The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Crossing the Pacific, Atlantic, or maybe just 6th


Every year, over 400 new first-year students begin to call Grinnell home. While all of them are now a part of the Grinnell College class of 2018 and the larger Grinnell community, every single student has a different background and story that brought them to this shared junction in life.

Most Grinnellians are American born-and-raised, but nearly one in five are international students, many of whom have never been to the United States before coming to Grinnell. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a small number of students called Grinnell, Iowa their home well before they moved to campus. The students in each group are as different from one another as they are similar. While some experiences are influenced by geography and culture, others are universal.

In order to gain insight into this year’s class, a spotlight was shone on three first-years: Anushka Joshi, Borim Kim and Patrick Armstrong. Joshi is an international student who attended a British international high school in Nepal before coming to Grinnell. Kim, also an international student, came to Grinnell from a tiny town in South Korea after only having studied English language for one year. On the other hand, Armstrong hails from Grinnell, Iowa and went to schools that were mere minutes away from campus. 


Regardless of location, it’s a given that every student at Grinnell came across the same question at one point or another: Why Grinnell College? Each of the three had a distinct answer.

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to do whatever I applied for, so I was looking at liberal arts colleges simply because they give you the option to explore so many different aspects of courses that you’ve never done before,” Joshi said. “Grinnell has this thing with Nepal where they take at least one Nepalese student every year with a large amount of scholarship. This year they took three. Grinnell is well-known in the good private schools in Nepal, [so] they were impressed, saying, ‘Oh, you got into Grinnell!’”

Kim’s high school experiences were remarkably different. “I lived in a very small town in Korea, so people don’t really know Grinnell, they don’t even know about American colleges,” Kim elaborated. “Korean students study really, really hard to go to [a Korean] university … When I was a senior in high school I was selected [by a foundation] in Korea. A counselor in the foundation recommended Grinnell. And when I started for some information about Grinnell I loved this school.”

The sanity of someone who decided to attend Grinnell College after spending his entire life here may be questioned, but Armstrong had a convincing reason. 

“The admission officers have seen me in the community, and seen what I’ve done, so they know whether or not I’d be suited for Grinnell. And I think I am,” Armstong said.  “You don’t feel like you’re from the town because everyone is from a different place, so you still have a unique narrative to tell.”

Whether one’s from Iowa or Asia, life changes significantly after entering college. Students enter college with expectations, and are sometimes shocked by the reality.

“I was afraid of the campus because I heard that there are cornfields, only cornfields and school, [but] when I came here it was a really great campus. People are more kind than what I expected,” Kim said.

Joshi had a similar reaction. “I’ve seen a lot of movies that show the college life and I’ve heard a lot of experiences from people but … I didn’t know,” Joshi said.  “One thing, people in Grinnell are really nice, which shocked me really good.”

Because Armstrong lived in closer proximity to the school, one might imagine that there were few surprises to be had, but this was not the case. Most prominently, Armstrong was surprised by how much more he felt he belonged. 

“During high school, I took classes here, [hung] around campus and Burling, [but] I still didn’t feel part of the community, I wasn’t a part of the Grinnell bubble,” Armstrong said. “When you’re at Grinnell as a college student, it’s a cool experience to be a part of a tight community. I [can] feel the legitimacy as a student.”

While after the four years students pass through these walls, we may all head our separate ways again, but we’ll always share the common thread that connects us back to Grinnell. 

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