“The best part about living in London was being able to experience the big and little things with people whom you just met, and watch as they turn into some of your closest friends.”
— Olivia Maddox ’20
Victoria Bullivant ’18
I was babysitting on a bitter day in November when I received my Early Decision acceptance letter from Hamilton College. Two nine-year-olds watched as I yelped in excitement upon reading, “congratulations on your acceptance to Hamilton College,” and fell silent after reading, “for January 2015.”
My feelings fluctuated between nervousness and excitement over the coming weeks and months. I was excited to go to London, but distressed to start “real college” a semester late. I was flattered by my acceptance, but quietly hurt that I hadn’t been admitted for the fall. After hearing back from other colleges, talking to past Jans, and realizing Hamilton was the school for me, I packed two duffel bags and jetted off to London to spend my first semester of college with thirty other Hamilton freshmen.
I can talk endlessly about London: the grand stone embassies that lined my walk to the grocery store; the oasis of green trees and silver duck ponds I discovered running through Hyde Park; the smell of crepes that permeated Portobello Market every Saturday morning. Every Jan finds different pockets within the city, from homey coffee shops to gleaming museums, which he or she returns to repeatedly and shares with friends. After a few months in London I could navigate the city with ease, hopping from the Central Line to the District and Circle Line, or boarding night buses to the airport for early-morning flights to Spain, Italy, or France.
London was my first time cooking for myself, managing a budget, navigating public transport, and taking college-level classes. And at every step of the process the Jan community supported and helped each other out. People always talk about college as the time to find “your people”: the friends who share the same academic interests, watch the same TV shows, or listen to the same obscure bands. There’s no question you will find “your people” at Hamilton, but the value of the Jan experience is that it forges friendships among a diverse group of students who might not otherwise have bonded as closely. When you arrive on campus in the dead of winter, you arrive with three-dozen other students you know well, like immensely, and can turn to for anything.
If you introduce yourself as a Jan at Hamilton, people will immediately respond, “I love Jans!” or, “Jans are great!” I used to suspect these statements were slightly artificial or conciliatory, but here is what I know to be true: Jans are the best. Despite making up a small part of the Hamilton population, our influence in clubs, classes, and activities spreads across campus. We play varsity and club sports, join clubs and a cappella groups, lead tours and orientation trips, and found publications, among other things.
Arriving at Hamilton in January may feel intimidating, but the welcoming community, close network of Jans, and busy campus life makes the transition manageable and exciting. Curiosity, intelligence, and excitement for adventure is what makes a Jan a Jan. This shared attitude is what made my experience in London so worthwhile. And it is that same attitude that we bring back to Hamilton every January to stoke a small campus in central New York: a place where students’ passions generate an inexhaustible number of things to do.