Conversation in the Cold

a simple exchange of words in Fredonia’s winter air

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.

Next Story — Friendship Founded on Fred Fest
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Friendship Founded on Fred Fest

friends that Fred Fest together, stay friends forever

My freshman year, I wasn’t as outgoing as I am now.

During housing selection for the following year, I met a girl who was going to be my future suitemate. Shyly smiling at each other, we didn’t really have much to talk about. After some small talk, we reached the inevitable topic of the season: Fred Fest.

We discovered that although both of us had been greatly looking forward to the college’s tradition, we were unsure if we would be participating this year. All of my friends were going to be away at a track meet and all of her friends would be out of town as well, some visiting home and others at a softball tournament.

“I don’t know about how you Fred Fest,” she admitted. “But I feel like it wouldn’t be much fun to go about it alone.”

Nodding, I expressed disappointment in missing out on the age-old tradition of Fred Fest when I was hit by a sudden idea. Now, I didn’t know this girl — we’d only just met, but she seemed nice enough.

I was feeling bold for some reason. Maybe it was the allure of Fred Fest. Or maybe it was fate.

“Why don’t we Fred Fest together?!” I asked her excitedly, half-expecting her not to accept my offer. Instead I was surprised by a radiant smile on her face and an enthusiastic “Yes!”

On that fateful day of Fred Fest, she and I met up outside her residence hall and found we were wearing matching t-shirts — shirts with a message of Fredonia pride—however witty they may have been. Walking to Steele Hall for the Lupe Fiasco concert, we wished other passing Fredonians a “Happy Fred Fest!”

It felt like Christmas.

We were floored by the opening acts — bands made up of Fredonia students who were unbelievably talented. And then Lupe came on and we thought it was the coolest thing that an actual celebrity was performing at our college. Our feet hurt the next morning from all the dancing we did that night.

She and I were reminiscing the other day on how uncharacteristic it was of our freshman selves to go out on a limb and hang out with a complete stranger. We agree that it was one of the best decisions we made while in college.

That stranger from my freshman year Fred Fest has been one of my best friends for two years now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We can’t wait to celebrate our “friendship anniversary” at Fred Fest this year.

Many say you find your best friends in college. But she and I know better than that. We know from experience that you find your very best friends on Fred Fest.

Next Story — Fredonia Blue
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Fredonia Blue

an unexpected reminder from an insider looking out

“Who wants to share their poem with the class?” My creative writing professor gazed around the room looking for raised hands. Our homework had been to write a poem pertaining to our thoughts and feelings of home.

A few hands went up. Each of the poems shared were unique in their own way, but had a similar underlying tone of fond remembrance and childlike innocence. The poems were all puppies and ice cream trucks — white picket fences and blue skies filled with sunshine. Until the final poem.

A final, tentative hand rose up and the professor smiled encouragingly toward the back of class. I was surprised at the volunteer since this particular student wasn’t known to participate much in class — aside from a few grunts of approval (and disapproval) now and again.

Dressed all in black, a girl with edgy style and short, blue hair cleared her throat as she began to read. My mind wandering, I began to think of a better word to describe the color of her hair — one of the exercises my creative writing professor encouraged us to do. Blue is a boring word. Think outside the Crayola pack of crayons for your descriptions, I heard my professor’s voice tell me in my head.

My professor’s voice was quickly silenced by the words of the poem that reverberated off of the classroom walls. The poem began on a somber note telling of a dark and drab place full of close-minded people. A place where the speaker was not accepted and never truly belonged.

Always the fish out of water, confined to a fishbowl of tiny borders.
Struggling against the current, doing my best not to drown.
Stifling clouds of gray engulfing me in a choke-hold, with one final burst
I push away. I escape. I am free.

Voice trembling slightly, the girl paused for a moment and blinked her eyes. Feeling more confident, she continued:

But this place from the past, though where I’m from is not home.
This place does not define me — gets no say in who I’ve become.
Driving to the thruway, off at Exit 59.
Here is where I’ve found myself — Fredonia, finally a home that’s truly mine.

The poem went on for a few more stanzas describing how she finally found herself at home in college here at Fredonia. The poem’s mood lightened considerably with a new tone of acceptance and belonging.

Done reading, she sighed and shyly looked up from her paper. Everyone started snapping (it’s a thing you do for poetry readings). She brushed a piece of hair from her eyes and smiled back at the class.

A color to describe her hair finally came to me:

Fredonia Blue.
Next Story — Alone in a Snow Globe
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Alone in a Snow Globe

a special spot on Fredonia’s campus

Sometimes, you just get overwhelmed.

And you need to get away from it all, but where do you go?

There’s this little, tucked-away space of hallway on the second floor of Mason Hall that has windows for walls. Sitting in there is like being in a snow globe. Its the perfect spot to sit and think — or not think at all.

Sitting there, I feel safe.

The occasional music student will pass me by — staring curiously at a non-music major sitting alone in the music building hallway, probably wondering what I’m doing there, not recognizing the peace that this little hallway has to offer.

One especially snowy day, I was overwhelmed by the usual college stress, so I headed to one of my favorite spots on Fredonia’s campus — the snow globe. Upon my arrival, I closed my eyes, and began to breathe slowly in and out. Leaning against the glass, I became cold. The snow swirled around me — a few snowflakes landing on the windows, held hostage by the glass.

Suddenly, I had a feeling of warmth on my left side. I opened an eye to see that a girl had joined me.

“I never realized what a neat place this was,” she mused aloud. It wasn't clear whether she was talking to herself or to me.

We continued to sit there, not speaking. Part of me felt as if she was intruding on my special place because this part of me was brooding and wanted to dwell in being alone. Yet another part of me willed her to stay.

“Look at them out there,” she nodded to the stream of students below us making their way through campus. “It’s funny, I feel so removed from them sitting in here. But it’s also like I’m with them… Does that make any sense?”

Opening my eyes, I turned my head to look at her and found her bright green eyes gazing at me intently. “So, you want to talk about it — I mean, whatever it is?” She asked me, a note of concern in her tinkling voice.

Surprised, I looked back toward the windows for a moment. I began to watch everything outside with new eyes. Seeing all those around me just a little bit differently. Sitting there, no longer alone, I smiled and looked back towards the snow globe’s newest guest.

In that moment, the snow globe had shown me that being alone wasn’t the solution for being overwhelmed. Actually, that’s not what I needed at all. It was as if the snow globe knew that. And that’s why the snow globe brought me this concerned stranger who sat there, tentatively waiting for me to speak.

The snow swirled around us, a flurry of soft white. Snowflakes landed on the window, resting to kiss the glass.

There in the snow globe, we introduced ourselves and our friendship officially began.

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