Reaping the Benefits Of an Adventist Education

July 01, 2007 | Stephanie Shin

In January 2007, I transferred to Walla Walla College from New York University. I came from a place where the term "campus" was pretty much nonexistent as lecture halls were dispersed among big city buildings, shops and restaurants. Our school "community" was based around Washington Square Park, which was laden with a diverse conglomeration of people and whose arch could be recognized from the movie When Harry Met Sally.

I was born and raised in Loma Linda, Calif., where my longevity was immediately compromised upon taking my first breath of the notorious Inland Empire smog. Having spent my entire life in a concentrated Adventist bubble, I felt like a frog in a well, staring up, up, up into its opening and thinking that the small circle of light I had always seen and gotten accustomed to did indeed encompass the entire sky. I became jaded and needed something different. Still, I never thought I would be able to break free from nearly two decades of routine. So after having visited NYU during a piano competition at Carnegie Hall, five years later I surprised myself as I signed the paper that would indicate my matriculation over 3,000 miles from home.

Why, you might ask, would I give up life in exciting Manhattan where seeing celebrities on the street quickly become a blasé triviality for a quaint town that bears stringent Adventist hours and has been devoid of sun for the past two months? Well, even though I must admit that not having the convenience of Trader Joe's in my apartment building anymore is definitely a pity, the excellence exhibited by the academics comprising this institution is undeniable. How can you pass up the traces of Dr. Lindsey's subtle yet witty humor cleverly snuck into his biology lectures? His wisdom and passion to enrich students' understanding are staggering.

Likewise, the enthusiasm with which WWC faculty seeks to enhance the betterment of students is an intimacy I was not previously aware existed in college. Until I came here, I didn't believe that any mind-numbingly uninteresting subject could ever stimulate me more than dead neurons would a brain. But I was proven wrong.

One of the things that has really drawn me into the academic system at WWC is that sincere efforts and good work ethic are duly merited. At NYU, I found myself caught up in the eddy of ruthless competition among students who had intense New England prep school backgrounds.

Sometimes I felt more like a robotic ID number than one of actual identity, fighting to keep my head afloat in the constant battle of vicious bell curves. A 90 percent on my physics exam was normalized to a C+. People would find noteworthy information in library books and rip out the relevant pages so that no one else could benefit. It wasn't a symbiotic effort among comrades; helping others was fraternizing with the enemy. It was the ultimate test of survival of the fittest. Many times I felt that the professors' aspirations lay more in finding the most effective ways to quickly grade thousands of exams rather than attending to students' needs and desires to learn.

There were no allotted times, such as chapel or vespers, for the student body of nearly 50,000 to come together and breathe. It was a relentless cycle of fast-paced life at top speed. Have you ever seen a typical photo of Times Square where taxis, lights, and people whiz by in a blur? That's how every second of every day was—a swift blur.

NYU wasn't all bad, though. I don't think the novelty of living in a big city ever really wore off. I know not many people have the chance to live in such a phenomenal place as New York City, and I was so grateful for the experience. If I had never taken that leap, that risk of being completely stripped of everything I had ever known, I never would have seen beyond the "sky" outlined by the restrictive limits of my well.

As I inhale the crisp Walla Walla air in lieu of taxi cab exhaust and see the sun finally hinting at spring's impending arrival, I realize what a huge door God has opened for me after blessing me with an exceptional experience I will never forget. Though I miss the good times, memories, and relationships I formed there with numerous people, I thank God for leading me in this direction and pray that I will continue to seek Him in this place that is more conducive to worship.

Since my arrival, so many opportunities have opened up to me—taking up piano again after a two-year hiatus, becoming The Collegian's new copy editor, and rediscovering the joy in learning. The tagline on the WWC Web site isn't a melodramatic cliché—it truly is and has been "a life-changing experience."