“When I think about what I want to remember about my college experience in 20 years, I hope that I will remind myself about the visual nooks and crannies of campus that allowed me to escape from the day-to-day monotony of college life.” (Hustler Staff/Tucker Apgar)

Existential Dore: A naturalist rendition of campus sights

Vanderbilt presents a treasure chest of natural sights that students get to experience; taking the initiative to notice these natural views allows us to be more in tune with the university.

Truman McDaniel

In honor of our recent snow week, I had the chance to think about Vanderbilt’s campus with all of its wonderful sights to behold. It amuses me to see how Vanderbilt students respond to the weather, even during Nashville’s extreme weather conditions. Within the span of a week, I saw classmates building snowmen on Wilson’s lawn one day before studying on Alumni Lawn in the sunny weather the next day. I am constantly intrigued by the intricacies of our campus imagery, especially the little views that I like to discover which can be taken for granted. For example, my friend showed me her favorite sight on campus: the shade of the trees over the entrance of Benson.

It’s no secret that Vanderbilt is a very beautiful school. In fact, the university was named an arboretum when it was founded in 1873. When I toured the school as a junior in high school, the sight of the Wyatt Center towering over the green grass lawn inspired me to come here. I loved that I could escape into the natural views on campus while living in the middle of a bustling city like Nashville.

I am eager to experience Vanderbilt’s natural beauty on a daily basis. Whenever I have the chance to look up and see the sun peek between the trees on my way to Grins in the morning, I feel refreshed and eager to start my day. I think back to a quote from Mark Shelley’s “Frankenstein” where the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, observes the mountains that evoke a strong emotional response: “My heart, which was before sorrowful, now swelled with something like joy; I exclaimed—‘wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from the joys of life.’” While being on campus, I have been exposed to the campus’s most wonderful scenes, and I wanted to feel that same awe the protagonist describes.

However, I found that I did not always have time to appreciate the scenes while I was caught up in the busyness of classes. On the hectic days, when walking around campus as a freshman, I only ever thought about my destination. Buttrick. Wilson. Stevenson. Rand. 

Although there may not always be enough time to appreciate our campus life, I realized that I, along with others, should take the initiative to recognize the beauty contained within this campus. Research demonstrates that observing nature brings a wide variety of benefits outside appreciating the intricacies of nature. The benefits include a boosted mood, better immune response and pain perception and lower stress levels. At the same time, observing nature can help one break away from the tediousness of Vanderbilt life, especially in the middle of the semester. Now with the rise of Zoom University, the average college student is even more inclined to be indoors with their face buried in the confines of the virtual classroom.

Starting today, there are ways you can take the initiative to experience nature around campus. With the beginning of the spring weather, one may find that Wilson, Alumni and Wyatt lawns are now populated with students. Find a blanket or towel, and designate your study time on the lawn. Are you more of an indoors person? Take the time to walk outside for five minutes as part of your study break. If I have a long night of studying to come, I walk around main campus, observing the familiar campus sights under the cast of the lights at night.

When I reflect on what I’ll want to remember about my college experience in 20 years, I hope that I will remind myself of the visual nooks and crannies of the campus which allowed me to escape from the day-to-day monotony of college life. To be in nature is one of the most powerful experiences, and it can remind us that there is so much more to life than the immediate concerns of academics, extracurriculars and future career plans.