I’ve lived on Wheaton’s campus for the past three years of my life. Most seniors would say the same. My situation has been a little different, though, because when most people leave for home after finals week, I stay on campus. Each year, I watch the amount of people residing at Wheaton dwindle until the summer hits, leaving a very small number of Wheaton students in the process.
Wheaton summer living is Wheaton without most of its community. Chase is closed, the Balfour-Hood Center is vacant, and aside from a select few summer students and research assistants, academics are pretty much nowhere to be found. Wheaton summers are devoid of large social gatherings, completely missing courtyard chatter and the whizz of Frisbees flying across the Dimple. There’s an almost eerie lack of sound that matches the uncomfortable stickiness of the New England summer, a feeling of stagnation that never really shifts until friends and colleagues return to campus.
It sounds pretty terrible and, with a negative frame of mind, it very well could be. Homesickness is a problem for the people who actually get to go home over the summer, let alone everyday residents like me who get to see their family a few times a year. Besides, it’s not like I really chose to live at Wheaton during the summer. It was the only place I could afford to live (in that respect, I cannot really thank Wheaton enough).
So, what do you do? You learn to adapt. You learn to meet other people, to spend time with individuals you might never even meet during the school year. You step out of your comfort zone before your comfort zone forces you out. You have to. And I can say, without the slightest hesitation, that doing so has changed my life for the better.
Over the past several summers, I have made of the most amazing friends and taken part in some of the most thought provoking conversations of my entire life. I’ve formed relationships that I know will outlast not only the summer, but all of my time at Wheaton. It hasn’t been perfect, no. But my fellow summer residents and I filled the silent spaces as best as we could with introductions and small dinners and discussions about our lives. All of us spent the summer relatively alone, but I think far fewer of us spent our summers lonely. There’s certainly something to be said for that.
Summer at Wheaton has made me appreciate a few things about the place we call home. I have rediscovered the natural beauty of this campus that I first found as a visiting student. I have come to appreciate my own introversion as a potential strength and not a limitation, and how overcoming social anxiety can become an unequivocally exhillarating experience. I have realized how important the entire Wheaton community is in shaping the Wheaton experience, and how incredible we can make the place that we live. I have realized that my original theory about Wheaton is indeed correct: it’s all about the wonderful people who live here. The rest will fall into place.
So yes, I have learned to appreciate the hushed solitude of Wheaton summers. I also could not be more thrilled to have you all back, because this campus is just not the same without your presence. Remember that.