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Grinnell the place
Visit your friends at other colleges some time your first year. It will likely make you love Grinnell, no matter how much you thought you were indifferent.
Get to know the administrative assistants and your hall's FM person. Professors are important, but these people usually handle the important pre-steps (making appointments, accepting your $$, faxing your transcript, cleaning your living space, etc.). If you can establish a good relationship with them, it will be a huge benefit to just completing everyday tasks, getting an early heads-up about upcoming opportunities, and provide you with an instant connection to the town of Grinnell. Without Retta Kelley at the CDO, my Grinnell experience would be glum.
Eat at the Back Alley Deli. Decide to refer to it as 'Paris'. Ask people to go to 'lunch in Paris'. Eat there again. If they're disappointed, suggest the Chandlebaum.
Pag's makes their own sausage and even now I crave their pizza. Eat as much of it as you can. This seconds everyone else's "Explore Grinnell". I discovered that town way too late.
To echo what everyone else is saying, get off campus and get involved in the community. I would recommend volunteering in the schools or interacting with kids in some capacity. When little Jimmy comes up to you with a huge grin on his face and says, "My daddy's getting out of jail tomorrow!" you get a jolt of perspective on that term paper you're struggling with.
I'd like to echo the advice to get out in the community. Go to the library, go to the coffeeshop. Volunteer; not only does it get you out of the college bubble and mindset, it really helps those you're working with.
Take full advantage of ExCo. It's the coolest thing.
Go on lots of walks. I'd recommend walking north past campus, through Merrill Park and up to the road that runs north of the golf course (17th Street?), then east along that road all the way to Penrose, south on Penrose until about 8th, and then west back toward the college. There's a little school with a playground right around 8th and Summer that's just great for swinging.
Go to Rock Creek. Hike over to the dam, and stand on the bridge beneath the falls. Take a group of friends and have an autumn bonfire on the lake at the campgrounds.
I wish someone would've told me to get out of Grinnell once in a while. Take a few hours on the weekend to drive to a nearby farm to go horseback riding. Explore the town, do some community service. Don't let the College consume your existence.
Something I've figured out on my own is how rewarding it is to join a community outside of the college. For example, I joined the choir at St. Paul's church, which helped me get to know professors and townspeople (grown ups and children alike) much better. One of the hardest things about going to a small college is the feeling of being in an artificial environment--someplace where everyone you meet is within the same age bracket or is a professor. When you join a community outside the college, you broaden your horizons and feel less trapped.
Students shouldn't be terrified to find a church in town. You might be surprised that other students are there and there are also cute old ladies, adorable kids, and usually free food at least once a month.
Go into town and spend some time there. Make it a goal to somehow get involved in town activities be it church, schools, community theatre, working in town, getting to know people, whatever. It wasn't something that my professors stressed as important, but it became one of the very best things about my five years in Grinnell.
Explore the town, go to the library, the farmer's market, etc. Grinnell is a really neat town, with really neat stores and really neat people. It's a great way to connect to the greater community.
I echo some of the other comments on Tutorial advisors encouraging students to explore the town. Introduce them to the farmers market or rock creek or that park over on Penrose. It's entirely non-academic, but helps students escape once in a while while also exploring the entire town, not just campus.
Find and explore the quirks of Grinnell and also explore and take walks in the area outside of town, particularly to the north of town. When there is some good warm weather, taking a walk on the roads north of town (the ones that warn you to enter at your own risk because of minimal maintenance). It's very peaceful, and gives you a much different view of where Grinnell is than if you just stay in town. As for the town and college itself, find some of the quirks. Answer questions such as 'Where in Grinnell are there alpalcas?', 'What word is written on Burling in several foot high letters?', 'Where is there a lighthearted totem pole in someone's front yard?'
Do something to remind yourself that there is a world outside of students aged 18-23 who live in Grinnell, IA. Go to Community Meal, a play in town, work at the preschool, babysit, volunteer, work, talk to senior citizens, etc, etc.
Get out and explore the town of Grinnell. There's really a lot more than people realize at first, and if you don't start early you'll find yourself with in my boat, with only one year left and not nearly enough time to see and do all that you want to do.
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