I was on the phone with my advisor yesterday talking about my upcoming honors project. Somehow the conversation turned to the incoming freshmen and Orientation. He chuckled and asked, “When you were a freshman, did you have any idea you’d be where you are now?”
I was speechless. I didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically or break out in tears. Because exactly three years ago, I had absolutely no idea where my time at William & Mary would take me. I was conflicted with both excitement and doubt, worried deep down that somehow college wouldn’t be the life-changing experience everyone had promised it would be.
I was wrong.
I’ve experienced more in the three years at William & Mary than I ever could have imagined. I’ve known both love and deep, shattering loss. I’ve learned the importance of asking for help, even when you’re terrified to admit defeat. I’ve seen people I love struggle through unthinkable hardships and learned what it means to be a true friend. I’ve broken the rules and certainly procrastinated more than I’d like to admit. I’ve stayed up all night for absolutely no reason at all. I landed my dream internship after being denied from a slew of others. I’ve spent late nights with friends debating politics and religion, even though sometimes we had no idea what we were talking about. I’ve had a class kick my butt, and I learned to fight back. I’ve discovered research I’m passionate about, and successfully applied for my first research grant. I’ve skipped class simply because the day was too beautiful to go inside.
Looking back, I can say with certainty that I’m where I am today because of the people I met at William & Mary. Some of the people I met on the very first morning of Orientation would become my closest friends, and still are to this day. I know I’m extremely lucky to have a group of people who love me even when I’m at my worst (and trust me, sometimes college classes will bring out the worst). They have supported me and challenged me, and I am confident that our bond will last far beyond graduation day.
But there is more to my story than the influence of fellow classmates. There were professors who took even my most far-fetched ideas seriously, encouraging me to pursue them even when they seemed impossible. There were administrators who taught me the values of a good leader and alumni who showed me that my William & Mary experience extends far longer than four years. And of course, my parents, who while always supporting me in my exploits, never failed to remind me the importance of getting enough sleep and not over-committing myself.
There’s no way of knowing whether I would have had these same experiences at another college. But one thing is for certain – I have felt more love and encouragement at the College of William & Mary than I could have possibly imagined. I couldn’t be more excited to embrace my senior year alongside the people who have made the last three years so exceptional.
I can’t help but smile when I think of the class of 2017. In just a few short weeks, they will be starting their freshman year, just as nervous and clueless as I was. And three years from now, maybe they will be posed with the same question.
“Did you have any idea you’d be where you are now”?
I bet they’ll say no.