December graduates say goodbye

Natalie Berg

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Multiple students are graduating from Whitman at the end of this semester. This happens for a variety of reasons, such as starting college in January, taking time off from college or finishing their degree a semester ahead of or behind schedule.

Graduating seniors Olivia Bates and Sebastian Lowe both came in as Jan-starts, and knew all along that their college experience would be shifted one semester off from the rest of their class.

“I actually was happy to take that first semester off. It really helped me come to Whitman more prepared, with a clearer mind of who I am and what I want to do. I would definitely recommend taking a gap semester or a gap year for high schoolers,” said Bates.

Lowe is also happy to have been a Jan-start, and is at peace with graduating a semester later than his classmates.

“I think I might actually be closer to the cohort that came in after mine in some ways, so it’s not as if I was left high and dry without any friends,” said Lowe.

Circumstances are somewhat different for senior Megan Vermilion, who took a year and a half off after the fall semester of her junior year.

“All my friends graduated while I was away, and I wasn’t at the 2013 graduation that I normally would’ve been at,” said Vermilion.

Still, she is very happy to be graduating this semester.

“I know that I missed some things, but I’m sure that coming back and being in undergraduate college as a 24-year-old is pretty normal. It feels fine. I feel maybe better about how school turned out for me than if I had stayed here instead,” she said.

Nilce Alvarez, who was a part-time student last spring and this fall for health reasons, has had a much slower transition leaving colleges. Alvarez admits some loneliness, because many of her friends graduated in May, but she is also grateful that she had the opportunity to spend an extra semester at the college with little hassle.

Inevitably, however, the December end date has created some incongruity for these graduating seniors. Vermilion and Bates, who are both BBMB majors, completed their respective theses this fall instead of this past spring, like the rest of the students in their major, but in many ways this has diminished the pressure. The same is true for Alvarez, a biology major, who took her senior seminar in the spring but completed her thesis, oral defense and written exams this semester.

Though these graduating seniors are celebrating their successes, they won’t actually finish with a graduation ceremony, since they all walked during the ceremony in May. While this could be anticlimactic or awkward, the seniors don’t seem to mind.

“Little by little I’ve been distancing myself, so I don’t think the transition is going to be as difficult as it could’ve been … because it’s been progressive,” said Alvarez.

“I actually think it’s nice because you can end with Christmas and New Year, at least I can. That feels like a nice conclusion,” said Lowe.

“Leaving in December [instead of May] has let me say goodbye in a slower way. When we graduated in May everyone kind of felt cut off a little bit, but I got to come back and say goodbye slowly. I guess I feel much better and more at ease now,” said Bates.

As the soon-to-be-graduates make peace with leaving Whitman, they look forward to bright futures. Lowe is going to a Zen Buddhist monastery in Japan for at least two or three years, Alvarez is applying to nursing school and Bates and Vermilion are planning to work and eventually go to graduate school.

“There’s a mix of feelings, because obviously I’m excited for what I’ll be doing next, but I love Whitman,” said Alvarez.

Bates agreed.

“Whitman was a great experience that will always be a part of me, but now it’s time for change and time to find a new Whitman,” she said.