Syracuse or Whitman? I had procrastinated the decision for as long as I could, but with a month left before I graduated high school, it was time to take the plunge.
Whitman was the comfortable option, but Syracuse was the adventurous, out-there choice. I visited Syracuse, but honestly didn’t know much about either school. I was choosing from what I knew about the two schools on paper, and ultimately, the somewhat-romanticized image of life in New York won out. I went to Syracuse and thoroughly enjoyed myself for a semester, but decided it ultimately wasn’t for me. The decision was difficult and complicated, but I was determined to transfer after that year. To take a step back from it all and reevaluate things from a broader perspective, I spent the spring on a semester-long internship in Maui. While there, I reapplied to some other schools, and decided to transfer to Whitman.
After firmly establishing my next step in the path, I thought it would be a load off my back. Somehow it turned out to be the exact opposite, and I spent the summer worrying about my choice. I had enrolled at Whitman, a competitive, rigorous school, and was locked in for at least another year. Cost was certainly a factor to consider, and I had barely spent any time at the college. Aside from a brief hour-and-a-half campus tour early in the summer, I had never even been to Walla Walla, and really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I couldn’t quite shake the feeling of anxiety as I drove from my home to the residence hall check-in at the end of August. What if I didn’t like my classes? What if everything wasn’t perfect? These, and a million other expectations (some more realistic than others) filled my head.
Dorm life was among my biggest worries. At that point I had gotten used to sleeping in a hammock under the stars on Maui, and I couldn’t imagine going back to sharing a cramped dorm room. Thankfully, the residence hall experience here is unlike anything I’ve encountered before. In my hall every room is shared by two roommates, and each gets their own space (separated by a door) to do whatever they want. My small room isn’t huge, but it’s my own, and privacy is sometimes a big deal.
My roommate is great, and the same goes for the rest of the people in my building. So far, my experience in that regard has been totally positive, and I can’t believe how familiar our hall already feels, only a month into college. As a freshman in New York my residence hall was about 10 times bigger, far away from campus, and more than a little bit intimidating. I tend to be a little more reserved than most, but I’ve gotten used to impromptu jam sessions in the lounge and it seems that almost everyone in my section knows each other by name.
The same feeling of intimacy applies to Whitman on a bigger scale. Classes here feel proportionately as small as my dorm, and every day walking between classes, I can count on running into somebody I know on Ankeny Field. It’s hard to believe that Whitman is barely bigger than my high school. Somehow it feels small, but never claustrophobic. I can go throughout my day and never get the impression that I’m stuck in the same place, or with the same people if I don’t want to be. As a transfer student, the freedom to actively control my environment means a lot. I’m sure to some extent every student feels the same, but after a tumultuous year full of indecision and half-starts it’s especially meaningful to me.
If I were to try and sum it up with just a short phrase, I would say that the Whitman experience means feeling in-control over my own success. In class, my professors are completely accessible. I can talk to them whenever I need and feel comfortable and secure asking whatever questions I might have. The same goes for other on-campus resources. In this equation, the only limiting factor is my willingness to reach out. So far, I’ve tried to put myself out there and get as involved as possible. Utilizing Whitman’s network of resources and connections, I’ve found jobs on and off-campus, joined activities, and met tons of amazing people.
Making the call to go back to square one and transfer schools wasn’t easy, but from everything I’ve seen and experienced at Whitman, it was the right call. Things haven’t been perfect, but I can’t help feeling that this school offers opportunities that are hard to come by anywhere else. Students here receive guidance and help if they ask for it, but more importantly they have the freedom to choose their own path.