Dear Mom: Finding a place at Whitman

Dear Mom, Columnist

Dear Mom,

College is not all that I was expecting it to be. I am enjoying my classes, getting to know people and working hard, but I thought I would be having the time of my life, and that’s just not how it has turned out. For context, I’m a first-year at Whitman; I was choosing between Whitman, Tulane and a state school but chose Whitman because it’s farther from home—I’m from the East Coast. I’m now wondering if I chose wrong? Whitman doesn’t feel like home and I’m not sure I fit in. I’m not good friends with anyone in my section, and I’m having trouble forming the kind of connections I had in high school. I’ve been trying to go to a bunch of different clubs, but haven’t figured out which ones I’m actually passionate about and it ends up just taking up a lot of my free time. I miss the ocean and my family and my dog and I feel trapped here on campus. I’m worried that Whitman is not where I should be.

Please help,

Worried about Whitman

Dear Worried about Whitman,

You seem like a smart, driven, capable individual. Did you really expect college to be a cake walk? I don’t presume to know what your high school was like, but my guess is that there were times that weren’t so easy either and yet, you got through them. If you want to have a pity party about how scary and difficult college is that’s ok. I’ll bring some wine, we can go out and sit in the wheat fields and chat about failures and bygones and missed opportunities, and revel in the terrifying tragic uncertainties of our lives, but I think we’re both better than that. At some point you will have to come to the realization that challenges don’t always come in the forms that we want them to. My hope is that this is the type of tough love medicine you need to hear. So dust yourself off, go to the library, go to office hours, get into a routine of hard work and self care, and start trying to connect a little more with the people you are surrounded by. You know what needs to be done.

In truth, you are not alone. I can say with certainty that we’ve all been there. It’s natural to wonder if Whitman was the right choice. Perhaps there is a school out there where we’d be happier, where we’d get better grades, where we’d have better friends or meet that wonderful person to fall madly in love with. And perhaps not. What you need to know “Worried about Whitman,” is that you are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to be doing. And it will get better. I’d start by reflecting on why you chose Whitman and try and engage with what made it special compared to other schools. Get off campus more and explore Walla Walla and some of the surrounding area. Read books for pleasure, not just for class. Try to dig into one or more of your classes and, as President Murray says, don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education. Use what you’ve learned this fall to inform your class decision for the spring. Try to get a study group going or get to know someone better over a meal. You have come to the right school. Give it time and I can say with certainty that Whitman will come to feel like home for you.