We all love it here — right? — but sometimes you can’t help but wonder about the road not taken. Maddy Popkin, formerly ’14, took the plunge and left Gambier for New York City after her freshman year. You should do the same! Or maybe not. Your choice.
Maddy Popkin, where do you go to school currently?
I currently go to Barnard College.
Why did you transfer? Why did you leave us?
The better question is why I decided on Kenyon in the first place, which I can’t really answer, because I was very disengaged from the college process. I knew that I was taking a year off in between high school and college, so I was really, really not invested. I left because I wasn’t happy, and I think I wasn’t happy largely because I had just taken a year off and I was totally on my own, doing my own thing. I feel like everyone’s first year is, like, not always a pleasant experience. I didn’t feel good about where I was, so I started looking at other schools in like November, December of my first year. I just really really did not work well with being in the middle of nowhere and only having college life around.
What were you doing on your gap year?
The first half I was volunteering at a school for special needs kids in Peru, and the second half I was living at home teaching English classes and doing citizenship interview training at the Hispanic Development Corporation in Newark.
So even living at home felt more independent to you than living at Kenyon?
Peru felt more independent. I wasn’t super psyched about living at home, but I was happy with what I was doing. Also I didn’t have a car at Kenyon, and I had a car at home, and that was definitely part of it, just being trapped in Gambier.
Was it really important to you to get into an urban environment?
I guess after being at Kenyon I wanted to be in a more urban environment, but it was really about Barnard. I think being in New York is a big part of Barnard’s resources and opportunities and whatnot, but I loved the women’s college aspect, and a bunch of the programs they offered were really attractive to me, like the human rights major — which I thought I was going to do but I didn’t end up doing — and the women’s studies program.
What was the transferring process like? Was it really hard?
It wasn’t hard. I guess it was a little annoying because it was like doing freshman year over again, socially. It was a little bit hard the first five months, I would say. Until December break. But it’s really just about finding friends and getting involved in campus life and whatnot. It was definitely the right place for me, so it’s been easy to adjust.
When you first got to Barnard, did you ever start to doubt your decision?
Yeah, definitely. It’s a really common experience with transfers. I still occasionally am like, “Wow, it would be really nice to have that middle-of-nowhere liberal arts education.” Barnard is totally not like that. On the weekends, it’s totally dead on campus. People are doing their own things, which I like.
You’re a women’s, gender, and sexuality studies major. What do you do extracurricularly?
Well so I’m a women’s studies major with a concentration in racial and ethic studies and Spanish minor. Extracurricularly, I’m one of the presidents of Q, which is our queer group. I’m involved in IvyQ which is a conference that the Ivy League schools hold yearly for queer people. I am a peer educator at our health and wellness office, which is AWESOME. We have office hours, so people come in who have questions or want to talk, and we also do workshops for RAs and other groups about, like, healthy eating or sex and sexuality. So that takes up a lot of my time and energy because I LOVE IT.
What classes are you taking this semester?
I’m taking bio because I have to, Afro-Cuban dance for my PE requirement but it’s also awesome, and I’m taking a class called Feminism and Science Studies and a feminist media theory class.
Do you have any idea what you want to do in your long-term future?
I’m not sure. I’m thinking public health these days.
Do you feel like Barnard was a better place for you to pursue that than Kenyon?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I was like 17 when I was applying to colleges, so, who knows what they want? I think it works out for some people and it doesn’t work out for others. And Barnard was definitely better, at least for me. Maybe if I had gotten into Barnard in the first place I would have transferred out of Barnard because I was just in a weird life place when I was a freshman, being a year older and having done all those things when I took a year off.
Where would you transfer to if you could? Also if you know someone who transferred, dropped out, or took time off and had a great time, email firstname.lastname@example.org