The Hope College campus is 4.7 miles from West Ottawa High School. For WO alumni who attend Hope, the 4.7 miles feels like the perfect distance.
As West Ottawa graduate and Hope College Soph. Addie VanderZwaag is packing her bag in Gilmore Hall for class Monday morning, she thinks back to her days at West Ottawa. She misses the school pride and spirit week days. VanderZwaag didn’t always feel that Hope was the place for her.
Sr. Aubrey MacDonald currently feels the same way VanderZwaag did two years ago, and shares a fear of many West Ottawans: Hope is too close. “I just don’t see it being that appealing for a full time school. It’s way too expensive and I don’t see myself going there. Also with growing up in the area why wouldn’t you want to go out and see more than just your home town?” MacDonald said. MacDonald believes that a person gains life experiences during college. She wants to be able to go out and experience the world in a way she believes she wouldn’t get if she stayed at home.
On the other hand, Sr. Megan De Jongh finds Hope College very engaging, and it’s on the top of her college search list. De Jongh also has the fear of how close to home it was. “Yeah, Hope may be a little too close for comfort in my opinion, but the amazing community and spiritual growth opportunities it has to offer, really means more than the couple of miles between Hope and my house,” De Jongh said.
VanderZwaag reminisces about the stress she had while applying to colleges senior year, and remembers how relieved she felt when she looked at Hope College more in depth. She had many fears with choosing Hope; cost and community played a role, but the key factor was how close the campus was to home. “Hope is a great school with many great opportunities within, but while applying it was not at the top of my list due to how close to home it was. After extensive research into the other schools that I applied to, I realized Hope is the place to be. I became aware that they have the best program that I was looking to go into out of all the schools that I had previously applied to,” VanderZwaag said.
She thinks back to her freshman year at Hope and remembered how her college roommate, who lived in Illinois, went home more often than she did. After her first year with living in the dorms and meeting all new people, VanderZwaag came to realize that she was just as independent as she would have been if she attended a school hours away. Only having lunch with her mom maybe once a month made VanderZwaag realize how far away Hope College actually feels. “My first year, Hope felt like a world away even though it was right down the street from where I grew up,” VanderZwaag said.
West Ottawa graduate and Hope College Frosh. Jamie VanderZwaag was also a little concerned about how close Hope College was when applying. “I liked the idea of being able to go home so easily, but I was worried that I would still be practically living there. After being here a couple months, I love it. I’m more independent and I’ve separated home life from college life, but I still have the comfort of home not too far away for when I need it,” VanderZwaag said. Throughout her first couple of months VanderZwaag has noticed that she is just as independent as she would have been if she had gone to a different school. With her roommates living a lot farther away from Hope than she does it makes for great road trips to go meet their parents. VanderZwaag is very happy with her decision to attend Hope.
Many students at WO have the fear of choosing Hope College because of how close it is to home. But WO alumni who attend Hope shows that the 4.7 miles is just the right distance.