Tuesday was the senior class’ 25 days to graduation celebration.  These countdown parties started at 200 and have been counting down ever since.  While I recognize this is a great way to share your last year with your class, it is also a terribly effective way to make you come to terms with the fact that graduation is coming whether you like it or not.  This realization comes with a multitude of feelings that are all over the place.  It is difficult to go through a single day and not have thought about how you feel about ending your last year at Whitman, and to be completely honest sometimes I’m feeling great and excited for the whole world of possibility before me, and in a half an hour I’m on the phone with my mom dreading the fact that I might be living off Kraft mac and cheese and Top Ramen for the next few years. 

It’s a scary time, and I think that I have had more epiphanies about life and how I function as a person in the past month than I have ever had in my life before then.  It is an incredibly self-reflective time; a chance to examine what is important and what I have learned from my four years here.  I even made a list of things to remind myself of as I move forward with life and try to take on the uncertain world before me.  I think the greatest lesson I have learned and the thing I need to keep in mind as I move forward with the next 25 days and however many I live after that, is to slow down and stay balanced.  Whitman advertises itself and its student body as a very balanced community and place.  I think that is incredibly true, but at times the balance is disrupted and that is when you have the low points in your time here.  For me my worst moments at this school were directly related to the fact that I had overscheduled myself and not allowed myself to just pause and appreciate where I am and who I am with, but once I take a step back and allow myself to breathe a little bit, I realize that everything is ok and that I can handle most anything. 

Looking forward I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing, but what I do know is that Whitman has armed me with the tools I need to handle any interview, view things critically, and taught me more about my  major and being a liberal arts student than I thought possible.  That said, the greatest lesson I have learned at Whitman is not one I found in the classroom.  In my time at Whitman I learned who I am as a person and what is important to me.  I learned that while I considered myself an introvert, I soon found that to be false.  I learned that I am much better at discussion than I am at regurgitating information.  These are values that I am taking greatly into consideration when I look to take my next step, and being aware of them, for me, is the key to being happy wherever and whatever I do.  Yes graduation terrifies me, but I’m excited and prepared to take on the real world.


Well This is Awkward

One of the most surreal moments I have had this year was a brought about by Facebook just the other day.  One of my friends commented on a picture of me from one of the first days of first-year orientation standing next to my two housemates of this year.  It was such a bizarre experience think that at that moment in what may be the most awkward picture I am in none of us knew how close of friends we would become.  

I showed this picture to another of my housemates and we laughed about around that time we were both relatively resentful of the other.  I resented him for being roommates with my best friend  from my scramble(the third person in the picture and current housemate) and really one of the only people I knew on campus, and he resented me for already being friends with his roommate.  Since we had this common person that we would be spending a significant amount of time with over time, we ended up being around each other a lot.  

As time went on the three of us became great friends and are now living together in a house, and seeing this picture was a humbling experience.  College is crazy, and although at right away the people you meet are only acquaintances that you may be harboring resentment towards.  In four years, you might be the three best friends that anyone can have.  Seriously though… That picture is excruciatingly awkward.

Whitman Beyond Walla Walla

In my time at Whitman I have had the opportunity to have some pretty awesome experiences outside of Walla Walla.  One of my favorite memories is my first trip with the drama club to Ashland, OR over spring break of my first year.  I had just finished my first play here which had a cast of only 5 so I didn’t know a whole lot of people.  Some people from the cast convinced me to go, but I was hesitant because of the small number of people I knew.  I was randomly assigned to a room with people I didn’t really know and put in a car with another batch I knew only by name.  I was apprehensive about the trip, but excited to at least see some good theatre.

                We began on a Friday evening when it was raining and dark, but even within that 4ish hour drive I already had begun to get to know my car mates.  We spent the first night at someone’s house at the roughly halfway point to Ashland.  Our car as well as about 3 others spent the night at the same house and we all ended up eating tacos and watching movies and laughing at a ridiculous exercise video we found.  The next morning we woke up and all had breakfast at a delicious place that had the largest cinnamon rolls I’ve ever seen.  After breakfast we loaded up the cars and continued on to Ashland. 

                When we arrived my car and I wandered the streets of Ashland looking for a place to eat.  After finding a good pizza place we hiked back to the hotel, and watched one of the worst movies I have ever seen.  Although the movie was pretty horrendous the people I watched with ended up having a great time laughing at the movie and getting to know each other.  The next morning we went to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which was a beautiful production.  Throughout the course of the rest of the trip we saw Hamlet and ate some pretty awesome food.  By the time the trip was over I had made a great number of friends that ended up being some of my closest friends at my time here at Whitman.  This was an awesome experience and just last night I signed up for my last trip to Ashland with the drama club and I can’t wait!

Well… here we go!

I am now entering (what I hope to be) my last semester at Whitman College.  I’m only two weeks into the semester and I’m already having a strange flood of emotions and in some ways trying to pump the breaks on my experience here.  Thus far I’ve been reminded too many times that I’m on my way out.  The occasional “I’m going to miss you next year,” or “what are your plans for after college,” always are responded to with a quick change of topic in order to avoid facing the reality that I only have a few short months left here.  I was having a conversation with a friend last night who is a Sophomore and he asked me if I had any advice for him.  Instead of denying the fact that I was graduating and moving on I decided to embrace it and really share what I have learned from this college outside of the obvious degree I am pursuing. The biggest piece of advice I could give was that he should enjoy his time here, and not let himself become so overwhelmed with school work that he loses sight of the incredible opportunities provided by Whitman and the people that go here.  There are so many things to be accomplished here, and so many people to meet that to allow oneself to become holed up alone stressing about everything that needs to get done. 

With this little piece of knowledge in mind I realized that this still applies to me.  Second semester senior year, I’m only taking two academic classes, but I’ve got a senior project to work on, work to go to, and a whole lot of random little activities here and there.  It’s already feeling hectic and a touch overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun.  While I don’t really have a bucket list, my goal this semester is to make new friends, strengthen old ones, and make the best of my final semester here.  That’s really all I can do.  It’s scary, but exciting.  I think I’ve made plans to live with three different people in three different areas of the country… Who knows where I’m going to end up, but right now I’m not thinking about that. 

Here’s to a good semester!  Wish me luck!

Finals and Balloons

Finals week is a strange time on the Whitman campus.  In a way it seems like time stands still for a week while people cram into the library to prepare for the tests and papers ahead.  Even though the week is tough and usually quite stressful, there is something about it that excites me.  I guess it is a sense of finality and relief.  My first semester on campus, I came back to my room on the last day of class before finals and found a brown paper bag outside my door.  I looked around and realized everyone had a package outside of his or her door.  I opened it up and found a little finals week survival kit with tea, ramen, some stickers (something to brighten spirits), and some balloons.  I was feeling pretty stressed, but even that little discovery was enough for me to know that I was going to get through it and there were plenty of people around me going through it together.

As I discovered, the balloons I found in the bag were to be inflated, one for each of our classes, and the name of that each class written on the balloon.  The balloons were then to be posted outside of our rooms so that when we completed a final we could go out and pop that balloon.  While it sounds a little cheesy, it gives a satisfying sense of completion to that class. Honestly though, when you are working in high gear for so long, sometimes the best thing for a person’s sanity is to have something a little cheesy and light hearted, which brings me to my second balloon experience of my first finals week.

While finals week is a time for intense academic focus, it also seems to be a time for intense and desperate procrastination techniques.  The first day of finals I get back to my room and find my roommate playing a game called balloons tower defense (or something like that).  It became an instant obsession.  I’m not usually one to succumb to the vices of a video game, but there was something so necessary about finding something to waste my time with.  Mind you I did complete all my finals at a level that I am proud of, but any time I wasn’t studying, I was playing this game, and that was alright. 

Finals week is crazy.  Finals week is stressful.  But it also is a fitting end of an academic semester.  You begin to see people around campus with massive grins on their faces because they are done.  No matter how daunting or overwhelming the weeks leading up to a person’s last final, there is a light at the end of a tunnel, or a balloon to be popped.  And during the week, no matter how much is a person has to do, there is always some time for a little mindless fun popping balloons on the computer. 

Registration Nostalgia

I have recently registered for my last semester here at Whitman and found myself thinking about all the classes I have taken that have gotten me to this point.  Ask anyone and they will inevitably have stories of classes they took that they expected to love and absolutely hated, but the good news most people only have about one of those.  Another good thing is that the reverse is also true, everyone has had a class or two that has really shaped their experience here and has shaped the way he or she views the world.  For me the two classes that have impacted me the most are Voice and Movement for the Actor, and Poverty and Child Development.

Being a theatre major it would make sense that one of my favorite classes is was in the theater, but this class did more for me than teach me how to move, it made me look at the world in a completely different way.  In this class we did a lot of technique work with what are called viewpoints.  These viewpoints things to be aware of when a person is on stage, such as the shape of your body, the spacial relationship you have with other people on stage, the architecture of your surroundings and how you interact with it, and so on.  After working on these for a semester I began to take more notice of how people hold themselves, my physical surroundings and how it affected me.  As someone who used to be very literal this class introduced me to the absurd side of myself and suddenly I was enjoying more abstract plays and eventually did a final project that was only slightly rooted in reality.  This class not only gave me tools that would help me improve as an actor, but also opened my eyes to a part of the world I had never taken much notice of before.

On the completely other side of things the second class that changed the way I view the world was a class I took in the Psychology department on Poverty and Child Development.  In this class we read articles on child development and the effects nutrition and home environment played in that process.  We got to design our own studies and we used video footage of 23 infant participants from the surrounding community, that were from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.  With these videos we were able to do our studies and see if there was any developmental differences between those in a high SES and those in a low.  While the end goal of the class was to give us experience designing and running a study, this class did much more than that.  It opened my eyes to the things we take for granted and how important little things like the stress of a mother during pregnancy can be in determining the future of a child.  It also made me increasingly aware that there is not simply one solution to a problem and to really understand how to fix it you need to know everything that is at play.  

As a senior, it’s a comfort to know that I can truly say that no matter where I end up, that I have had an academic experience that has shifted the way I think and opened my eyes to the world around me.  No matter what I do with my life, Whitman has given me something to hold on to and shaped the world around me.

Keepin it Fresh

During the college search process I was told you can make a big school feel small, but you can’t make a small school feel big, and what I have learned is that you can make anything of your experience regardless of where you are.  Even though Whitman is a small college in a relatively isolated location, there is an incredible amount of ways to get a big experience and continue to find new things.  Now that I’m going into my senior year I have definitely fallen into a routine but have managed to spice my experience up along the way.

There is no shortage of clubs to be involved in at Whitman, so I’ve found that shopping around for a club or organization is a great way to keep things new.  At the beginning of every year there is an activities fair where all the student groups on campus (everything from a cappella groups to Associated Students of Whitman College).  At this fair you can pick up a new club or just get on the emailing list for a club to stay informed of all the goings on.  Even if you are partway through the year and want something new you can ask around and end up a part of a new club.  One afternoon, my junior year, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to help set up a worm compost behind one of the dining halls.  I hadn’t even heard that this was something being implemented, but decided to tag along and ended up helping out and going to a few subsequent meetings.  While I didn’t end up staying in that club it was still a really cool experience that I was a part of and definitely something new for me.

There are other ways to keep your experience fresh outside of the world of clubs.  The great thing about the Whitman student body is most people are pretty adventurous and spontaneous.  So, if I’m ever feeling restless and want to do something, I can find some people that want to go for a hike or play some frisbee, or run around downtown taking pictures.  If you want to get off campus the Outdoor Program sends out trips almost every weekend that anyone is welcome to go on.  If you aren’t feeling outdoorsy but want to get away, it’s not unheard of for students to go to Seattle or Portland for a weekend, it’s a long trip, but sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered.

That being said, honestly, there is usually so much going on academically and socially that I rarely feel like my life is getting monotonous or the campus is too small.  If I’m having an atypical day and feeling like the campus is too small or I need something new, any of the aforementioned remedies works wonders.

Transitioning to the College Work Load

Currently we are three weeks into school; there are no more orientation events for first-years to attend, everyone has started to find their routine, and most people have become very of aware of the fact that the college work load is significantly more challenging than in high school.  At least for me, highs school was by no means a breeze, but there were definitely times where I felt I wasn’t being held to a high enough standard.  I felt I could get an A on an essay with some “flowery language” (as a fellow classmate of mine described it), and be a little light on the content side of things.  Once I got to Whitman that changed pretty fast.  My first writing assignment here, I tackled it as I would any high school assignment and promptly was given a 3/10.  While shocking, this was a nice wakeup call that classes wouldn’t be breeze and that if I wanted to succeed I was going to have to work for it. 

Even though the transition from high school to college is different for everyone, for most, the work load is going to be more challenging and move at a quicker pace.  Being in a new environment full of new people with a heavy work load can definitely be recipe for exorbitant amounts of stress, but what I found out quickly was that there are innumerable resources at one’s disposal to reach success in his or her academic endeavors.  From my experience, my writing is what needed the most work, and while my professor gave me a 3 on my first writing assignment it was not without an encouraging attitude and reassurance that she was always willing to meet to help me out.  Outside of the classroom I talked with my SA (student academic advisor) about where I could get extra help on my papers and he offered to look over papers that I wanted help with, and also pointed me to the writing center where I could get yet another set of eyes to look over my writing. 

So, while I definitely was aware that the work load had increased and that the academic standard was raised, I felt prepared and well equipped to tackle it.  I knew that I was in a community of students and faculty that wanted me to succeed and would help me out if I needed it.  Never have I felt so supported by a community of people academically as well as socially.  Three years later I have made great strides and have enjoyed every minute of my work ridden schedule.

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