Sewanee University

Sewanee, TN: I recently spent time with a group of friends from high school. It was a year after graduation, and we had all attended different colleges across the Southeast. Of course the question arose, which school was best? Was it the right choice after the first year?

I could comment on a liberal arts education or give stats that any college guidebook or website would contain, but it’s what they don’t say that really matters. When I first came across Sewanee in the newest, thickest, most daunting guide to college, the book labeled Sewanee as a “rural” setting.

At Sewanee you find yourself on a mountain in the middle of Tennessee, but it is more accurately described as a domain. You leave behind the hustle and bustle. It was hard for many at first, myself included. Surrounded by neo-gothic buildings and looming oaks, there is little urbanity. Sewanee is a place where the sidewalk disappears, as if the infamous fog that settles over the mountain stole it. But that’s what Sewanee is all about: You can’t be afraid to wander into the fog, even if you can’t see more than five feet, to find the rest of the sidewalk. There might not be urbanity, but there sure is a lot of humanity and self-exploration.

Have I found myself? Not yet, but I feel closer. The liberal arts curriculum leads students from science to English, to philosophy, to forestry. And it all ties in. A discussion of religion in a math course? It’s not unheard of. Even more common are double majors: French and Biology, English and Geology. The professors encourage this type of academic pursuit.

When I left high school, I was afraid that I would lose the close ties I had with teachers. Thankfully, at Sewanee, this is not an issue. It is traditional for the students and faculty to meet outside of class for coffee or dinner.

Tradition is another element that sets this university of the South above others. Students wear academic gowns as an honor. Visitors tap the roofs of their cars to free their Sewanee “angels,” because it is said that you never need protection on campus. Above all, the honor code, which prohibits lying, cheating, and stealing, is upheld with great respect by all. I’ve never locked my room. I leave my detergent in the laundry room. I can happily report that nothing has been stolen.

Respect for others instills a sense of self-respect. It’s impossible to walk away without feeling the strong community present here. So what if our football team only won one game last year? That didn’t stop most of campus from coming to games. Everyone gets ­involved, from supporting each other to building houses for those who need them.

In times like these when modernity is crashing upon us, Sewanee is a nice change of pace, especially for your college years. It’s a place where you can explore and spend time with others, the natural world, and your own inner world. Sewanee is home to the unexpected: a cheerleader who is a chemistry major, a bagpipe-playing president of a fraternity (there are 12 fraternities), a model who happens to be a published author, and people who met ten minutes ago and are now good friends.

I told my high school friends I would defend for the rest of my life that Sewanee is the right choice for me. Even though the sidewalk has disappeared, Sewanee is going to help me get through the fog. I’ll conclude with the school motto, “Ecce Quam Bonum” (Behold how good!). Look and you will find just how good it really is.

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