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My W&L: Angelica Tillander '14

I came to W&L in the fall of 2010 as part of the first class of Quest Scholars. At the time I wasn't really sure what to expect or where I would fit in, a problem that I'm sure plagued many of my classmates. I grew up in a large, closely knit Italian family where it was not uncommon to gather at my grandparents' house almost every night of the week for dinner, and no one in my family had ever gone so far from home. Needless to say the transition from the Chicago area where I grew up to Lexington, Va., was a strange one, but a worthwhile one.

The first time I drove into Lexington, I was astonished by the lack of barriers separating the campus and the community. I had always imagined college as a separate, isolated world, but at W&L I found an open pathway to the community. As a result I came to school with the intention of becoming a part of the broader community beyond the Washington and Lee campus, and have learned a great deal from the residents of Rockbridge County.

I found a tight-knit group of friends in my fellow Quest Scholars, with whom I connected on Accepted Students Day. In them I discovered a group of extraordinary individuals from a wide set of backgrounds who were passionately committed to improving the world in which we live. In October of my freshmen year, along with several of my fellow Quest Scholars, I applied and was accepted to the Bonner Scholar Program at Washington and Lee. It was within the auspices of the Bonner Program and the broader Shepherd Poverty Program that I found my place at W&L.

As a Bonner, I committed myself to eighteen hundred hours of service work over my four years of study. My experiences as a Bonner taught me the importance of reaching out to people as equal partners for a better community. The Shepherd Program pushed me to integrate my service experiences within the broader sphere of my academic life. As a result I learned to think critically about poverty, to push myself to identify the needs of others and to take on a leadership role.

College has been a little like trying to put together a puzzle without knowing what the final picture will look like. My time here has been composed of a hodgepodge of academic, leadership, service and social experiences that began separately and grew together to form a final picture far different than I thought it would be. And, that is in many ways what I think college is all about--the not knowing.

At W&L, students are recognized for their individual strengths and offered the tools to grow and develop into well-rounded individuals. I know that as I prepare to graduate this year I will leave Washington and Lee a more perceptive, balanced individual, ready to meet whatever challenges life has to offer.