When Lauren Spohn visited family in College Station from Harvard University for Thanksgiving, she did so as one of the 32 Rhodes Scholars selected this year.
“I still feel like I’m hovering somewhere maybe three and a half miles above the Earth right now,” she said. “And, you know, finals are coming, so that’s certainly speeding up the process of finally falling back down, but, yeah, I’m pretty excited.”
Beyond just being named a Rhodes Scholar, the Harvard senior said, she is excited to study at Oxford University for two years and explore England and the United Kingdom during her time.
Spohn is studying English and history and said she has been a “lifelong fan” of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, both of whom have connections to Oxford University and address topics she has been studying and wants to continue exploring.
“It was just kind of a dream come true,” she said. “It certainly means a whole heck of a lot to be able to go in and kind of live there.”
A 2016 graduate of College Station High School, Spohn is one of two scholars selected to represent the Texas and Oklahoma district and is one of five selected from Harvard. She was one of more than 236 applicants.
“I actually did hear about it just sort of word of mouth while I was in high school, but it was always sort of a kind of ‘castle in the clouds’ type thing,” she said. Upon enrolling at Harvard, her focus was on finding what excited her academically and then would apply when the time came if she felt compelled to continue studying.
The most difficult part of the process that began in the spring with a personal statement and letters of recommendation was waiting to hear if she would be one of the 32 selected for the 2019 cohort, Spohn said.
“My heart was beating so fast, it was hard to hear,” she said. “I didn’t really think about anything when my name was called. My mouth probably dropped to the floor, and I was just like, ‘Whoa.’ It was numbing for a little while.”
The announcement ultimately came at the end of two days of interviews in November after making it through the university and national rounds.
“I had a blast in the interviews,” she said. “It was just fun to talk to all the panelists, because it’s really just an opportunity to kind of collect all the things that you’ve been thinking about for the past four years and just sort of have everything right at your fingertips and just talk about what you’re passionate about it, and for me, that was stories; it was literature.”
Since receiving the news, Spohn said, she has been able to connect with current scholars who are studying what she is interested in pursuing.
She has also been looking into Christian organizations and courses on intellectual Christianity she can join to further her faith.
In addition to getting to know scholars from the previous cohort and those selected this year, Spohn said, she is excited to play “real” football — and not American football. She was a competitive club soccer player and played for CSHS before playing two years on the varsity team at Harvard.
She also plans to hone her skills at footgolf.
“I have a secret ambition to be a semi-pro footgolfer, but we’ll see how good I am once I put some consistent practice into it,” she said with a laugh.
Growing up in an Air Force family, she said, she was home-schooled until fifth grade, when her family settled in College Station. She then enrolled at Allen Academy for sixth through eighth grade to transition into a traditional school setting and moved to College Station High School for her freshman year of high school in 2012, which was the year the school opened.
Helping open CSHS showed her what it means to set a standard and culture with an expectation of excellence and see how the institution develops. She still remembers, she said, the “four pillars of the Cougar way” — character, commitment, sacrifice and effort.
“The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is so applicable in this situation,” she said, thanking her family, classmates, teammates, teachers, mentors and coaches. “I mean, like going to Oxford on a Rhodes is anything but an individual achievement. It’s really a reflection of the communities that have raised me, going all the way back to my family moving around the U.S.”