Printer-friendly version
Sydney Menees

I'm Not in Kansas Anymore

November 12, 2008 at 10:57 PM

I have been lurking here, but I have not been inspired to post for a long while.  This is my first time posting as a college student.  It was just three months and three days ago the college life began for me, but it seems like eternity.  My high school prepared me well for the academia. In fact, it might have prepared me too well as I am finding the workload much more manageable than high school…  My classes are very interesting, but unfortunately, I have found academics to be the least of my worries.  Having only attended music camps, I was not prepared for “typical” college students – the ones who drink/get high constantly, thunder down the halls at night, throw up in the bathroom and neglect to clean it up, blast music at 3 AM, etc.  Since being here I have lost a lot of faith in my generation.  It’s a sad day when one reminisces about curfews!

Another unexpected aspect to this whole college experience is the homesickness.  I have been at month long camps before thousands of miles away and never felt any homesickness whatsoever, but that definitely has changed in college. I live 1,277 miles away from home, so I have not been home yet.  Luckily, my parents did visit for Parents Weekend, so I have not been completely deprived.  It is strange, though, that after 10 years of begging to leave Kansas, I want to return….

The music program is fantastic here.  I am not a member of the conservatory (I have no intention of making music my career), but I am in the non-conservatory orchestra, which is surprisingly high caliber.  I also attended the conservatory’s first orchestra concert of the year this past Sunday and they did a great job.  David Krakauer, an amazing clarinetist on faculty here, soloed Debussy and some very entertaining klezmer music.  It was my first time seeing a clarinet soloist and I observed some very masterful circular breathing!  I’m not exaggerating when I say they were multiple notes held 30+ seconds.  After intermission, the orchestra performed Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2.  Having performed this particular symphony myself, I could really appreciate everything about it.  I am fairly certain that there can be no better way to end a concert than the jubilant last movement. At least my love for Rachmaninov prevails.

And just for good measure, the Hudson River:


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 12:31 AM

Welcome back, Sydney.  Where are you now (college, city)?  I'm glad that you're enjoying music at school, even if the rest of the college experience is not good for you now.  I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.

From Sydney Menees
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 12:37 AM

 Thanks, Pauline!  It's good to be back. :)  I'm at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 1:38 AM

Ah, my heart goes out to you, Sydney!  Your writing looks like something out of my freshman journal.  That first semester was the roughest of all.  I promise, next semester will be better!

From Ray Randall
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 2:09 AM

Once you get the hang of college and make friends the homesickness will fade.Ignore the jerks that drug up, drink, and make pests of themselves.

Nice picture, good job.

From Anthony Barletta
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 3:25 AM

Hi Sydney, I suspect from your writing that you are a gifted and special young lady.  The behavioral problems you describe are most prevalent in freshman dorms and the like and can be very distracting.  For me this was solved by alternative housing (an off campus apartment).  Once you make some solid friends, perhaps you can venture out and find another place to live.  Just hang in there.  You'll figure it out.  Best of luck.

From Aaron Schiff
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 3:28 AM

I remember Bard as a wonderful college in a beautiful setting and my friends who went there got an excellent education.  Congratulations on getting in. 

First, don't worry too much about the drunks and dopers.  They will drop out, flunk out, or wise up shortly.  I couldn't say that about the University of Colorado (my home state for the past 35 years), but I suspect Bard has not changed that much since I used to visit friends there. 

Second, I understand the loneliness.  I moved from southern California to the University of Virginia in the early '60s, before air travel was common and, boy, was I homesick for the first year.  But as I began to be involved in local community and college activities the homesickness lessened.  The worst was Christmas my first year when everybody else eventually went home and I was alone with nothing open on campus and no stores or restaurants open in town.  Don't let that happen to you!  Involve yourself in local activities like churches, tutoring programs for younger kids, environmental cleanup, or whatever, and you will soon find a group of friends who are not completely dependent on the college for their social life. 

You must have had an excellent program in high school.  I got all A's without working and then when I got to college, I discovered that everybody else was a smart as me and I had to figure out how to study.  By my senior year I had classes and homework down to a diligent 40 hour week which left time for other activities. 

And, ENJOY that gorgeous Hudson River valley and the Catskills.  I'm a little envious.  BTW, be sure to read or re-read plenty of Washington Irving while you're there. 

From E. Call
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 4:10 AM

Hey Sydney,

First term is always the toughest. I'm at Bennington, which is sort of similar to Bard, and it just takes time to get into the groove (especially at schools like ours, which are kind of...not traditional). I am actually looking to take term at Bard next fall, hopefully in the conservatory. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, chin up. You'll get into the swing of things by next term. It's just a matter of finding the right group of people, the right professors, the right things to study...Everything will fall into place. No worries! =)

From Karin Lin
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 5:40 AM

Hey Syd, thanks for taking a break from your busy life to update us.  I don't have any brilliant words of advice to add to what others have said...just to let you know I love you and I'm glad you're hanging in there!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 6:02 AM

 Gorgeous picture! It's great to hear from you, and I'm glad you are still fiddlin'! I still remember when my parents dropped me off in Chicago for school, then they turned around and went back to Denver. I realized that the only people I knew, for hundreds of miles in every direction, had just left the room, and at that moment, I knew no one! Panic! But I found my way, just keep doing things you like (and not doing things you don't like), and you will find other people who like the same things!

From Mendy Smith
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 7:28 AM

Welcome back Sydney! 

Ahhhhhh, freshman year in college dorm life.  I hope at least you have good plumbing (not getting scalded in the shower when someone flushes).  The first year is the most difficult.  Many go a bit wild that first year pushing their new found freedom to the edge, and sometimes over the edge.  Over the course of the year, and coming into finals, it will calm down - significantly.  Until then, remember to keep your dorm-room door locked at night when the parties flare up.  You could have unintended visitors who forget what room is their's.  But that is another story all together ;)

Homesickness will pass in time.  Keeping up violin will help tremedously.  You'll make many new friends quickly that share your passion for music being in the college orchestra.  Enjoy this time.  It only happens once in a lifetime.

From Royce Faina
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 3:41 PM

I can apreciate what you have experienced so far. I work for the University of Wyoming as a custodian..... and Guess What????? :^p

It's sad watching people do too themselves what they do. But also a thrill watching people better themselves and grow up!!!!! So far what Ray, Emily, Laurie and the rest have advised proves true... I've been here 6 years and I see it every day. Like minded ones will find you and you them. I admire the good students that I get too know and they are some of my favorite treasures.

Bare something else in mind.... This is something of a transformation / initiation. You are emerging more fully out of your chysalis drying / trying your wings. The only 'child' of you that will be left will be the inner-child. And so it's also an ending as it is a loss. But a new begining also and what an exciting time to be alive!!!! You know this but you are now feeling the whole effect. No worries... being a fully fledged grown up is a "BLAST" as you will discover! And I'm shure that before you complete college you just may mentor someone adding your name amoung the ranks of Emily, Laurie, and Ray about these current times of yours and preping him or her.

Best Wishes,

Royce Faina

From Tom Holzman
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 3:51 PM

Good luck!  Bard is a long way from Kansas, especially culturally.  You will get used to it if you stay open to some of the new experiences it offers (and stay away from some of the others you do not need).  One thing nice about Bard is that the president, Leon Botstein, is a prominent conductor and person in the music world.  So, Bard is a great place for musicians.  Enjoy yourself and sample some of the things that Kansas did not offer.

From George Fillerup
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 7:03 PM

Sydney,  do not lose faith in your generation!  Nothing much has changed and I'm 5 generations ahead of you.  Unfortunately, I was one of the animals you speak of.  Take faith, we all grow up eventually..........Good luck in your studies and stay in school......

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 8:10 PM

I understand you!  I am too at college now but I went at public high school with punks and gothics and people who were very bitchy with me! (girls (bitches) started  stories at my subject at school and ran after me, put my books in the garbage or even spit water in my direction etc If I had tell them that I did violin...  No one did violin or any types of classical music there! So I new about the crazy sides of the young generation but i think the society is creating it.  I mean the population is going bigger and bigger and so is the competition.  Now the standard education for having a specific job is higher and because of the technology it's harder than before.  When I see what my parents did at school, it was easier than now; when I see what the younger than me are doing at school, it is harder than in my time and the viscious circle is going on... (please people of 40 + don't take it bad, I recognize you value and I know it was not easy in your time either!)  + the pressure on the young girls is terrific!  You have to look great and be successful but doing the two at the same time is only possible for a few lucky ones. and no wonder a lot of young girls are depressive! I am in science at cegep and I can say that with everything we have to do, it is easy to loose your balance in your head!  The people in science with me don't want at all to go in science or pure maths and me either bot how ironic that if no ones likes it, we are studiyng it?  The answer is simple:  people in my program and me included want to have a secure (well the most possible) job.  In my program, (I have heard it by teachers)Only a tiny part will be able to go in the health jobs they wanted and some will quit and some will be stuck to do a job they hate for the rest of their life.  We start with 7 groups and only about 2 to 4 groups graduate just to tell how exhausting it can be for students.  It's not normal! Do you know how many kids are forced (or force themselves) to study in something they hate just in order of having a good job's perspective?  The society wants poeple in certain jobs more than in others anf find many ways to succed in this little game (giving better salaries in some jobs etc)The companies are not anymore faithful to their employes and the young adults really feel that they are never good ennough to reach this "high standard" that we have nowadays.  Also for those who are conscious of the wildlife, pollution issues etc it can be frightning to imagine how everything will be and especially for those who want to raise kids in this... 

So, I think that if the young generation is like this, it is a lot because of the social values and the too competitive world!  I have given only a few exemples of some issues the young ones have to deal with! 

Hang on Sydney!  You will know more people like you in the futur! 


From Bill Busen
Posted on November 13, 2008 at 11:56 PM

So next school year about the third week in, when you see that unhappy looking freshman sitting by themselves at lunch, you'll know what you should do.  :-)

From Alayna Faulkenberg
Posted on November 14, 2008 at 1:22 AM

Definitely not Kanses. :P

Wait for next year academically...I thought the load wasn't so bad my first year...and the real trick is finding practice time. Good luck!

From Elizabeth Musil
Posted on November 14, 2008 at 7:01 AM

Hi Sydney,

Moving far away from home for the time is always difficult and it will take awhile to get used to a new enivornment, being on your own, and creating a new circle of friends.  For those things you have to be a bit patient, and make sure that you get out and explore your new area and your new opportunities.

Having myself just finished college and having moved to a different country, there are a couple of things that you could do to help yourself out so you don't feel so homesick and make the transition to your new place a bit easier.

The first thing to consider is where you are living.  Having a place where you can relax and feel comfortable at the end of the day is essential and can make all the difference in the world.  It doesn't sound like you have this in the dorm where you are living.  If you still want to live in a dorm, you might go look at the different dormitories on campus - each dorm has its own feel and character.  Dorms with more upper-classmen and/or honor's program students will provide a much better environment for you, and while these students will also sometimes throw a party, get drunk, or run around wild through the halls, they will usually shut up if people complain about noise, restrict their goings-on to times when people don't need to study as much, and most importantly, clean up their own puke. :)  You would also probably be more likely to find people here that share your own interests or with whom you have more in common.  Another option of course would be to move off campus completely, although then you lose the experience of dorm life, which can be really quite good once you are away from the party dorm....

Combating homesickness is always a hard one, but thankfully with transportation and technology you can still have close contact with friends and family at home.  Do you have a webcam/microphone?  Do you have Skype?  Skype is the best friend of anyone living far away from home - you can phone for free with webcam from computer to computer, chat, or for very minimal cost call from your computer to a landline.  If you leave it on all the time, and your parents/friends do as well, then it is almost like being there with them, and you can send a message or have a chat anytime.  Having close contact with old friends and relatives helps a lot when you are homesick.

And finally, be active.  Get out and do things.  Keep an eye out for notices and postings announcing things going on in the area, and go to them.  Ask someone from your hall to go with you, or call that person that you randomly met and exchanged phone numbers with, talk to people when you are there, and most importantly, make yourself go out and do something even if you really don't want to (ie. because you are depressed, homesick, tired, etc.)  Once you get to know the area better, and find the people who have like-interests, life will seem a lot better.  Good luck!

From Mara Gerety
Posted on November 14, 2008 at 4:41 PM

Ugh, sounds like you're living in my dorm from last year. Especially first semester it was pretty unbearable--the very first night my roommate staggered back at 4 a.m., extremely inebriated, with an equally inebriated and shirtless guy in tow. Thankfully he turned out to be gay, so the extreme awkwardness I'd been anticipating never came to pass, but there's still something unsettling about waking up in the morning and stepping on a near-naked man as you crawl out of bed.

Basically, there's a lot about freshman year that sucks and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. Just practice, go to class, and spend the rest of the time hiding out somewhere (some nice coffee house, maybe) with a iPod and a good book.

P.S. isn't Peter Laki on the faculty at Bard now? He used to be at Oberlin and he's awesome...

From Sydney Menees
Posted on November 14, 2008 at 6:10 PM

 HAHAHA!  Mara, I so called that one! Yes, Peter is my advisor and I'm in a class of his and we're going to start talking about Hungarian music.  You would die.

From Sydney Menees
Posted on November 14, 2008 at 6:11 PM

 Thanks, everyone, for your advise.  I'm very glad to know that quite a number of you survived what I'm going through!

From Bram Heemskerk
Posted on November 14, 2008 at 10:05 PM

Hi, I also played 2th symphony of Rachmaninov (and Symphonic dances). For some strange reason they never play his 1th and 3th symphony. I made  a Youtube-video of the 4th movement of his 1th symphony with  images of the TransSiberian Express from Moskou till Vladiwostoc:

From Terez Mertes
Posted on November 15, 2008 at 3:00 AM

Bram, I couldn't get your link to work - too bad! : (

Sydney, what the others said! (Except that, er, maybe I was one of those wild ones, my freshman year. Like, really wild. Gulp.) Good to hear from you, and I can appreciate, too, the confusion of "I thought I wanted to leave Kansas, but now all I want is Kansas." (This would be when I moved to Africa. Not to California. California rocks. I do not miss Kansas here.)

From Bram Heemskerk
Posted on November 15, 2008 at 8:38 AM

Terez, you can easily find the video on my Youtube-website  Sydney has experience with adapting to a new environment, because she lived for half a year in Germany with her family. This is a different step, because now she lives somewhere else in the US on her own, but in the same country with the same language. Was she also homesick to Kansas when she lived in Germany?

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine