First-Year Focus: Don’t let it pass by

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First-Year Focus: Don’t let it pass by

Rachel Wei

Sitting in lawn chairs packed together side by side, and front to back, we wait. The air is humid, but as evening falls the temperature begins to cool. It’s the end of an exciting, chaotic and packed few days, so it feels good to finally be sitting down. You can still hear upperclassmen cheering and screaming behind you. After introductions to faculty head of houses, and the Dean of the Commons, Chancellor Zeppos takes the podium and a hush falls over the freshman class.

A few weeks have passed since Founder’s Walk, but recently I’ve been reminded of something Chancellor Zeppos said during his speech at the walk. Chancellor Zeppos exhorted us to “stop and smell the roses” during our time here. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, because there’s always so much going on at Vandy. Walking to class, I see tents being set up and taken down, stages assembled and tables decorated; the campus is always alive.

I get about five emails a day notifying me about various fairs, lectures, screenings, events, immersion workshops and Dean’s dinners that are happening. Although it’s sometimes tempting to ignore those emails or scroll through so fast that you don’t have time to really process what you’re reading, I think taking the time to be informed about the various events at Vandy is valuable.

Many of us talked about how if we were accepted to ___ college, we would be sure to take advantage of all the resources on campus, give back to our community, etc.. However, now that we’re actually here, I think the tempting tendency is to be a bit lazy; instead of taking advantage of the unique opportunities around campus, many of us have let them pass by. I’m not saying that students should prioritize going to random campus events over schoolwork or looking after their personal well-being. Rather, I think that college is a really valuable time and offers unique ways in which we can all continue to learn outside the classroom and broaden our horizons. These opportunities should not be overlooked or taken lightly.

By simply being Vandy students, we are exposed to a wealth of information and opportunities others can only dream about. A few weeks ago, I attended the first Chancellor’s lecture for the year featuring General Hayden, who is a former CIA and National Security Agency director. General Hayden discussed the current political climate and what implications it has for U.S. national security and information relationships with other countries. What he talked about could help us every day citizens gain insight into the importance of obtaining intelligence in the current political climate. Although this was one of the larger lectures here, there are also smaller scale discussions, seminars and lectures that are held by organizations or offices on campus. For example, I attended an interesting discussion style talk about artificial intelligence hosted by a student organization dedicated to learning more about AI, and three computer science professors. The opportunity to engage with peers and professors about relevant topics in a relaxed setting that is accessible is a really special part of college I think we should all take advantage of. Next week, Anita Hill will be speaking as well. By attending events such as these that center on interesting, relevant topics, students can become more informed about these issues, and also learn directly from renowned professionals. In an era where there is an overabundance of information, obtaining information about issues directly from experienced and credible professionals can be extremely helpful and of high educational value.

Part of what makes the undergraduate experience so special is this ability to “stop and smell the roses;” there are very few other times in life when we will have the freedom, resources and time to explore and learn, just for fun. Taking advantage of opportunities to learn about topics of interest on campus is a major way we can ensure college does not merely pass us by. I don’t think any of us want to look back on our time here and wish we spent our time differently, or more wisely. That’s why jumping right in and intentionally choosing to smell every rose you can is something we should all strive to do.

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