BARRY: A letter to Black Vandy

When you arrive on campus for your first year, you will find a community that will accept and open its arms to you.
Graphic depicting a college girl sitting at her desk writing a letter. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Graphic depicting a college girl sitting at her desk writing a letter. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

Dear Black Vandy Class of 2028,

It is going to be scary. Leaving home will be scary. Influencers warning you about everything regarding your freshman year as you doom-scroll on TikTok will be scary. The uncertainty of making friends and fitting in will be scary. Trying to balance everything while still having a social life will be scary. And above all, it will be scary to keep wondering if you’re good enough to even go to a place like Vanderbilt — but trust me, you are. 

I am not going to brush away your fears because if you look anything like me — deep sun- kissed skin, eyes that shine with hues of brown that will witness challenges that some will never understand — then the idea of coming to a predominately white institution (PWI) like Vanderbilt feels daunting. You may have already seen the TikToks showing you how to deal with the subtle microaggressions: these, in reality, are not-so subtle macroaggressions. You may worry about the impending loneliness you’ll feel in a room full of people. You may worry that even though you proved you were smart enough through daunting applications and college acceptances, you may not really be smart enough to be here at all. Then there’s your fear that the small community on campus will feel too small for you to fit into. What if it is all for nothing? What if things don’t work out? 

If you’re worried, allow me to alleviate some of your fears. Coming to Vanderbilt may in fact be strange, terrifying and daunting; maybe it will be all of those things all at once. But I promise you that the minute you walk on to campus, you will be met with a smiling and accepting community that will open its arms to you. The scary ideas of life at college will dissolve slowly. Will all the fear you have right now go away completely? Not unless you give it a try — a real try — because the only way to overcome the fear is to tackle it head-on.

Go to the first cookout that feels like the ones back at home. Go to the soul food luncheon. Go to the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center because it is a space that gives you a breather when you feel like a small fish in a big pond. I did all of this and things have become easier day by day.

There are not many physical spaces dedicated to us on campus, but the BCC opens up doors you thought you’d never open. The BCC offers programming geared to help you meet new people and learn about opportunities that may not have been accessible before. There will be others making efforts to ease the anxiety that comes with leaving home, and trust me, these efforts work if you take your fear and search for where you fit.

There are many social organizations on campus dedicated to us, including the Black Student Association (BSA), African Student Union (ASU), Caribbean Student Association (CSA), Ethiopian-Eritrean Student Association (EESA) — just to name a few. From organizations geared to empowering Black men and women (Revamp and Strands respectively) to Melanted, an all-Black acapella group on campus with voices that will give you goosebumps, you will undoubtedly find your niche.

Whatever you identify as and whoever you are, there is somewhere for you to fit into on campus. Despite the population of Black students on campus being small, it rarely feels that way. Tyler Enenmoh, the ASU’s first-year representative, had many of the same worries you may have now.

“​​I feared that I could not find a community at Vanderbilt that would make me feel at home. The Black students at Vanderbilt have helped me to find a space where I feel appreciated for my thoughts and experiences,” Enenmoh said. 

Don’t come on campus and close yourself off. It may be easy to stay in your room and worry, but  you’ll soon realize that there are many aspects of campus life that will resonate strongly with you. 

Coming to Vanderbilt may in fact be strange, terrifying and daunting; maybe it will be all of those things all at once. But I promise you that the minute you walk on to campus, you will be met with a smiling and accepting community that will open its arms to you.

Maybe you’ll find that being a student organization leader is particularly fulfilling. First-year Sebastian Jacques decided to take the chance by applying to be a freshman representative and found himself right where he needed to be. 

“I wanted to become a freshman rep for CSA because I saw it as an opportunity to engage with a community I had been somewhat isolated from growing up,” Jacques said. “Growing up in Virginia, there was little exposure to my Haitian heritage aside from my household. Upon attending the first Caribbean Student Association GBM, I knew I had made the right decision. It was refreshing to be surrounded by those that come from similar cultural backgrounds as me, something that I had been deprived of previously.”

Maybe you’ll join the executive board for Harambee or Black Girl Fest. Maybe you’ll win an award at The Black Affair. Maybe you’ll get an opportunity to go to Capitol Hill with Vanderbilt’s pre-law chapter of the National Black Law Student Association and experience opportunities that you never would’ve imagined. 

If you don’t fully believe me yet, take the advice of Eden Alemu, the first-year representative of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Student Association.

“Hold on to and make time for the people and things you value because they become your family here and are what you end up leaning on as school and life gets hard. Also just enjoy and make the most of your time here in whatever way that looks like for you,” Alemu said. 

There is no doubt that it is scary. The fear of waiting for your acceptance letter and staring at your portal in terror was scary enough. But getting in and facing an acceptance you might not have been accepting is also terrifying, and that’s okay. You were accepted for a reason, but that doesn’t mean your feelings of doubt aren’t valid. 

It’s scary to consider attending a PWI when you think there is no space where you will feel represented. Tacking that on with the fear of going to college and starting a new life can feel like chains holding you in an embrace that has never been comfortable. You have done so much in your life to become successful and getting accepted to Vanderbilt is no easy feat. It’s normal that the panic and worry of beginning an entirely new journey still hasn’t subsided. You may still feel the chains of fear and anxiety ripping at you, but the chains will push and fall off if you make it. Remember that there is a community here that you can build that will accept and open its arms to you. Open your arms, and try something new. I can’t wait to see you all!


Souadou Barry


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About the Contributors
Souadou Barry
Souadou Barry, Staff Writer
Souadou Barry (‘27) is majoring in law, history and society and minoring in English in the College of Arts and Science. She can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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3 months ago

Barry – I am a local Nashvillian. I love a cappella singing. Is there a way a non-student/non-Staff person can learn about and attend the a cappella groups’ performances.
[email protected]
Note: I do attend many events at Vanderbilt.

Ousmane Dieng
3 months ago

‼️TO ALL INCOMING FRESHMEN‼️ It is so much easier to meet people at the beginning of the year when everyone is in the same position of finding their friend groups than at the end of the year when friend groups begin to solidify. But yeah LOVE the BCC!!