Home for the weekend about two months into my freshman year at Conn, I met a favorite high school teacher – and Conn Coll alum – for coffee. Admittedly still a little drunk on the idea of not being in high school anymore and eager to show off my newfound quasi-adulthood, I quickly found myself revealing every detail of my first semester misadventures: the good, the bad, and the Coastie.
Although she listened to me brag about my poor choices with admirable patience, one of my stories was eventually interrupted with, “Ugh, not a Coastie!”
There it was, the Coastie stigma. Things may have changed at Conn in the past 5 years, but apparently there were still two sides to the Coasties-at-Conn story.
Meeting the Neighbors (A.K.A. the Coasties)
As far as I was concerned, Coasties had been an integral part of the Conn experience long before I even learned to call them Coasties. As a senior in high school, the most common response I got after telling people I was going to Connecticut College – behind “Oh, so like UConn?” – was “Isn’t that the one near the Coast Guard Academy?” I saw a few boys in Coast Guard tee shirts going for a run on my very first campus tour junior year, and by my second night of freshman orientation, I found myself personally acquainted with two Coasties at a party in a classmate’s dorm room.
So, like it or not, whether you’re making out at a Cro dance or playing a club soccer game, Coasties will never be far from Conn – physically or socially. You will seldom go anywhere off campus without passing the Academy, and you may even find a Coastie or two in some of your classes. So why the debate? What makes us Coastie lovers or Coastie haters?
Camels vs Bears
For one thing, we Camels tend to have pretty strong loyalties. With less than two thousand of us here and a maximum commute time of ten minutes by foot between any two points on campus, Conn is one of those close-knit communities so tight it boarders on cult-like. There isn’t much anonymity at a school like Conn, so it tends to attract really committed community members – people who embrace that all-encompassing sense of Conn-ness. Basically, people who love Conn, really. love. Conn. In that kind of instantly inclusive social climate, Conn can start to seem like a small little world of its own, and venturing outside that world into Coastie territory almost reads as an act of disloyalty.
Too Many Camels In the Desert?
However, while learning the Conn lingo within days and only needing a few weeks before easily recognizing every face on campus definitely helps make the college feel like home, that kind of social climate leaves the dating pool a little crowded. As anyone who has participated in hook up culture at Conn – or really any small liberal arts college – can tell you, things get a little incestuous pretty quickly.
Only two weeks into freshman year, I made one of my first close friends after discovering that we had a lot in common – including hooking up with two of the same guys. A week before that, another new classmate had attempted to bond with me by my seeking my advice about a guy she was hooking up with… only to discover he had made out with me a few days prior.
Essentially, with a sub 2,000 student population and a 60:40 female/male ratio, Coasties provide some welcome – and even necessary – variety in the Camel dating pool.
The Coastie Mythology
Lastly, for us pro-Coastie folk, the Coast Guard cadets hold a kind of folkloric appeal. On one occasion, even a professor asked us to satisfy his curiosity on an urban legend he had heard in which Coasties, unable to return to the Academy drunk after a night at Conn, round the campus seeking invitations for a bed to spend the night in.
While not all aspects of Coast Guard folktale are necessarily wholly untrue, the image of the lovelorn cadet – however appealing – is largely outdated in the era of Tinder. Nevertheless, Coastie folklore persists, and there is always something exhilarating about walking into a sea of cadets at the first Cro dance of the year. Myth or not, those white hats and navy polos still add a little something you just won’t find in the general climate of Conn by day.
Essentially, in a community so close we sometimes narrowly avoid suffocating, Coasties bring a little fresh air, providing variety in dating and ideology. Whether or not one belongs to the pro-Coastie camp, we all know the first Cro dance of the year only means one thing. As cadets gradually start to trickle onto campus again, weekends are bound to get more interesting.