The meeting concluded, I packed up my bag and started to head out of the Williams Center. Dreading the frigid Fredonia air I was about to encounter, I braced myself as I pushed open the door. Ahead of me on the steps was a fellow Fredonian, clutching the collar of his jacket against the wind.
“It’s a bit chilly out,” I told him, smiling slightly.
He laughed, “Only a little bit, but we’re used to it here, right?”
“Without a doubt. Us Fredonians, we’re troopers for sure!”
Atop the stairs, we stood for a moment chatting, bonding over the cold while (maybe rather foolishly) remaining in it. We talked about the semester so far. I told him about an icebreaker from one of my classes earlier that day. We had to give our predictions for spring — whether it was going to be an early spring or eternal polar vortex — that sort of thing.
“And what did you say?” He asked me.
“Oh, polar vortex forever — this is Fredonia we’re talking about!” We laughed. “Well, we better hurry out of this cold!”
We parted ways — he on his path toward Starbucks and I on mine.
Shivering as I headed up the steps into Mason Hall, I reflected on the short interaction I just had with a complete stranger on campus. I realized I was smiling. It’s crazy what a huge effect that an exchange of only a few words can have on a person. I’m not sure it’s normal to talk so easily with a stranger. But that’s Fredonia for you.
Everyone I know on Fredonia’s campus will attest to feeling a strong sense of community here. Even though it isn’t the largest university, I mean, only about 5000 students claim Fredonia as their own, I was struck by the fact that I may never see this guy again. Sure, maybe I’d run into him — it’s a relatively small campus after all — but it surely wouldn’t be the same as tonight.
Tonight, as lame as it may sound, we bonded over the simple shared experience of facing the bitter cold as we climbed the Williams Center’s steps. If someone would’ve overheard our conversation, they may have assumed that we were old friends, reunited by chance, catching up in a few brief minutes. Hardly even acquaintances, I felt a deeper connection to him than I’d feel to a mere stranger.
I’m not quite sure what it is that makes this experience so profound for me, but I know it has something to do with Fredonia. The people here — the people I share this campus with, we may interact once or a few times or never at all, but we’re all connected by our campus nonetheless. And a simple exchange of words in the cold Fredonia air can make you realize that you belong. There’s something beautiful in that shared connection that I think a lot of people take for granted.