The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Life after the Christian Ivy League

No one wants to be a transfer student. Especially not a mid-year, upperclassman transfer student. But even so, there I was, officially ending my gap year since leaving Wheaton College, the place I’d dreamed of since I was 13. 

My parents met at Wheaton. My brother went there. I can’t imagine the devastation middle school me would feel if she knew this was the ending — but actually, maybe I can. I’ve been feeling it ever since I left “The Harvard of Christian schools,” as many call it. 

I wasn’t cut out for the Christian Ivy League.

After moving back home to Minnesota, I told myself I was never going back to college. I was so burnt out from the social, educational and spiritual demands of the past two and a half years that just the thought of school made my stomach turn. But after nearly a year working an entry-level job as a college dropout, reluctantly, I decided that in order to achieve a career I loved, I needed to finish off my degree. 

My sister was a transfer student eight years ago, after her Wheaton destiny didn’t work out as planned. After leaving Wheaton, she graduated from Bethel, a school not too far away from where we grew up. I Googled “Bethel’s degrees offered” on my iPhone. Ooh, journalism. That’s the one.

A right turn past the sign you can’t miss, “BETHEL UNIVERSITY,” and my stomach dropped — I couldn’t tell if it was excitement or dread. I pulled up to Bethel’s security window with tubs of my belongings in the back seat, and the man there handed me a map. “Do you know where you’re going?” I had no idea, but I didn’t say that. I nodded. I can figure it out.

After my first wrong turn, I typed “Wessman Hall” into Google Maps. 

For months in advance, I prayed. I needed a roommate who would like me. I suppose it would be nice if I liked her too, but that’s less important. I really just hoped she wouldn’t despise me over an occasional cuss word or the periodic crop top. I didn’t want to live through another private Christian college roommate hating me in that “holier than thou” kind of way. Another semester of dodging passive aggressive jabs of “encouragement” upon skipping my “daily quiet time with the Lord,” and I’d probably have to move out. 

Upon learning my housing assignment, I immediately searched for my new roommate on Instagram. I needed a clue. Some reassurance that we could get along. I found Anna and noticed her bio. Not a single Christian cliche in sight – I knew I had nothing to worry about.

During my first meal in the dining hall … I mean dining center … Monson? … or should I say DC? Whichever it is, out of muscle memory, I walked past the trays and straight into the pizza line. I grabbed a plate. In my whole five semesters at Wheaton, I had never picked up a single tray. For some reason, trays were to be used only by prospective students or by guys on the football team, so I assumed here, too, I would leave the trays where they were. I sat down at my table where more Winter Welcome leaders sat than actual new or transfer students, and I took a look around me at all the trays swarming my lonesome, tray-less, single plate. And most of them didn’t even have plates on their trays. How weird. And embarrassing. 

The second day of Winter Welcome I realized I didn’t know anyone. I mean, I knew that I wouldn’t, but it wasn’t until observing students around me, hearing the shared laughter and remember whens that I came to the conclusion that everyone knows everyone here. Aside from those in my two-day long orientation, I knew only one family friend and a few people from my high school, who I admittedly avoided once seeing from afar.

For a few days, my brain tricked me into believing that when I turned a corner, I would see some random, familiar Wheaton face, but I never did. Finally, I overcame this denial, but the truth hit harder when I opened my email to learn I already needed to have a roommate picked out for next year within just a few weeks of being in school. In February. Everyone I recently met already figured that out, it seemed, before the semester even started. I guess I’ll have to be the new kid again next semester. I hope my random roommate likes me.

After a week and a half of enduring the awkward horrors of learning my new surroundings, my body seemed to have finally accepted the transition into my new school. I knew something was different, because my acne cleared up, and I stopped crying at least once every day. I still hadn’t met my RAs or tried the pasta line at the DC, but I had come a long way since my first day of classes where I had wondered, as I sat alone at a table, if I had it in me this time to admit to someone that I didn’t know how to get home.

I didn’t want to be a transfer student, but I am 12 weeks into the semester now. My roommate became my best friend on campus. We go to the gym together almost every night. Our daily life updates are saved for later, so we can laugh and talk about them on the treadmill. I debuted my basketball career on the worst intramural team on campus, but scoreboard aside, it might actually be the best one (we wore jorts as our team uniform last game). I only visit my parents once a week … okay, maybe twice … which is a lot less than the three to five times per week I did in my first month. 

I removed my parents’ house from my “home” label on Google Maps and switched it to a new address. Wheaton hasn’t been home for over a year. And now Bethel feels like it is.

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  • K

    KerryMay 16, 2024 at 7:39 pm

    Well written!

  • H

    HarryMay 16, 2024 at 11:25 am