Sollner: Heimatgefühl (a sense of home)

On the news that I would be going to Wheaton, my best friends’ dad Rudi Bernklau sent me a Bee Gees song and some wise words: “All of us went to places that weren’t first choices. All of us had the most wonderful experience.” A clicking sound later, like the release of the shutter on my camera for a visa picture, I watch myself typing away these lines in the Lyon’s Den trying to capture an unexpected journey. The best cappuccino in Bristol County is helping. Stuart MacLean ’15 stops by. We talk. No longer than five minutes. A shared instant which encapsulates my Wheaton adventure beautifully. Five minutes of pure poetry.

Nothing is given to you at Wheaton. There are no silver platters. No distractions, no comfort zones, no college clichés. No choice but to face your challenges. Evading them means disconnecting with this place for good; overcoming them means opening the door to a new cosmos of fantastic minds, big hearts, and so much campus energy. But reaching it requires self-reliance and a fair share of hard work.

It took me many months to settle in at Wheaton. A sine wave of ups and downs. Now in April 2015 I can no longer separate myself from this place. There’s a sense of home when I stick around at the office late at night: my dark corner in the back of Meneely 210. When I’m breezing past Paula MacDonald to make copies running late for class. When Professor Coale shoots quantum jokes at us as if my English class were a Hadron collider. When the soccer ball hits the upper right corner of the goal at Clark Recreation after a brilliant pass from Fernando Antonioli ’18, and I hear Jonathan Lee ’17 shouting “Marco Reus!” at me. When I never have time for frisbee practice, but I show up for the first time in months and my fellow WULFs pat me on the shoulder. When my bike and I roam the colorful backroads of New England in the fall and my generous college friends, who hardly know me yet, host me, feed me, and drive me around.

There’s a sense of home when I find appreciation in the hallway of Mac 1st among some of the sweetest freshmen on campus. When I share time and stories with people who, with all their hearts, are committed to this campus, like Omar Almujahed ’18, Sophia Darby ’17, and Courtney Gilman ’15. When my mentors and German professors consider me as an equal member of a wonderful department: Professors Bohn, Kenney and Lee. When I stop by Balfour Hood to feel the hearty kindness from Danyelle and Rico. When I visit the Bog Iron Brewery every Wednesday night with my fellow TAs. When I’m on stage in the Ex. When I dance to a jam at Art. When I party at Davis.

But nothing compares to how I’ve felt at home with my students. My German kids, it’s been a phenomenal ride. Your effort and interest inspired me. I hope to see many of you again in Regensburg. Be my guests and keep this wonderful exchange alive.

A chapter is soon coming to an end, and I, in the course of the weeks ahead, will leave 26 East Main Street for good. Rudi was right. Second choices have the potential to surprise. And sometimes overwhelm. I look at myself and observe: Wheaton has become a part of me. I won’t be leaving without it.