Leaving Leadville; A Graduate’s Perspective
By Anna Sophia Wolner, Associate of Arts, Spring ’16
How do you summarize an experience? When I sat down to reflect on my experience here, at Colorado Mountain College and in Leadville, I thought about how it all began.
I remember my very first day in Leadville. I had only seen pictures, only ogled gorgeous mountain views on Google images. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure if the mountains in the distance were real or just a backdrop (turns out they are, in fact, actually there). In our car, packed to the brim with my life in boxes, my parents drove me to Colorado Mountain College’s campus. Up and up the hill we went, soaking-in the sights and arriving at the residence hall, among similar haphazard caravans and wide-eyed freshman.
That first day, of course, was cliché: new students, each assuming they were the most confused and uninformed, herded into groups and carrying boxes to and fro. This is a day we all recognize as flustering and frighteningly new. This is a day when Leadville became our new home.
The next several semesters would echo the magic of that first day, where we met roommates, new friends, and people very different from ourselves—an energetic commingling essential to any college experience. It was comforting to know fellow students were in the same situation as myself, we could bond over our shared new experiences.
I didn’t know it then, but Leadville and the CMC community would become so important to who I am today. Venturing to a school out of state was the first step in my journey. While that took what felt like a feat of courage, I now look back and smile, knowing I have grown far stronger since then.
Colorado Mountain College afforded me excellent professors and incredibly helpful staff—people who not only have passion for their subject or field, but know my name and sincerely care about my future. I felt extremely cared for, this was an incentive for me to strive for further success in education. The kind of personal support I received while attending CMC Leadville indubitably encouraged and resulted in my growth, both as a student and a fledgling adult.
Living off-campus in Leadville was the next step in my education. Here, I was no longer a fresh-eyed, freshman, overwhelmed. Rather, I had new responsibilities, I was integrated into the day-to-day life of the Leadville community.
I walked everywhere—to the grocery store, school, and coffee shops. Along the way, I noticed brightly colored houses with personalities equally as vibrant. I watched the seasons change in this little mountain town, while Leadvillians remained unflinchingly resilient against the harsh elements. Extreme weather was often embraced as a cultural necessity—these people and this place are tough with gooey-warm centers. Winding down slanted streets, I grew to love this place, these people, this routine that felt like home.
Sometimes solitude got the best of me, sometimes cabin fever never felt so real. The mountains sometimes felt domineering and I got a little lonely. However, this taught me to be strong. This taught me how to be fiercely independent. So maybe sometimes we need to be thrown into the deep snow to find out how much cold we can withstand, and how to warm-up afterwards. What I found, when times were tough, was that people survive here by the support of community. CMC is a diverse community of individuals, the mix keeps classes and leisure time lively. Small communities, on campus or off, tend to care more deeply about its members. This is the kind of place where people learn your name without you telling them.
As I leave Leadville, my heart is full. Full of the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met. When I moved here for school in August of 2014, I was wide-eyed and unfamiliar with the culture of Leadville and of Colorado. It took initial confidence to get my feet wet in this new place—but eventually I found a rhythm. I established a routine, a sense of place in the community at CMC as well as within the community of Leadville. This place will forever be within me, I will carry it piecemeal to each new place I go, with each new adventure I embark upon.
I may be leaving Leadville, but Leadville will never leave me.