In 1975-76, I attended Deep Springs College, arguably the strangest college in the world. It was an interesting place -- around 25 students in the desert 30 miles from a town, doing hard physical labor at the same time as the toughest academic program you can imagine. (A few years later, I learned differential equations in Hebrew, after having studied the language for only three months; that was comparably difficult. My Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon was a snap, by comparison.)

Although I mostly hated my time at Deep Springs, I mostly loved Deep Springs itself.

I am told that the nature of the Deep Springs experience varies widely from year to year. It all depends on who else happens to be there. I guess L. L. Nunn didn't give enough thought to small sample size.

My own experience, alas, was poisoned, almost literally, by a random set of coincidences. When I applied, I was told that being vegetarian was no problem -- there were 4 at the moment. Unfortunately, they were all in their final year, so when I arrived I was the only vegetarian. Worse, there were new cooks, and they were actively hostile to vegetarians, going so far as to cook many of the vegetables in animal fat. I developed several medical problems and a very bad attitude. I lasted 8 months.

But I remember with great fondness the environment ā€” the beauty and isolation of the valley. Living in the desert is a magnificent experience -- riding a horse to get away, camping in the Sierras for the week between terms But what I remember most fondly is the academic work. The average class size was three. The whole Deep Springs Experience is amazing. My experience was less happy than most ā€” Iā€™m a real outlier ā€” and even I thought it was a great place. Just not for me.

Nonetheless, you can't go to Deep Springs without having it shape you in some significant way.

Some links:

A 2004 article originally from the LA Times

A recent article about Deep Springs from the Christian Science Monitor

An article about Deep Springs from the Electronic Telegraph

The official Deep Springs web site