved in primary social circles (i.e. Greek clubs, campus ministries, etc.), a welcoming warmth still infiltrated most aspects of campus life. Things are much different here. I have personally been sweetly blessed by the Lord to meet and get to know some wonderful and encouraging men and women, but in looking at the bigger picture...I see so many people walking around by themselves. I don't see this vibrant rhythm of unique members of the body of Christ continually investing in one another's lives. To be perfectly honest, the majority of students I see walking to classes are walking by themselves. Don't hear me saying that this is a miserable, lonely place... I struggle to accurately describe what I see because it's not always something one can visibly observe. No, it's much deeper than that. I just see many individuals here who are that--individuals. I see more people walking by themselves, eating by themselves. Rarely do I see four tables pushed together in the cafeteria in order to make room for all of the people eager to fellowship with one another.

All that to say that my friend did respond to my concerns in the email I received from her:
"I think the isolated thing you mentioned is really a characteristic of grad school in general. It is similar to your description here at Wheaton too. I think it's family-building, but also just the increased course loads. Suddenly everyone is having to read for hours on end and that just zaps your social-life!"

So what do we do? Leave it at that, and resolve to acknowledge that such isolation is the norm and should be accepted as such?


Panda-Mom said...

Sad to say, but I think you hit the nail on the head with being resolved to have things stay the way they are. Just from our experience when PP was in school, people were really into going to school, work and family. Not really the college atomosphere. More of the "I want to get done and get out of here" kind of attitude. I can't say personally since I only did undergrad, but that's my two cents worth. XXOO

Amber said...

I like to think of it more of an opportunity to have the few, close, meaningful relationships rather than having the many acquaintances that you will never keep in touch with after undergrad, when you can just run into them on campus. Socialization just isn't the same after the freshman-senior yrs of college, and a part of me will always miss that too, but it's OK; it's all a part of growing up, I think. Gradschool (or the workforce, whichever road one chooses to take after graduation) is like entry into adulthood in that people are serious about their lives and their careers, they know what they want and they're pursuing it, they're focused. I'm sure moving to a new place has also contributed to your feelings of isolation. You know that will get better the longer one stays in the same place, though it will never be the same as undergrad, when kids are just excited at their newfound independence and want to just hang out and have fun whenever possible.

Be encouraged my friend! The memories we have made in undergrad will remain special to us, but we could not move forward in adulthood if things stayed as they were then. Better things are to come!