Cities make or break college campuses

Audrey Kelly

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Students transferring to and from Whitman College worry about more than the campus when deciding to try a new place. For some, location can make or break a college experience.

“College is a short time and oftentimes an expensive time, and all students should continue questioning where they are so that they can find the place that makes them happy,” said Assistant Director of Admissions Sadie Nott, who works with transfer students.

Students transferring to Whitman come from many types of institutions, from liberal arts schools similar to Whitman to community colleges. Nott says that the majority of transfer students come from schools similar to Whitman.

“[It] proves that many liberal arts schools look the same on paper, but they have very different energies,” she said.

Teagan Coleman, a recent sophomore transfer student to Whitman from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., attributes part of the difference to the climate in Minneapolis.

“It was so cold, you couldn’t go outside, which socially meant a lot of staying in, watching movies and no central locations for gatherings,” she said.

Macalester senior Catherine Bretheim, however, who transferred from Whitman mid-way through her sophomore year, appreciates the social atmosphere that the cold creates. She says she has always believed that “the cold brings Minnesotans together, and there’s the same effect on campus.”

Both students transferred from somewhere far from home –– Coleman from Walla Walla and Bretheim from Minneapolis ––  to the city where they grew up.

Hannah Port, who transferred to Whitman from Kenyon College after spending a year off working through World Wide Organic Farming in Europe, also moved closer to her home city of San Francisco  by coming to Walla Walla.

Nott says that location is the only pattern she senses in the applications to the transfer program at Whitman.

“There are students on the East Coast who want to be on the West Coast or in the Pacific Northwest, and Whitman embodies what this area of the country has to offer,” she said.

Coleman and Bretheim both mentioned the geographic differences between Whitman and Macalester. A main reason Bretheim transferred from Whitman was “the geographic isolation of Whitman” and she missed being able to “get around and explore an urban environment.”

Coleman, on the other hand, didn’t find the two urban centers surrounding Macalester an influential part of her experience, since it “took a full day to go to the city.”

Port says she loves Walla Walla and that it was a crucial aspect of finding her niche at Whitman. She encourages all Whitman students to “explore Walla Walla … take advantage of opportunities to leave campus.” She says going to yoga at a studio in town and her job off campus are factors that helped her click after moving to Walla Walla.

The different experiences these students had further confirms that it’s not just the energy of a school that can be the right fit for individual students, but also the surroundings of the college.

Nott, Coleman, Bretheim and Port emphasized how important it is to find the place that fits.

“If there’s something not quite right, it makes sense to continue to search,” said Nott. “The action of thinking critically about places and what makes you thrive is always good.”

All three transfer students are satisfied with their choices.

“I never regret having gone to Whitman,” said Bretheim. “I had many experiences there that have provided me with opportunities at [Macalester] I never would have had otherwise.”

She also says that being honest with yourself and with your friends is one of the best things that anyone who feels uncomfortable can do.

“Conversations open things up,” she said. “If you’re unhappy, don’t let fear hold you back from something that might be a better fit.”

Coleman says that she misses her friends from Macalester, and that she is still in touch with them.

“I’ll be friends with them forever,” she said.

But she is also excited to be at Whitman, where everyone has been very welcoming.

“Places do fit people in different ways … It’s important to find what makes you thrive,” said Nott.

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