The Goldilocks Effect

Once you hit 17 or 18, the questions start flooding in. “Where do you want to go to college?” “Which schools are you looking at?” “What kind of college do you want?” And while all the friends and family have good intentions with their questions, it can also be a bit tiresome. So to save time, I developed a bit of a catchphrase. Whenever anyone would ask me about schools, I’d say I was looking for a mid-size, Midwestern school with good journalism and English programs. It sounds a little rehearsed and oversimplified, but it didn’t make it any less true. It’s kind of like being a contestant on The Bachelor where the ladies will say they just want someone to laugh with or want a man who’s good with kids. You just have to find some repeatable phrase to latch onto while you search for your “soul mate”/university.

While each component of my university checklist was important, I really latched onto the mid-size qualifier. I toured some amazing Midwestern schools with good programs, but many of them had more students than a Beyoncé arena concert. And when I toured those big schools I realized that’s never how I wanted my college experience to be. I didn’t want to spend hours trekking across campus or not know any of the students in my class. I didn’t want to get lost on a campus the size of a small town. In short, I didn’t want a big school.

But I also experienced the other side of the spectrum, and turns out, a small school wasn’t for me either. I couldn’t even fathom attending a university with fewer students than my high school. And I knew I wanted the experience of learning from multiple professors and students, not just a few. Plus, if I did something embarrassing and fell down on the first day, how would I redeem myself if everybody on campus saw me?

With these and many other thoughts in mind, I finally settled on my epitome of mid-size: Drake University. There are about five or six thousand students total at Drake, including grad students. (I mean, don’t quote me on that. I’m very bad with numbers). But the point is, it’s just the right size. There’s enough variety of people and situations to keep things interesting and fun while also still being comfortable and homey. My professors know me, but everyone doesn’t know everyone around here. I get to walk a few minutes across campus, but not miles. I always see friends and classmates around campus, but there are also constantly new people to meet. In all, for me, Drake is just right.

In Theory

Michel Foucault. It’s a name that strikes fear into the hearts of a lot of undergraduates. He’s the Voldemort of the humanities in that he can be kind of the worst, but we also wouldn’t really be ourselves without him. And, yes, that comparison may be a little extreme. I sincerely doubt Foucault ever said “avada kedavra” in his entire life, but he is scary because his work is dense, wide-ranging, and full of it’s own language of terms and lingo. And, yet, the man was definitely brilliant, and in a lot of ways, the biggest influence on modern humanities studies.

The text for Literary Theory Class. Yep, it's kind of intense.

The text for Literary Theory Class. Yep, it’s kind of intense.

This semester, I’ve gotten the chance to study Foucault and many others through my literary theory and criticism class. And while many groan merely at the thought of literary theory, I absolutely love it. The class experience has been the quintessential example of why I came to Drake: a brilliant professor teaching something I’m really passionate about with a small enough class that I can have a really active role in class discussions. Starting with the ancient Greeks, we’ve moved through the history of literary study examining the works of theorist from Virginia Woolf to Edward Said. And I’ve learned absolutely a ton along the way.

I’m so grateful for this experience partially because I may not get many others like it. Since I won’t be able to go to grad school, I’m counting on my Drake classes to present me with some of the higher level studies I’d otherwise be missing. The base of literary knowledge I’ve gained in this class has informed the way I see the arts and even content in my other classes. It’s good stuff to know. Also just so that if I ever go to a super-hip artsy dinner party I can join in the conversation with a Marxist reading of The Great Gatsby or something. (Clearly I’ve never been to one of those parties, but I’m assuming there are people in knit hats by the vegan food table talking about such things).

But honestly, this class has presented me with more that just fuel for snobby dinner parties. I’ve gained real knowledge in that I’ve had to work really hard to understand some of the content, but it’s been more than worth it. I’ve seen myself challenged in new ways in English studies and as a result, I know I’ve grown as a student and a thinker. And sorry if that sounds like a lame motivational poster for never giving up on learning, but it’s true. This is one class where I’m just really excited to go learn, even if that learning involves a certain long-winded fellow named Foucault.