A picture of stu­dents playing, studying, and resting on the quad on a par­tic­u­larly warm spring day. Sofia Krusmark | Collegian

 Some clothes we’ll wear for the rest of our lives. Grad­u­ation gowns and caps aren’t among them.

As I walked home from campus last Thursday, clutching the clear plastic bag with the clothes I’ll wear for just a few hours at com­mencement on May 8, I felt the weight of this season. My time at Hillsdale is almost up.

Picking up my grad­u­ation garb, I felt heartache and gratitude. 

I’ve worked on the culture page of the Col­legian for two years now. In that time, I edited nearly 250 stories. Iron­i­cally, what ini­tially drove me away from Hillsdale as a senior in high school is what keeps me up writing and editing nearly every night of my week: Hillsdale’s culture.

Approx­i­mately seven minutes into my visit day in 2017, I glared at my mom. 

“There’s no way that I’m going here,” I mut­tered. 

It was a dark, grey, day in the middle of Feb­ruary. Snow slush covered dead grass, but that didn’t seem to stop stu­dents from dressing in posh business attire. My worn jeans and knit sweater didn’t seem welcome on a campus like this. 

The library was the most crowded spot on campus.  I won­dered where the stu­dents were. As it turned out, they rotted away in the library — or so I thought.  Then there was the town. No shopping malls in sight. The nearest neighbors were cows. Any life outside of Hillsdale was blocked out by the trees, and trees. And more trees. As a native of Arizona, the only trees I’ve ever known are cacti. Despite my mis­givings, I showed up for the first day of freshman ori­en­tation because Hillsdale was my most affordable option.

Four years later, I’ve realized some things. Aside from acknowl­edging how dra­matic I was — albeit unsur­prising, since I was 17— I was also so wrong about Hillsdale. I’d mis­con­ceived its culture as dull, or lacking flavor. 

But the stu­dents and staff make this quaint, quiet town sur­rounding this special college a rich place.  Only after writing and editing for the culture section did I see Hillsdale’s wealth. I struck a goldmine.

The things I com­plained about are what make Hillsdale great. Stu­dents talk for hours in the dining hall because talking about how the song “Dos­to­evski” changed your life or about how the hard things have made us better is more exciting than bot­tomless drinks downtown — there will always be time for those. The long, cold winter months invite us to count on people who make us smile on the grey days.   Pro­fessors show us how to love learning, but also to be loyal and selfless family members. I see my pro­fessors sitting in church with their kids, and some­times I walk to their houses for dinner.  These mean­ingful inter­ac­tions would be impos­sible if our town was any bigger or any busier. The sim­plicity of this small town has taught us to value each other more than we would in a glitzy city, and even more, to savor the quirky things that make Hillsdale unique: Thatcher Ball, Baw Beese Lake, Checker Records, great books, Gal­loway Feast. 

And the stu­dents, faculty, and people of Hillsdale are always cre­ating new, special things. This place is a canvas splat­tered with colors — lit­erally, in some cases.

One gal in town started her own water­color business. She was inspired by the moun­tains of Col­orado and now she paints maps of Hillsdale. There’s an alumna who works for the college, and she makes homemade pasta for the town, too. Two more alumnae started a small business that cel­e­brates Hillsdale  through vintage shirts, mugs, and posters. Another staff member started his own coffee roastery.

There have been 39 con­certs this year — and that’s despite all the ones can­celled last semester. Thirteen seniors are per­forming their own recitals by the end of the semester, only three of whom are music majors. We per­formed “Messiah” this month, some­thing we do here every four years. I watched seven student bands perform on campus this semester.

The archi­tects and con­struction workers fin­ished the Chapel while I was here. I inter­viewed them with a con­struction hat on my head, com­pletely covered in dirt, and we laughed together as we mar­veled at the work they had almost fin­ished. Two more weeks, they said, smiling. I was also there at the inau­gural Curate summit — 27 alumni, staff, and faculty planned a womens’ summit for the sole purpose of uplifting and encour­aging student women across campus. At the end of last semester I orga­nized the first Hillsdale Half Marathon. “It takes a village,” is the old cliche. But it’s true — more than 80 stu­dents, mul­tiple local busi­nesses, and nearly 400 par­tic­i­pants rallied around me to make that day happen. 

Editors will come and go, but there will always be new stories for them to tell. To those of you who have told me your stories, to those of you whose stories I’ve read, and to those whose stories have yet to be written, thank you. As writers, we do not tell stories for the mere pleasure of writing— we write because there are stories that need to be told.

It has been a gift to share this glo­rious culture. I will never forget the rich stories of Hillsdale.