The time is 7:30 am. You waited for this moment. Yesterday your friends were wondering why you couldn’t make it to the Friday party, but you told them because tomorrow is Saturday. You know every Saturday you have to go on a long run. You must venture where not many of your classmates have ventured before: the city of Wooster.
As a runner, there are days that I am alone, allowing me to have time to reflect. But in Wooster, the experience is different from where I live. Unlike my perfect and privileged hometown, Wooster is a city that tells a story of beauty, ugliness, and many things in between. It’s easy to poke fun at the town life beyond our campus by using stereotypes such as “hillbillies” and “trumpies,” yet when I transport myself with my legs I see a more complicated story. Yet, most students at the College who have been here for at least a year in-person know of this, and so can anyone who simply Googles Wooster. Truthfully, I don’t think this newer part of town represents all of Wooster.
I always find environmental clues to the other side of Wooster through the long runs on those early Saturdays. I find that Wooster, like many cities at one time, was a bustling industrial site for factory work. There, I traverse with my trainer shoes in what could appear to be a ghost town with abandoned tracks and run down buildings. I would consider such a trip an expedition through an abandoned site if it weren’t for the fact that it’s not entirely desolate. Still, new businesses have sprung in the area including the Wooster Brush company and Fritos not far behind the relics of the old. It just makes me wonder, will these buildings remain in use before they join the capitalist relics of old?
One route that also tells me more about the town of Wooster than my time studying is interestingly, not exactly in Wooster. In what is dubbed, the “Flatlands” is exactly what an non-Ohioan, such as myself, would come to expect the state to be —endless fields of grass and farms on the outskirts of the city. Venturing here offered me the sights of isolated farming homes, tall stalks of corn, the usual MAGA flags from the previous year’s election, and most interestingly – oil drilling and “fracking.” These terms are something alien to my East Coast perception of the midwest where the only place I heard of these terms is through cautious documentaries like “Gaslands”. On a long run, it’s just another piece of the landscape, despite the known environmental issues that it brings. Despite these odd observations, I still find beauty in the sun, and the endless fields of green out here which you don’t see in Wooster. It’s a quieter and more breathtaking space and experience.
So, how do adventures help give insight to the average student at the College of Wooster? I’d say first and foremost that we must turn our attention to the purpose of our college: being a liberal arts college. No, I don’t mean to wage a crusade against the conservative majority population. Instead, I ask to use our holistic skills and abilities and apply it to better understanding our city like we do our College. My two-and-a-half years here have shown me that I have more to learn about the place we live in beyond our protective shells of campus life. Sure, there are many obstacles to this such as placing safety first, the fear of catcalling, or even worse, but we can always try in our own ways. It’s what makes our ‘Woo.’