A greasy chicken patty and a Mountain Dew might not be the healthiest lunch, but it’s about all Kristi Thompson has time for these days. A junior graphic design major at Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, Kristi is the typical college student, trying to balance the demanding load of 17.5 credit hours, work, and friends.
“I take it step by step,” Kristi says matter-of-factly. “You can’t take it too far ahead or you go insane.”
But life as a college student, especially on a Christian campus, is about much more than textbooks and art projects.
“I think it’s about gaining more direction in where you want to go, discovering more about who you are away from your family and hometown,”says Kristi, a native of Becker, Minnesota.
Over lunch Kristi shares how a small-town Minnesota girl ended up at an Indiana college over 600 miles away.
“I wanted to go to a Christian college with a graphic design major,” she says. “And I wanted professors who would challenge me from a Christian perspective. There weren’t any schools around my house I liked. I found plane tickets for $79 to Indy, visited Anderson and Huntington, and decided I liked Huntington better.”
To see what life’s really like on a Christian campus, take a closer look at Kristi’s typical day.
It’s Tuesday at 7:15 a.m. on a cold March morning. Kristi drags herself out of bed, running on six hours of sleep.
“Today will be busy because I have a photo project due tomorrow,” she says. “And Thursday I have a self-portrait due, and Friday I’m driving home for spring break.”
But despite all the stress, she’s fairly happy this morning. She walks across campus to Becker Hall for figure drawing class, her arms juggling an art box crammed with drawing supplies.
“It’s actually a toolbox,” Kristi says with a laugh, “converted into an art box because I can’t afford a real one.”
As a college student, money is tight, but when asked how she deals with her growing stack of student loans, Kristi sighs. “I don’t. I sort of forget about them though I am working to pay them off.”
Up on the third floor of Becker Hall art easels and still-lifes clutter the room. After a brief lecture, the class begins drawing from a live model. The room is silent except for the scratch of pencils and the erasers rubbing over sketchbooks. Kristi tilts her head back with a puzzled expression, erasing a few marks from the arm.
“He keeps moving,” she whispers to her friend Sarah with a tone of comic exasperation.
After class, Kristi walks down the college mall to chapel with the bell tower chiming the hymn Blessed Assurance.
“On my drawing, the whole arm is moving,” she says, still laughing about class. “He has three arms.”
In chapel, the mood is decidedly different. No silence; hundreds of conversations zing back and forth across the auditorium as students enter in. Kristi finds her friends in the second row. The first guitar chord strikes and an hour of praise and worship time follows.
“It is so refreshing,” Kristi says of chapel. “It’s really nice, even though I have a whole lot to do, to have to sit in chapel for an hour, totally switch gears and concentrate on what’s truly important. It puts things in perspective.”
Kristi next heads to her second class of the day, magazine and feature writing. The class is part of her writing minor; she hopes someday to write and illustrate her own children’s books. Today, they talk about freelance writing for trade magazines and share their story ideas.
“I’m writing about Dilbert the cow,” Kristi says with a sheepish grin, telling a story from her grandfather’s dairy farm.
At lunchtime, Kristi grabs that chicken patty and Mountain Dew from Huntington’s student center and eats a quick lunch in her dorm kitchen.
“I’ve been so busy lately I’ve been reverting back to my ‘freshman fifteen’ year,” she laughs, referring to the extra pounds freshmen sometimes gain in their first college year.
Back in her room, she e-mails her mom, who keeps in touch by e-mailing Kristi every morning.
“I didn’t really have homesickness,” Kristi says about her first few years of college. “I’ve never really dealt with it.”
She does, however, wish Minnesota were in easy driving distance.
“Sometimes I wish I could go home for a weekend,” she says, wistfully looking at her screensaver with its picture of her new nephew, whom she has yet to meet. “I can’t wait to hold him,” she gushes. “Look at his big cheeks.”
Kristi’s roommate, Kelly, is a junior chemistry major. Their dorm room walls tell their differences—a periodic table poster on one side, a Renoir print on the other.
“You learn more about yourself living with different people,” Kristi reflects, adding she’s been lucky with her roommates during her three years of college.
At 1 p.m. Kristi heads to printmaking class with her friend Lynsi. Kristi painstakingly works on texturing her sketch of a barn, laughing and getting covered in glue.
“That’s why we love art,” says Professor Ken Hopper. “We get to get dirty.”
Kristi’s first break after class involves making supper for friends in the dorm. She often cooks with a group of four girls.
“It’s nice and relaxing,” she says. “It’s good to talk about our days with people who care.”
After dinner and chatting online with friends, Kristi decides to put in more hours on her self-portrait drawing. She holds it up.
“Do you think it looks like me?” she asks despairingly.
Twenty minutes later, the self-portrait is set aside, awaiting later artistic inspiration. Kristi, who is art editor of the college yearbook, instead goes to work on endsheets before heading to finish a photo project at the darkroom.
Heading over to the darkroom, Kristi laughs about the dangers of being an art major.
“Every once in awhile, I look down at my hands and am thankful all my fingers are still there,” she says, only half-joking.
It’s 9 p.m. when she finally reaches the darkroom, hoping her Mountain Dew will start kicking in. Eight photo prints and four hours later, she crawls into bed, trying to catch some sleep before the alarm clock rings again in the morning.