Fourth-year Anders Blomso will be graduating this May with a double major in Religious Studies and English and a minor in Chinese. Blomso applied to Whittier College for the “scholar environment” and to be able to build relationships with professors. Also, having been raised in Shoreline, Washington, he took up the opportunity for change. “I wanted to come to California … because the weather is a lot nicer down here, and I wanted to get out of Washington and see a different part of the United States,” said Blomso.
Religious Studies was his first declared major when he applied, and the subject was familiar because of his background in Christianity. “I was raised a mainline Protestant, Lutheran/Episcopalian, and recently have begun practicing Christianity again,” said Blomso. After coming out as gay, Blomso experienced struggles with homophobia from his evangelical group. “Recently, through some classwork, I felt called to return to church and have been trying to deepen my faith and religious life,” said Blomso.
Blomso added English as a second major because he always enjoyed literature and felt confident in his reading and comprehension skills, as compared to his natural sciences or mathematics skills. He wanted to transfer and improve the knowledge from his writing in English courses to his work in Religious Studies.
During his second year, Blomso started taking Chinese courses for his minor. “Being bilingual is always advantageous. I think there’s never a point where it’s like, ‘oh, you can speak two languages? We don’t want that,’ ” said Blomso. Regarding long-term goals, he looks to use Chinese to his advantage in graduate school while studying Asian religion. Blomso already earned the opportunity to study Chinese for a year at National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Assistant Professor of Modern Languages Horng-Yi Lee thought Blomso would be a good candidate for the program. She was able to connect Blomso with scholarships to attend the language institute, a Mandarin training center that is set up to teach foreigners Chinese. “This is something Taiwan is very invested in, because it was not like there were many language programs you can apply to depending on the city you want to be in,” said Blomso. After looking through several options, he felt Taiwan was the best option. “I was pretty set on National Taiwan Normal University when I saw its location: it’s set in the heart of downtown Taipei and is nearby many cultural sites, like Taipei 101,” said Blomso.
Blomso looks forward to studying abroad, something that both his parents have done in their lives. Between his dad, who left Norway to study abroad in the U.S. to finish his undergrad and master, and his mom, who took a gap year to live and work as a nanny in Norway, Blomso feels he must take that step and study abroad. Envisioning possibilities for the Taiwan language institute program, Blomso said, “I see this as an extension of my learning, and I’ll be able to use it to further my learning and studying.”
Blomso is also a student-athlete and member of Whittier College’s Swimming team. He competed in distance events such as the 1650 meter, the mile, and the 500 meter free-style. Blomso started competitive swimming when he was nine years old. His parents signed him up for a seasonal club — something popular in Washington during the summer. It kept him busy, and he enjoyed it enough to find a year-round team. Blomso continued to compete when he attended Shoreline High School, and later at Whittier College. Blomso mentioned the benefits of the College’s team. He said, “I didn’t have to make any giant commitment. It was very much on my terms.”
As he began his fourth year, the team had faced some major changes. They welcomed a new coach and adjusted to a new direction. After the coach got sick during the season, the team had to adjust the mentoring of the assistant coach. All of the members stood together. Blomso said, “It was a captain by committee. We all sort of lead the team together.” Blomso shared how the team faced the unforeseen turns that life creates. “You kind of want your senior year to go smooth, and be like ‘oh, its going to be a blast all the time,’ but this kind of tested me, and I’m thankful for the experience now, in hindsight,” he said. “It forced me to do a lot of introspection and think about what kind of leader I am trying to be.”
Blomso appreciates that he had swimming in his life before coming to the College, as it gave him an immediate sense of identity and belonging. His first-year class had the responsibilities of setting up the pool and preparing for meets, which forced the class to bond and become familiar with one another. “We had to learn how to work together, right from the get-go,” said Blomso. “In a lot of ways, and particularly in my relational life, swimming has been a big boon because I met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have.”
Graduation is approaching, and Blomso is already set with plans after accepting his diploma. Immediately after graduation, Blomso says he will go back to Shoreline, Washington to be a swim coach in one of the swimming programs offered. After the summer, he looks forward to taking his year abroad learning and developing his Mandarin in Taiwan. Next, he imagines going to graduate school, already having looked into different programs in religious and Chinese studies at Cornell University, Yale University, University of Chicago, Duke University, University of British Columbia, or Stanford University, to name a few.
Blomso is looking for a school with a faculty with similar interests that will aid him to develop and to dive into the subjects that are the most important to him. He is also looking for a positive working environment that he can envision himself excelling and succeeding in.
Blomso is considering earning a Master’s in Religious Studies and possibly a Master’s in Divinity. The degree in Divinity in religious education has an emphasis and preparation as a chaplain or as a member of the clergy. Blomso is looking at seminaries in the branch of Christianity that he was brought up in. The Master’s in Divinity program enacts an academic instruction in language and deeper course work on the religion of study with their testament’s original manuscripts. It also would provide Blomso with field placement experience in places where he could develop his skills and knowledge in religion, such as local churches, hospitals, hospice care centers, and even prisons.
With less than a month until graduation, Blomso reflects back to the person he was when entering Whittier College. Blomso sees that he has grown intellectually and in mannerisms. “The greatest thing that I learned at Whittier is the importance of connections you can build with people. Because I know for myself [that] there have been moments where, if I didn’t have the friendships that I had here, I don’t know what my life would look like,” said Blomso.
He is grateful to the friends and mentors in his life that helped him keep his feet on the ground, keeping him balanced and able to move forward. They are what he will miss the most come graduation. “I’m not ready to say goodbye, because I know I’ll have relationships with all my friends and teammates for many years to come, but I also know that it will never be as close and special as it is now,” said Blomso. With May approaching, the time for new journeys and changes is on its way. Next to change, our relationships are the next greatest experience a student faces in college, and Blomso is profoundly grateful for the relationships and memories he made as a Poet.
If Blomso could go back and meet his first-year self, he would give himself the advice he gives himself today: to relax and not stress so much about what is to come or what is happening. He has practiced this and now finds it easier to prepare himself for the future, but when he was younger, Blomso would stress over events in his life. “Begin to get to know yourself, and then learn how to relax and … trust that things will work out,” said Blomso.
His family, friends, and mentors at Whittier College wish him the best of luck, as this bright and ambitious Poet dives into the next chapter in his life.