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Krusmark interned in Dallas over the summer. Sofia Krusmark | Col­legian

Dallas was one of the top 10 counties with COVID-19 cases in July, after having reopened in mid-May. Then, the city shut down all over again — and I was there.

 I wasn’t sup­posed to be. In an epoch where intern­ships fell through and many lost their summer plans, I was also a victim of can­celled oppor­tu­nities. No longer would I be studying in Oxford and coming home to work as a front desk agent at my favorite hotel. I felt as dead as the streets in my small Arizona town.

 Then Dallas became an option. I was hired at a business mag­azine, and though working from home was encouraged, I took my chances and headed to Texas. The offices were closed, but I was there.  

 Walking downtown in the city of Dallas was like walking through a ghost town. It invited all sorts of eerie feelings. Lights flickered. Restau­rants were boarded up. The only people walking the streets were the ones that lived on them. Culture wasn’t at a stand­still, but it seemed dead.  

 We often define culture by its atmos­phere. When we go to a church or a school or a city we don’t like, we are left with this simple statement rolling off our tongues: “I didn’t like the culture.” And that’s exactly what I first said about Dallas.  

 No doubt the pan­demic has dis­rupted many cul­tures — espe­cially those defined by lights, bustling streets, and buildings that invite people in instead of shutting them out. But we choose to define a culture by the way it makes us feel, rather than what it is.

 Dallas proved me wrong, and my summer was marked by a vibrant and col­orful culture.

 I visited sus­tainable homes hand­crafted and developed by some of the nations’ finest builders and archi­tects. The developer shared that he wanted to create homes that encouraged wellness and outdoor living. I talked to a woman who led the “Parade of Play­houses” — an event that built play­houses to raise support for kids who didn’t have safe homes. It was a virtual event this year — the first one in the last 20 years — but it went on, nonetheless. 

 Another time, I talked to a man who developed restau­rants for a living. Dallas was always the place to create com­munity, and a pan­demic couldn’t stop that, he said. One girl started canning “Ranch Water,” a staple drink for Texas res­i­dents. Now the seltzer shelves are empty, but maybe, she said, these drinks are a silver lining for Texans quar­an­tining. 

 At the ends of my days, I’d drive home and see the gleaming city lights. No longer a sign of the pizzazz and glamour of a ritzy city, they seemed to stamp the work and culture of a dif­ferent set of new, accom­plished friends. They built a culture that gave back.

 The culture of Dallas didn’t depend on city lights and pizzazz, it depended on the steadfast work and kindness of its people. Of course restau­rants, con­certs, and busy streets are indicative of a thriving com­munity. But even more so, these people, and their work to create and sustain this city they called home, were still breathing life into a culture I had assumed was dead. Social gath­erings should be a cel­e­bration of this. 

 We’ve missed social gath­erings in our time away from Hillsdale, and real­is­ti­cally, they will likely remain more limited for a while to come.

 But what we’ve built in our corner of the country is special — the round-table con­ver­sa­tions in the Knorr Family Dining Hall where we’ve developed life-long friend­ships, the long hours in the library that have cul­ti­vated our per­se­verance, or the stu­dents who have poured immea­surable amounts of time into their music that enriches our campus. These pre­cious com­mit­ments — to our­selves and our loved ones — sustain the culture we’ve missed.

 As stu­dents, as friends, as ath­letes, and as musi­cians, as faculty, it is our task to pre­serve our culture. It’s what brought us back to this special place. And maybe, when the time is right, we can raise a glass to Hillsdale, and our corner that has enriched us so deeply that we say, “Yeah. I like the culture there.”