Encounters: The Worst and The Best Class

Making friends in the classroom is either a hit or a miss. Depending on how the class is conducted, you may never even get the chance to interact with your classmates beyond a “good morning” greeting. I never expected that I would have a class where I felt at home with every single classmate, inside and outside of the classroom. Yet, by some miracle, I found myself in one of these classes here at Whitman.


One of the staples of Whitman College is a first year course called “Encounters,”aninterdisciplinary introduction to the liberal arts. In it, we read, discuss, and write about classic literature including works such as Shelley’s Frankenstein, Plato’s Symposium, Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species, and many more.The professors who teach this class come from all departments across campus, meaning that it is entirely possible that you could be placed in an Encounters class taught by a biology professor, a math professor, or even an art professor. They all have their own teaching methods and grading rubrics, so you never know what you’re gonna get.


My Encounters class is a special class, or at least we like to call it that. What makes us special is our apparent closeness. Our bonding started 8 weeks ago on the first day of class, when we took it upon ourselves to create a group messaging chat on Facebook in order to help each other decipher the syllabus (well, actually, the syllabi) that our professor gave us. It was that night where we, each at our own computers in our own dorm rooms, were struck with the realization of the amount of time and work we would have to put into this class. And so, our journey began. Our weekends we spent with our separate friend groups, having fun or going out to social events. However, at every event a few of us somehow would end up running into each other and thence proceed to have a brief encounter(ha) during which we would exchange rants or stresses that we had about our class. Most of these brief encounters ended up including the question “Wait, what’s the homework exactly?” because we hadn’t yet had enough time to decode our syllabus that day. Week by week, class became progressively more fun as we started to realize just how much we were all trying to keep up in the class. We bonded over our stress-levels as well as how little free time we had. Our class group chat started expanding its topics from assignments and correct citation format to memes and selfies. Then, we took our bonding to a whole new level: travel.


On an uneventful Saturday morning over the four day weekend, I was relaxing in my bed reading the Symposium after my parents had gone back to Arizona after visiting me. My phone dinged, and I checked my messages. Naturally, it was a message in the Encounters group chat, the most active chat on my phone. There on the screen I found a message from Daniel: “Who wants to go to Idaho?” I, as well as a few other students, replied with “Are you serious?” Daniel said “Yep, we’re leaving in two hours.” And so, I closed my book, packed a backpack, and said “what the hell.” Then it was off to Idaho we went. Moscow is the particular city we drove to, just along the border of Idaho. Daniel had a couple gigs there with his band, and was allowed to bring a few friends along. We made friends with his band and applauded wildly at his crazy good saxophone playing. Late into the night we ate burgers, watched live music, and played cards which we made ourselves out of sheets of paper in desperation. Sunday morning we found time to sit at a table at Starbucks to write essays, because, after all, we are Whitties at heart. The trip ended with thrift shopping, a car ride home full of singing along to Christmas songs, and Thai food takeout. It was the best impromptu trip I have ever taken.


There are great things happening in my Encounters class and great things in store for the future. A group of us just performed a killer skit in class about Aristophanes’ other-half speech from the Symposium. We were able to incorporate an inside joke from our Idaho trip as well as a Titanic reference. As for the future, we just procured a date for a small Encounters party during which we will celebrate our second essay being turned in as well as continue to rant about our ceaseless workload.


This is the hardest class I’ve taken so far at Whitman, but it is also one of the best. Sure, we may complain ceaselessly about everything related to it. However, the end of the day always consists of falling on the floor laughing at something one of us said. Because of the wonderful, down-to-earth, hilarious people I am fortunate enough to be with in this class, I adore Encounters. Some may wish for it to be taught differently—but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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