I researched colleges extensively before choosing one to attend. I must have visited at least fourteen campuses. I settled on Kalamazoo when I came for the competitive scholarship. The quality of applicants was incredible. People were unselfconscious, openly eager to learn and discuss. The campus community was obviously tight (as at many small schools), but it wasn't in the midst of a cornfield (as is the case with many small liberal arts colleges). It was the perfect amalgamation of city living with a beautiful, centered campus. I worked on the facilities maintenance crew and can say the care and pride taken by the staff was remarkable.
The faculty and staff are wonderful, open people who bring a wide variety of thought and experience. They connect with the students on a very open, equal level, constantly allowing the students to challenge themselves and encouraging them to seek out unusual paths to their goals.
Kalamazoo College is centered on the ideal that your education can be what you make of it. They act as a support staff, providing goals and giving many resources to help people reach them. Study abroad through Kalamazoo is a unique experience. Compared to the study abroad experiences of friends who went to other liberal arts colleges and larger public schools, the level to which Kalamazoo went to prepare students and the quality of the programs was quite impressive.
Of the student community, I remain in awe. I believe everyone at Kalamazoo had a genuine enthusiasm for learning; they weren't just coasting for a degree or a party experience. I also believe everyone at Kalamazoo was open to new experiences and new people. The qualities that attracted me to the students and the campus was a focus on understanding others: other cultures, other belief systems. Everyone had their own eccentricity, but they were not different to be different. It was a kaleidoscope, a menagerie of unique individuals who love to learn. So yes, if you can't handle someone randomly wearing a banana suit (yes, they probably have a reason and no, they are not completely insane), this probably isn't the school for you. I always enjoyed the wide array of quirky people and I never felt like they were trying to be different for the sake of being different.
I will say that our athletic program is not that well supported by the student community. There just isn't that much team spirit amongst the larger community, though the teams themselves are very impressive and have good camaraderie.
The majority of classes I took at Kalamazoo were quite challenging mentally, and every class I took taught me something valuable. The rigorous work challenges students to push beyond busy work and use their minds.
To speak to campus life: There are quite a number of opportunities to join or start your own clubs and a stunning new student union. Campus life tries to be responsive to student needs and often asks for feedback. If you are looking for a party experience, Western Michigan is right around the corner. I always preferred a smaller house party with friends, but there is something for everyone. I had a friend who wanted to start a circus club... So he did. It isn't hard to pursue your interest and the larger Kalamazoo community in the city is fairly busy itself.
The college is well placed between Chicago and Detroit, leaving time on the weekends for trips if you are so inclined. However, I rarely felt the need to travel outside the city for entertainment.
LandSea was life changing and I can't recommend the program enough. The K plan caused a lot of growth. The group of people whom I graduated with grew into broad-minded, active, engaged community members, fully capable of creating great change in the world.
Dorm life was enjoyable, though I avoided the suites and stayed in DeWaters the two years I lived on campus. The food plan was so-so but the kitchen staff is a lovely bunch.
Obviously there are pitfalls and problems. There is a problem professor or class here or there and such a thing as the "K bubble" in which people spend far too much time on campus. The academics are challenging and you cannot fall behind without facing a major uphill climb. On the whole though, I could not have asked for a better atmosphere, better people or an overall experience. It is an interesting school dedicated to the growth of its students. I never wanted to be anywhere else.