Perspectives on Bicentennial Weekend from a Student

5 min read

Olivia Silvey ’25


My job for the Bicentennial Weekend was to come up to Hartford and get a story. Until the very moment that I wrote this, which was late on that Saturday night while many Trinity alumni were still tearing up that dance floor, I thought the story would focus on a speaker event or special dinner. I thought I would go, take my notes, and write up the 5 Ws (and H) of a basic news story. Don’t get me wrong, the events and dinners and speakers were all fantastic, but that was not the story of this weekend. Instead, the story I want to tell — feel called to tell — is how I see Trinity now; how the ways I talk and think and walk about the place have utterly changed, thanks to those two days in early June.  

My attitude towards my school has fluctuated a lot in the last two years. Recently, to be honest, it has only been going downwards. I see a lot of darkness in this institution, and it has been difficult to find the light switch. Regardless of if I love or hate Trinity, since the beginning, it has not felt like “My Place” or “My Home.” Freshman year was an exciting adventure, full of chance encounters and taking pictures of everything and hearing the birds start chirping at 5am. It was a wild place. But I did not feel the belonging I expected or yearned for. It was more like a really long vacation from my previous nineteen years in St. Louis, Missouri, and occasions like Thanksgiving or winter break were still “Coming Home.” And then, when those breaks would end, that meant “Going Back.” Kirkwood was my home, no matter how many items of clothing stayed in my Hartford storage unit over the summer.  

Then sophomore year happened and a place that I thought would finally feel like my home became even less so. I feel a lump in my throat thinking about how difficult this year’s obstacles were and I know there are people out there who feel the same way. The sophomore slump is real. That’s okay, because (I hope) there will be a moment like the one I felt that Saturday night that changes everything.  

I was sitting at a table in the back of the big tent, watching the thumping mass on the dance floor wave their arms and sing their hearts out to Aloe Blacc. This is when I realized why I had been feeling strange the whole weekend. After I had dragged myself to the finish line of sophomore year, packed up my bags and got the hell out of there, I returned for the Bicentennial and realized Hartford feels like home to me. I know this place. This is my place. Looking at the hundreds of people around me, I realized this is their place too — what a wild thought! I guess, I told myself, this means these are my people as well. Whether or not we have ever exchanged conversation or have any similar characteristics, we all have the same thing in common. I am forever bound to all of these individuals. I looked around, saw the grass under my feet, and saw that it really was mine. I could feel it.  

Photo courtesty of Trinity College Alumni Flickr

This was a lot to take in, because it also meant that in forty-eight hours I would not be “Going Home,” but rather I would be going back to my house in Kirkwood. I am now growing out of that home and growing into this new one. That does not erase the hardships of this year, nor the giddiness of freshman year, nor the struggles that lie ahead. I think, maybe, it just means that you must experience both good and bad in order to understand a place, and to understand it is to be able to call it home. I did not get that until that Saturday night.  

It was evident that the people around me that weekend understood it, though. The moment in the tent — wow, I wish you could have been there. Aloe Blacc’s pure voice willing you to sing along to Superstition by Stevie Wonder, couples holding hands and waists, rows of bankers and lawyers and managers swaying with arms interlocked around each other’s shoulders. You could look a little more to your left and see children chasing the cutest tiny white dog you have ever seen, while the staff belt out the lyrics as they graciously pick up empty beer cans. The hum of the hundreds of conversations behind you, a mother and daughter sharing a moment, and waves upon waves upon waves of laughter. It was perfect, it was mine and it was ours.  

I encourage you to read a rundown of the weekend on the Bicentennial website here; if you attended, to remember this unique experience, and if you didn’t, to wish you had, and to prepare for the reunion weekends that await us down the road. But to me, those words do not capture the true essence of this Bicentennial; nothing ever could. Whether you love Trinity, or hate it, or (most likely) are somewhere in the middle, I encourage you to (re)consider your relationship with this institution. Does it feel like “yours”? Why do you think that is? After 200 years of life, I think we owe it to the College, and to ourselves, to spend some time with that question. 

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