Sunday, January 25, 2015

Finding Kindness in the Big City - Jenna Vogen

            Growing up in a small town was always a comfort to me. Everyone knew each other and could rely on one another for help or little encouraging words. This love for a tight knit community that truly facilitated relationships led me to choose Wartburg College for my undergraduate studies. It was perfect, Wartburg gave me the opportunity to meet hundreds of new people and see new experiences all while keeping the safe, friendly, and nurturing community feel that I had grown so used to.
            Having always associated small town with safety, moving to a city created a little fear for me. Worries as I prepared for my semester at Wartburg West varied from as miniscule as wondering what would happen if I got lost in traffic to as extreme as if I would get mugged while walking down the street. Despite my initial unease I have come to realize that Denver is one of the friendliest and welcoming areas that I have ever encountered.
            During one of my first days here in Denver a couple of friends and I began exploring the bus system. While on the bus I noticed everyone was extremely kind, (even the bus drivers, who I give all the right in the world to be cranky seeing as they drive in traffic all day with such a massive vehicle!) people would quickly give up their seats with a big smile or would just communicate with one another to pass the time. One moment that especially stood out to me was as I was loading the bus at the busy intersection of Broadway and Colfax, I dropped my wallet without noticing. Soon a homeless woman was chasing after me with my wallet saying that I dropped it in the snow! In that moment I realized that maybe everyone in the city wasn’t as closed off and unfriendly as common stereotypes suggest.

            Within the past month I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most diverse people and hear some amazing life stories. I have come to realize that Denver is a city filled with kindness. Acts of warmth such as a woman paying for my morning coffee, authentic conversations with complete strangers, or even courteous drivers in rush hour traffic have truly restored my faith in people on a daily basis. Coming to Denver has given me the opportunity as a small town girl to see that no matter where you go in the world there will be good people near. I have been lucky to be surrounded by such unconditional kindness and thoughtfulness throughout my experience thus far.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Carless in Denver - Hilleary Reinhardt

The day I turned 16 (just kidding, I failed my first license test) I was super pumped to inherit my parents’ 2000 Saturn station wagon. Ever since that point, I have relied greatly on a car as my main mode of transportation, until I came to Denver. I decided to not bring my car for my semester at Wartburg West as I was going to force myself to really immerse myself into the urban lifestyle. My organization where I am completing my senior social work practicum is about five miles from the Wartburg West apartments, about 20 minutes by bus.

Public transportation is not new to me as I grew up occasionally riding the light rail around my home cities, St. Paul and Minneapolis; however, I am now using it as my daily form of transportation around Denver and I love it! Not only is public transportation economically efficient and sustainable, but it also has its own culture and provides its riders with human interaction. Bus culture is like nothing I have ever experienced before. Every age, race, ethnicity, and language is present on the bus…making people watching extremely entertaining and educational. It also acts as its own community; others will watch out for and help those on their bus. For instance, last week on my ride home from a local grocery store I was carrying more bags than I probably should have been. An older male saw me struggling as I was getting on the bus so he walked up to the front and asked if I needed help with my bags. I accepted his help as he carried my bags to an open seat on the bus and set them down.

Both Nelson and Bonita Bock are appreciative when students use public transportation as those who drive cars have less chances of human interaction. While riding the bus, I never wear my headphones with the hopes that someone will sit near me so that I can strike up a conversation. In some instances, people do not want to chit chat but in most cases, people on the bus love to have conversations with those close by. The things that I have learned from and about the people I have conversed with give me an insight into what their lives in urban Denver are like…and I have learned many things that I could live without knowing.

Future Wartburg Westers, I challenge you to come to Denver with no car or if you absolutely need to bring it that you use public transportation as much as possible.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Denver Round Two: A Fresh Start - Malindi Van Sant

Although I have previously been part of the “Wartburg West” program, this time has a whole new feel to it. It has only been two years since I was in Denver for the “Sophomore Experience”, but a lot of change has taken place here in that time period. Wartburg West has a new location, right downtown! Living downtown has many perks. The bus system is easy to navigate (even for the directionally challenged, such as myself), my favorite record stores, restaurants and book shops are right down the road, and the very life of Denver itself is right outside of our apartment door. 
When I left Denver in 2012, I’d had such a great experience that I didn’t think it was possible for it to be better this time. The new building is in a very nice location and has great amenities as well. The church where our classes are held is simply beautiful, and the congregation has been very welcoming. The beauty of the capitol building, the skyline, and the mountains on my way to my internship manages to leave me breathless every day.

Denver has a whole different vibe to it since I was here last. New stores and restaurants have popped up everywhere, as well as new people. The population of the city has been growing rapidly in recent years. For the newcomers, finding an apartment building has become a wild goose chase. Rent and property value is also rising quickly as the city grows. It seems like everyone I know wants to live here, and I even hope to move here myself someday. I am really looking forward to spending another amazing semester in Denver.