Baccalaureate Reflections on the Journey


Betsy Varner '14

May 18, 2014


When I came to Manchester College, I was pretty sure that I was right about just about everything. I was right about my political beliefs. I was right about my religious beliefs. I was right about what I should be majoring in. I was right about the kind of people I needed in my life. And I was right about my choice of college. Well… at least I was right about Manchester.

I think the best way to describe my journey at Manchester, strangely enough, is to tell you all of the ways that I was wrong. For example, I was wrong about what I would be majoring in. I changed my majors an absurd amount of times.
The women in the Registrar’s office came to know me by name and my amazing advisor probably began to cringe at the sight of color coded schedules outlining my insane triple major. These changes came from immersing myself in new experiences and discovering new interests and passions. Until I spent a January Term in Spain, I didn’t think that I could handle living in Ecuador in 5 months or that I could love the Spanish language like I do now. And I was terrified to take Ancient and Medieval Western Philosophy for my religion major. But when I started the class it changed so much about the way I looked at things and it quickly became one of my favorites.

I also learned over time that my previous religious and political beliefs weren’t right. But maybe more importantly I also learned that they weren’t wrong. By meeting so many different people here and around the world I have learned that the world is anything but black and white and right and wrong. People’s views of the world come from their experiences in it. And even my own beliefs and views have changed as a result of new experiences. So rather than just assume that my view is the only way I would rather learn from the world, its people, and their whole spectrum of world views. This desire to understand the world at every part of the spectrum is what is leading me to serve abroad with Brethren Volunteer Service next year.

Giving up this need to be “right” all the time is also helping me to become a better leader. Leading is not about being the loudest or most confident in your opinions. It is about caring, listening and being there, willing to put in the work. The best leader is one who understands and respects those they’re leading. Manchester is blessed with so many of these kinds of leaders- professors, department chairs, Chef Chris, Pastor Walt, current President Switzer and future President McFadden just to name a few.

But maybe what I was most wrong about was the people that I need in my life. By the end of high school, I pretty much shut myself off from the world. I hadn’t had the best luck with people in my life so I assumed I was better off on my own. But I was so wrong. People have showed me kindness and love from the start-kindness and love that I didn’t know I needed in my life. I didn’t know that I would need a friend who would literally drag me out of bed and get me back on my feet on the worst days. I didn’t know I would need a friend with the spirit of an 8 year old to constantly keep me laughing and on my toes when my life felt meaningless and dull. I didn’t know I would need my housemates and our constant pranking with our fake cockroach to keep me sane through the craziness of senior year.

I didn’t know I would need friends to assume the role of a family while studying abroad in Ecuador. And I didn’t know I would need my family to be on call 24/7 to share every up and down of the past four years. But I needed every single one of them and everyone else who has been a part of this amazing journey.

Anyone that knows me knows that I HATE to be wrong. I will argue about the correct lyrics to a song any day and I did a book report in fifth grade on the book How to Argue and Win Every Time. But I am so happy that I was so wrong about these things. Maybe the best way to sum it up is to go off of the words of President Switzer’s grandson, “We can’t know.” Maybe we can’t know for sure, but my time at Manchester University has taught me that by being open to new people, new ideas and new experiences, we can truly live. And that’s so much better than being right.