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Five Lessons I've Learned This Winter Term

This is my second Winter Term on The College of Idaho campus, so I naively figured going into this January that I'd learned all the most important lessons about this accelerated 4-week period. Then I got back the first day and reminded myself of one very important thing: at C of I, if you're not learning something new or experencing new things every day, then you're doing something very wrong. Just because Winter Term is short doesn't mean there's nothing to be gained from it. Quite the contary--you can learn much more during Winter Term than the Fall and Spring terms if you really set your mind to it.

This may be by design, of course--when you're fitting classes originally meant for 6-week (or even 12-week) terms, you're going to be picking up things very, VERY quickly.

So, without further ado, here are Five Lessons I've Learned This Winter Term:

1. Caldwell can get downright freezing.

When I think about last Winter Term, the very last thing that springs to mind is the weather. I remember being very busy researching the French Revolution (specifically The Terror), playing a lot of League of Legends, and frantically rehearsing seven movements of the German choral masterpiece Ein deutsches Requiem, but I don't remember the weather being very chilly. I'm sure it was cold--winters in Idaho generally tend to be on the nippy side--but not uncomfortably cold. I don't even think it snowed until more than half way through the term...and there wasn't even that much of it.

This year? Look at the picture leading this blog post. It's COLD. I cross campus on my way to choir every day, and if I'm not wearing at least two layers, I start shivering uncontrollably. It gets even worse in the evenings. Single digit temperatures plus wind chills that cut all the way to the bone equals a very frozen Clayton. Even a quick walk from the Simplot Dining Hall back to my dorm results in numb faces and freezing phlanges. The squirrels don't seem to mind--they're still running around in the snow and eating anything they can get their paws on. The birds don't seem to mind, either--and there's nothing more ominous than walking back to my room in the darkness of Monday nights and seeing an entire murder of crows perched on the branches of every tree on campus.

Which brings me to Lesson #2...

2. Snow days are the bomb.

As I'm typing this, the campus is experiencing it's second snow day of the Winter Term. Everything ruled non-essestial is closed--no classes are held, fewer maintainence officers are around, and the student body gets an entire day to themselves.

We never got any snow days last year, and even back when I was in high school I think we only had one or two. Needless to say, I've become spoiled by the snow. Both those days have been spent in a relaxing fashion...lots of hanging out with my suitemates, lots of catching up on sleep, all accompanied by the freeing mindset of no worries (since I've had no homework for both of the snow days to date)! The first snow day, which happened the first week of the term, was a golden opportunity to just hang out in the McCain SUB and enjoy the company of pretty much everyone I know on campus. I walked into McCain that day and probably talked to everyone in there--a friend who had just returned from Thailand with some delicious rice cakes to show for it, some Delt brothers excited for the 4-day weekend, lots of folks from Campus Ministries...never had I seen the building so full without an event planned there. It made the campus seem a bit bigger than it was, if only for a day.

I'm going to miss snow days in the spring! Nothing compares to the relaxation of chilling out in the chilly weather.

3. You're either really busy all the time or really free all the time. There is no in-between.

This is kind of an extension of what I learned during last year's Winter Term, but I feel like there are two types of experiences for January at C of I: you're either swamped with homework and studying, or your class is easy enough for you to do whatever you want.

Both this year and last year, I've fallen into that first category. I'm taking 5 credits this term--PHI-331 (Ethics), MFL-111REV (French Grammar and Phonetics Review) and, of course, choir (both Chamber Singers and Chorale). Ethics is no joke--usually at least two chapters of heavy reading nightly, plus daily responses, weekly papers (short, but very involved), and a giant research paper that required us to choose a topic immediately if we had any hope of turning in a rough draft on time. French is also, alas, no joke--I'm not particularly great at grasping the subtlties of the language, so even a 1-credit review course is a lot of studying for me. And choir is never a joke, ever. Not only is Chorale preparing to sing Beethhoven with the Boise Philharmonic next month, Chamber Singers is frantically rehearsing a repertoire of challenging Eric Whitacre-composed tunes that need to be learned immediately to secure our spot in New York. That's at least an hour and a half of rehearsal per day (2 and a half on Mondays and Fridays), plus my homework from other classes and obligatory Delt business meetings. No points for guessing why I haven't posted on this blog for a while.

On the other hand, I have a few friends that are taking pretty simple classes this term. Nothing against archery or swimming, but there's not a lot of homework to do in those classes. I'm sure it's very fun, but what else is there to do with your time aside from relaxing? As far as I can tell, the student body is split like this during the winter, with some stressing out and others being completely relaxed.

The reason I'm relearning this is because this second two weeks of term is actually a lot less busy for me. Now that my research paper in Ethics is nearly complete, all I have to worry about is French and Choir, two things much more managable now that I need to worry about Ethics less. So I'm starting to have a bit more free time...which is new to me for Winter Term. Much appreciated, though!

4. I have no restraint in games like blackjack.

The wonderful women of Kappa Kappa Gamma hosted their major philanthropic event "Kappa Casino" last Friday. Before anyone calls the cops, fear not--no actual gambling was taking place. The $5 buy-in was for play chips only, with the proceeds going to Reading is Fundamental. It was all the fun of casino games without any of the risk!

Unfortunately, I think the fact that there was no risk was causing me to make some rather silly ones with my play money. I sat at the same blackjack table most of the night (since I know I have no poker face and I know that roulette is a sucker's bet), and by the end of the night I was almost completely out of chips. I would bet my stake with reckless abandon, thinking I was on a hot streak or otherwise thinking my luck would turn around. By the time I was low on chips, I was goading other people at my table to bet some big money, much to their chagrin if they listened to me. I'm sure if my chips equaled real cash I would be more careful, but they weren't, so I let it all ride.

It didn't turn out that well for me, obviously, but I had a lot of fun. It was a classy event, and I'm sure the KKGs raised a ton of money for their charity!

5. Firefly may be one of the coolest, most underrated shows ever made. Like, ever.

A close friend of mine placed me in a Facebook group near the start of the term called "Firefly in Voorhees," devoted to spending one night a week watching the sci-fi cult classic series Firefly, directed and written by the super talented Joss Whedon. To this point, I had never seen the show, but had heard pretty much every friend I've ever made sing it's praises.

For those of you that don't know the premise of the show, here's a quick premise: It's half past the future and we're in space now. The United States and China pooled their resources and colonized a bunch of planets under their joint jurisdiction, and expansion continues into the darker regions. These planets are more lawless in nature, full of black market dealings, greed, and violent diplomacy. It's a sci-fi version of the Wild West, with some pirates thrown in for good measure. And for those of you that don't know the show's history, it was made back in 2002, but due to some major executive meddling and horrible time slots, it got canceled without even airing its entire first season.

It's also really, really epic. Just saying.

Seriously, upon watching the pilot with about 18 of my closest friends, I sat there and stuttered at the television, which is my way of showing maximum approval for something. We proceeded to watch the next three episodes. And tonight we're going to be watching even more of them.

So. Excited. Really. Really. REALLY. Excited.

-Clayton Gefre

Clayton is a sophomore creative writing major from Meridian, Idaho.