The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Jake Conran

Photo contributed by Jake Conran.

When Jake Conran ’20 arrived in Grinnell four years ago, he found himself in a very different environment than his native Los Angeles. “My dad grew up in the Midwest, so I guess I was pretty familiar with what I was getting into,” he reflected. “I also wanted a change of pace.”

Although Conran came to Iowa from the big city, he’s enjoyed the slower cadences of life that only a small town in the middle of nowhere can provide. “It’s not crazy busy, with everybody running around everywhere all of the time.”

Conran also says he was initially poised to become an English major out of a love of writing. But after enrolling in a smorgasbord of introductory classes — like any good Grinnellian — he was intrigued by sociology in particular. “Realizing I could [write] outside of just an English class instead of a more traditional way was exciting to me,” he said, citing Assistant Professor Patrick Inglis, sociology, as his inspiration for choosing the major.

When news of the College’s shutdown arrived, Conran was in disbelief. “My super initial reaction was, ‘Why such a drastic measure so fast?’ We were one of the first schools to say, ‘screw it, our whole semester’s done,’” he said.

Although he now appreciates Grinnell’s decision to close, Conran says his final days on campus — which he and his friends dubbed ‘the end of the world’ — were frenetic. “In those last couple of days, certainly my main priorities were saying goodbye to everybody specifically, like the underclassmen that I just don’t know I’m going to see again.”

“I was trying to be very present about it, given that it was the last time we could be social. I was, you know, a degenerate college kid. I hung out most nights, even if I had class the next day, or just went out during the day with my friends and stuff like that,” he said.

Fortunately, some of his closest friends stuck around with him in Grinnell — but staying in town hasn’t been exactly like he imagined. “When this stuff went down, we didn’t think it would be just a big party here while we didn’t have schoolwork, but we were optimistic about what was going to happen. It hasn’t been that,” Conran said.

“Everybody’s been locked away in their homes. I see a couple people a day and don’t really go outside much, but I’m still living with four of my best friends, so that’s been really nice.”

One constant in Conran’s life since about the age of six has been basketball. In fact, one of the key reasons he applied to Grinnell was to join the Pioneers. And over his four years at Grinnell, he has served as a Student Athlete Mentor and was a member of the Athletic Department SEPC, where he helped conduct coaching and faculty reviews. Of course, the sport remained at the center of his experience.

“Some people would say hockey or soccer, but I don’t think there’s a sport as cerebral,” he said. “That’s how I like to think about the game — as free-flowing. You don’t have set plays. There’s no stagnancy to it. You’re constantly moving. Yeah, I just like the fluidity of it all.”

Always one for new challenges, Conran was slated to leave for Morocco as part of a two-year Peace Corps term this September, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench into those plans. He’d signed on as a youth development volunteer, and was looking forward to working with children and planning games and events for them to take part in. “I think we also teach the kids English, so I’m really excited about that,” he added.

Although Conran might not leave the country for another year, he’s trying his best to go with the flow. “In terms of what I want to do with my life, you know, people ask you that question all the time,” he said. What do you want to do? Where’s this all going? And I truly don’t know, even now. I’ve always said that I just want to help people.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *