The right path?
Students must branch out for the full University experience
A few short years ago, I left the house I had grown up in and moved my familiar belongings into an unfamiliar room at the school of my dreams. Mom and Dad left, eliciting a delicate balance of homesickness and excitement. Reflecting back, I think it is safe to say that I didn’t return home the same person. My college friends became family and U.Va. traditions became staples of my daily life. Today, only a few months shy of my final steps down the Lawn as a student, I have found comfort in uncertainty and faith in new opportunity.
Many can identify with this unique mood brought about on the first day on Grounds; but for me, it was much different. Unlike most, I transferred to U.Va. as a second year from that school I shall not name down the road. I was imprisoned in the backwoods of Hereford, linked to the University merely by a crowded Northline bus that rarely arrived on schedule. As a new student in a place that touts endless opportunity and friendships for a lifetime, I was certain that Hereford didn’t get the memo. I transferred seeking more opportunity, challenge and extracurricular involvement. Yet, when I peered outside my narrow prison-esque Hereford window expecting an academic bliss, I was instead greeted with woods, a maintenance storage lot and other identical jail-like structures. I dwell on my living situation because I questioned the wisdom of my decision to transfer on my first day here at the University. The never-ending opportunity, student involvement and picturesque Academical Village that permeates U.Va. literature appeared to be mythical. I was completely wrong!
During our time here, we are expected to attain a well-rounded education fueled by exams, papers and a plethora of projects. If one merely wanted a top-notch education, one could take MIT classes online for free (thereby saving thousands of dollars annually). Our experience here is about something more. As anyone who has stumbled into a Bob Kemp lecture knows, U.Va. is a “special place” filled with opportunity and limited only by imagination.
We attend a school where trust is at the heart of our academic being. Unlike most institutions, we rely on student self-governance and have faith that our peers will do the right thing. While it seems that we apply and compete for every organization in which we want to become involved in at times, the organizations and programs that we thought were the perfect fit for our interests or career paths turn out not to be. With more than 700 CIOs, almost everyone eventually finds the “right fit.”
When I first arrived, I was set on joining resume-boosting organizations in hopes that I would appear as a well-rounded candidate to employers. I was chasing the high-paying job with little regard for what I actually wanted to do. College is supposed to be a learning process; and for those just getting started, I will save you some time. No path is certain. Looking back, I wish I had taken more diverse classes. As a second year, I wish that I had applied to more application-based majors. In my case, I discovered my perfect major too late. Reflecting back, I made some of my best friends living in that Herefordian prison. Even though it took me a while to find my academic fit, I learned that college is not only about the classes. One learns just as much, if not more, outside the classroom than within. We learn that Wahoos look out for one another both on and off Grounds and we learn that U.Va. students share a special bond. We trust each other. I know from experience that there are not many places where one can leave his laptop on a table and find it in the exact same spot upon returning. U.Va.’s name carries significant weight and frequently opens the door to opportunities, both expected and unexpected.
Trust me, your time here will fly by; but during your short tenure, try as many things as you can and note that the path most travelled is not always yours. I entered U.Va. expecting a certain future, yet I will come away with more than I expected in a very different journey. Sometimes, even the worst situations can turn into incredible opportunities. Finding comfort in uncertainty is a guiding light. Trust those around you because your peers and professors, young and old, are looking out for you. So I ask you to take advantage of the community, whether you are a new student or one who has called Charlottesville home for years. Walk into office hours and talk to that classmate to whom you rarely turn. Value all perspectives because you never know when a conversation is going to turn into a new opportunity, and you never know when a new opportunity could change the direction in which your life is headed.
David Aramony is a fourth-year trustee.