A Visitor’s View of Houghton’s Culture

On the second weekend of a relatively busy October, I had the opportunity to visit my closest friend, and by extension, Houghton College. Suffice it to say, I came for my friend, but by the time I had to leave, found part of myself wishing I could stay. For my friend, naturally, but also for the amazing people, events, and academic opportunities available at Houghton (and perhaps an elevator by the name of Otis had something to do with it, too).

For some background, I am currently a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a double major in political science and European studies. Now, what does it mean to attend the UofT, exactly? Well, dear readers, it means that my average class size is anywhere between 150-200 people, the expectations to succeed are so high that everyone considers one another as rivals, and the campus is so big that sometimes I have a fifteen minute walk between one lecture and another. Oh, and being ranked as Canada’s number one university, it attracts a lot of international students; particularly, the brightest and apparently best-dressed the world has to offer. To be fair though, the UofT has challenged me academically in ways I doubt I would have the ability to experience anywhere else, and I am proud of the individual I am today because of it.

Expectations vs. Reality

Going from a bustling city like Toronto to a small, rural town like Houghton may seem like it warrants a bit of adjustment, but being someone who grew up in a small American town, it really just felt a lot like coming home. Except, Houghton College completely shattered my misguided expectations of the typical small-town college, to which an apology is owed; because, you see, Houghton is an incredible intellectual hub, to which I find myself eager to know when I’ll return.

My most notable observation from my short time at Houghton was the appreciation I quickly gained for the ability to bounce information and ideas off one another. Everyone has an opinion, and to be able to have a civil discussion is integral to personal growth and intellectual development. The fact that the atmosphere at Houghton seems to be teeming with discussion about all manners of topics and viewpoints is in and of itself quite the feat. I believe it is the small and close-quartered nature of Houghton that brings you, in one way or another, into contact with so many perspectives. From someone who often never has the chance to sit next to the same person in lecture, cherish this. Please.

The Blessing of Community

At Houghton, you have people you can rely on; professors, teaching assistants, fellow classmates, and even your roommates. I’m certain every one of you has formed at least one relationship, at some point or another, with a member of the Houghton community with whom you feel comfortable asking for help– with academics, or just life in general. I’ve heard of remarkable professors who take the time to give seemingly otherworldly advice on the most mundane of matters. During my stay, I even talked with a teaching assistant, and she spoke with such passion about providing help in order to see fellow students succeed.

When it seems that life is pulling you in a rather confusing, extremely unconventional way, there’s someone you can count on to offer support to you on your journey. Whether it’s that person that happens to be studying at the same time of the night as you, or your favorite professor, I hope that you can come to realize how lucky you are to live within this kind of community.

In Closing…

To all students at Houghton, I hope that good things may always find you, you succeed in everything you set your sights on, and that you live with a passion that continues to inspire those around you. You’ve already inspired me plenty, and I’m certain I’m not the only one. Thank you to each and every one of you for making Houghton the place that it is, the college that I have had the pleasure of getting to know. Because of you, I will always think of Houghton fondly. And quite frankly, I can’t wait to visit again.

karina melendez

Karina Melendez is a junior at the University of Toronto majoring in political science and European studies.

This piece was originally published in Vol. 116, No. 7 of the Houghton Star (November 8, 2019).