Dear Spencer:

Congratulations! I am delighted to inform you that you have been admitted to Whitman College for the class entering in the fall of 2009

So began the process, almost nine months ago. Or, perhaps, so began another step in this journey, a journey that started years ago as I sat on my couch opening envelopes from various colleges, trying to pick the gems out of the garbage.

Whatever.

As I read those words, I was confirmed. The doubts that had fermented in my mind since I had applied in early November dissipated within a second, replaced with instant and utter joy. I was going to Whitman. My number one choice, the créme de la créme of colleges, and quite honestly the school of my dreams, had accepted me. All my work had paid off.

As the year progressed, I settled into the idea, aided by the school’s constant mailings and a handful of Whitman events. I visited the school again and sat in on lectures–and was thrilled by the level of intellectual discourse I found. I began to think of myself as a Whittie.

Then it was summer, and things began to fly. I processed documents and sent them back to the college, each paper solidifying my position as a student a little more. I got the immunizations and signed up for an outdoor trip (or “Scramble”) with a number of incoming freshmen. Boxes began accumulating rapidly in my living room as I packed up my stuff, coming to terms with the fact that I was honestly and sincerely leaving home. On Thursday the 20th of August, I loaded a hiking pack into a car, and I was on the highway, having truly left home.

Residence halls at Whitman College

A view of some residence halls from Ankeny Field, Whitman’s central quad

I’ve been here at school for four full days now, and I love it here.

In the four days I’ve been here, I feel like I’ve done so much. I’ve trekked to the Walla Walla Farmer’s Market and conversed with local merchants. I’ve ridden my spiffy new bike around town and I’ve played Frisbee on Ankeny. I’ve partaken in the mysterious initiation known as “pinging.” I’ve banded with my section mates and developed a cheer for Jewett 4-West, and I’ve already hung my whiteboard on my door.

But even better than the places and events have been the people. I’ve been fortunate enough to already make many, many friends; friends with whom I’ve made midnight donut runs to Safeway, for instance. There are people here from wildly different backgrounds and histories, and we’ve all got incredibly varied personalities, but there’s a common thread among everyone I’ve met in their thoughtfulness and passion for knowledge. People who, if I passed in the halls of high school, I might wrongfully consider “just another dumb jock,” yet turn out here at Whitman to have incredible insights regarding Hinduism, or philosophy, or math as art, or quite literally any other possible topic. I can have an off-hand conversation about the feasibility of living as prescribed in the Bhagavad-Gita and there are no sneers of anti-intellectual disdain.

It’s a community here, and an amazing one. Throughout high school, I would be hesitant to noMathematical equation that reads, "cos (heart) = ?"te amongst acquaintances that I play an online role-playing game, or that I enjoy a short musical about an aspiring supervillain, because those are just weird. They’re a few degrees astray from the social norm, and carry a fair bit of social stigma. In short, they make me a nerd. But here, not only can I be honest about things like that, but I can find dozens of other people who are, if not the same, very similar. One of my friends plays Magic: The Gathering, and that’s totally okay. Another shared with us over donuts last night that she’s looking for a Dungeons and Dragons group on campus, and she “really needs to get a couple d20’s.” Yesterday I hopped into the room next door to join a conversation about Watchmen–the original graphic novel. I’ve found people who read one of the nerdiest webcomics on the Internet, and I have found an overwhelming number of people who not only know what Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is, but grok it in all its fullness. None of this is stigmatized in any way–neither our nerdy habits nor our intellectual considerations.

Icon of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

A low-rent supervillain tries to win the girl of his dreams and take over the world? COOL!

It’s finally okay to be who I am, in entirety, which is incredibly awesome.

That’s all for now. I’ll try to update a little more frequently while I’m here, since I imagine there will be many, many stories to tell.