Institutional Memory: Upperclassmen Speak

Taylor Nunley, Staff Writer

Writer Taylor Nunley and photographer Owen Barbato asked upperclassmen, “What is the one thing you wish you knew as a first year?” 

Owen Barbato


“I wish I had known that you don’t have to fit any aesthetic here, especially at a place like Grinnell where you meet people who are not afraid to be themselves and express their true fascination and interest in any way they want — whether that be through clothes or academics or anything like that. So, I always felt like my definition of the ‘cool people’ changed in a way. I realized that ‘Oh, I don’t have to fit in with those cool people,’ even if they are what would be considered popular and just try to find my own aesthetic if that makes sense. It’s not even having to be labeled as an aesthetic. It’s just trying to have fun with whatever you have.”

– Jivyaa Vaidya `23




Owen Barbato


“I wish I knew that all of this pressure to make the four years here as action-packed as possible doesn’t have to be there. There’s a whole rest of your life which I did not even realize until I took a gap year. When I came back, I realized, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s so much more out there than just this one institution, and there are so many other ways of getting involved in building your life outside of your identity as a student.’ I think a lot of people really kind of regress into this academic-only identity, which is cool and fine and great. Also, I wish I would have told my first-year self to not sleep with my roommate because that was my biggest mistake. 

– Jay Kratz `23




Owen Barbato



“International students often choose to take STEM-heavy courses because it acts as like a guarantee for getting a job right after graduation. But because of that, they miss out on some of the best classes that Grinnell has to offer. And this is something that I only realized in my fourth year. Because some of the best courses that I have taken in this college have been in English and Sociology. I’m currently taking a Soviet cooking class where we basically tasted different kinds of tomatoes. I wish I had known that I could probably just major in one discipline, and then take a bunch of courses that add value to my life in terms of a liberal arts experience.”

– Divyansh Singh `23




Owen Barbato




“I wish I knew that in my third and fourth year, even beyond graduating from Grinnell, I will have time to focus on the things that I really like. For example, I’m a psych major, so I will have more opportunities to take psych-related courses even after I graduate if I’m going to continue to graduate school. As a first-year or maybe even second-year, I wish I knew that I have this opportunity to explore so many other disciplines I may not have the chance in the future to explore.”

– Elena Li `23