Two more weeks until graduation. Tomorrow is the last day of classes, then finals, then Camp Whitman–the five days leading up to graduation where everyone hangs out on campus, enjoying the sunshine and each others company before parting ways–then the long-awaited graduation day.

It’s hard to internalize the fact that this stage in my life is coming to a close. The past four years at Whitman have been the best in my life and, while I hope that I have not peaked, I know that I will forever remember my time here with much fondness and nostalgia. As I look back, several memories are especially poignant, a few of which I will share here:

My scramble freshman year was my first Whitman experience and is still one of the most special. I spent 7 days sea kayaking with 6 other incoming first-year students and 3 upperclassmen leaders. The students I bonded with while paddling, baking on a camp stove, and sleeping under the stars have remained close friends throughout my Whitman career. And the trip introduced me to not only my first Whitman friends but also my love of kayaking. While at Whitman, I have explored that passion through leadership classes and trips. I even went on to lead the same scramble trip two of the interceding years.

My sophomore year over our four day break in the fall, some friends and I went to Vancouver, British Columbia. We returned both junior and senior year. Those breaks were always chances to revel in the company of the amazing people I had met and befriended. We intend to schedule a similar trip every few years throughout our adult lives, so that we can remain close as we grow older. The people are what makes Whitman so special and I am grateful for my friends, who teach and inspire me, and whom I love dearly.

The fall of my junior year I studied abroad in Ecuador. I spent the semester braving Quito public transit, living with a host family, exploring the Amazon and Galapagos Islands, and searching for a rare bird through an Ecology and Conservation program. There is nothing quite like studying abroad, as travel rarely affords the opportunity to linger and fully immerse yourself in one place. Now that it is so easy, especially at Whitman, where you get all kinds of support including information on how credits transfer as well as the same financial aid you get while on campus, everyone really should go. Study abroad is a unique opportunity to get away and students return reinvigorated about Whitman.

Much of my senior year was spent working on my thesis. Accompanied by friends, I passed week after week in the library piecing together an exploration of how federal fire management subsidizes home development in fire-prone areas, at a high cost to both the taxpayer and the forest itself. I have never worked so hard in my life, but I am incredibly proud of what I produced. The experience proved to me the true value of my Whitman education–when I put all my skills together in order to write the thesis, I got a true sense for just how much I had learned.

So now its time for the next chapter. It is going to be very hard to leave this place behind, but I know that I am graduating with all the necessary academic skills, as well as a group of incredible friends and a strong sense of self-confidence. I am so excited to see what the class of 2013 can achieve. My peers never cease to amaze me.

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