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For many, the adjustment to college life consists of learning how to navigate the laundry machines and late night study sessions, but for some, this is not the case. It’s easy to forget the culture shock that can comes along with attending school away from the town where you grew up, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less prevalent. For me, transitioning from a small “non partisan” school with an overwhelmingly liberal student and faculty population in the middle of Washington, D.C. to a liberal arts school in the Ohio suburbs posed more of a challenge than I had anticipated.

After years of rarely coming face to face with someone with opposing viewpoints to myself, I began to go a little stir crazy. I wanted to see if my beliefs were really MY beliefs, or if I was simply internalizing what I had been spoon fed to believe for so long. I needed something new, or so I thought. This brought me to Denison. I remember touring the campus and asking my tour guide if there was dynamic diversity of thought and getting the answer I wanted. However, when I arrived in the fall, it took me a couple weeks of seeing “Reagan Bush” t shirts before I realized they weren’t a joke.

It took me a little while, as it does most first year college students, to find my place and my voice. Speaking my mind had never been something I struggled with (easy when everyone around you is agreeing), but finding it at Denison proved to be more of a challenge. It took me some moments of being silent, to find what I believed and wished I had the strength to advocate for.

By the time second semester rolled around, I had found my comfort in such a diverse community. I started to find people similar to me as well as growing close to people I never thought I would have, just a year ago. Finally, what I had hoped for coming into college occurred: I developed a love for the challenge. The debating became exciting rather than frustrating, the differences became understandable rather than shocking, and I had found my voice and my place in it all. The confusion that I felt was quickly diminished as my passion rose. These people and this community put me to the test in ways that I had never been challenged before. While my viewpoints may not have shifted much during my time here, my eyes have been completely widened. Thinking about where I am now in comparison to where I was just a year ago, I feel excited. I’m excited about how much more there’s left to discover at such a seemingly small school. At the risk of sounding sappy, I am so grateful for these people and this place for giving me the opportunity to learn in a way I never imagined.

Hello! My name is Elliot Whitney and I'm a sophomore at Denison University where I am studying history and communications. I'm a Washington, DC native and love exploring my surrounding areas.
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