To first-years, with love: advice on surviving and thriving

Aaron Hill ’16

Even though It’s been an entire year since I’ve graduated Vassar, I still believe one of the most important takeaways was that it’s perfectly alright to feel emotionally vulnerable. By extension, it’s perfectly alright to feel the other less desirable emotions—anxious, tired, frustrated, confused, confuzzled and more. But vulnerability was something I was unaccustomed to for the longest time and something I couldn’t name for even longer—it was subtle and positioned itself under anxiety or disappointment, cloaked itself in a shroud of worry or nibbled away at my confidence when I needed it most. It made me defensive when I made mistakes and secretive when I disappointed myself. It took me far too long to realize that was alright, and my mistakes were stepping stones to success—but those are common words of advice.

What’s a bit rarer is to hear that it’s okay to be afraid, to be uncertain. To feel pangs of guilt or moments of fear. To feel wounded or threatened or isolated. To feel vulnerable. To feel human. Understanding and, moreover, accepting these emotions was my first step towards inner peace, and when I took the risk of exposing these parts of myself to others, I learned two things. First was that the nature of vulnerability is far more universal than you might first expect, and having someone to lean on in troubled times is empowering. Second is the real growth you get from acknowledging and accepting those very human feelings—and then working (possibly collaboratively) to understand and work toward fixing their causes.

Everyone faces innumerable hurdles during their four years at Vassar. Exams, classes, colleagues, health, politics and an uncertain future are heavy burdens we face, but you aren’t alone. We all believe in you, just as you should believe in yourself.

Matthew Au ’19

Go out and meet people! College truly is the time to make friends, enemies, memories, relationships and connections. The scariest and most uncomfortable part of your first year often is not knowing many people, but remember that you are ALL in the same boat; no first-year ever has (enough) friends, no matter how popular they may seem.

Keep that in mind, and don’t be afraid to say hi to random people you see around! Say hi to that person you’ve seen around campus but to whom you haven’t introduced yourself, say hey to the person in the laundry room with you or the person behind you in line at the Deece. I’ll bet they would love to meet you just as much as you would love to meet them. Make it a point to meet at least one new person (maybe in your classes) every day, and try to remember their face and name; just take the first step, introduce yourself, and I guarantee that everyone you meet will be amazing (just like you)!

Parisa Halaji ’16

Congratulations! You’ve made it! You may not know it yet, but these next four years are going to be the hardest, scariest and most exciting years of your life. College is the perfect place to reinvent yourself, explore new things and make mistakes. *This is important.* I wish someone had told me on my first day of orientation that making mistakes is okay. So what if you had a bit too much to drink after a huge plate of Bacio’s penne alla vodka and puked all over your roommate’s bed? It happens! Life goes on.

I think the biggest takeaway I took from my four years at Vassar was that you can’t wait around on the sidelines; you have to take risks and do what makes you happy. Go out for a sports team (even if there isn’t an athletic bone in your body), join a club that YOU think is interesting and, most importantly, talk to new people!

It’s also important to let loose once in awhile. You know, we all need to take a step back, have fun, cut a rug and maybe even do the things that terrify us the most. Welcome to college, a place of endless possibilities.

Cassidy Nealon ’19

The best advice I could give would be to find a club that is the right fit for you. The best decision I made as a freshman was joining Vassar on Tap, Vassar College’s only tap ensemble. Of all the random orgs that my friends and I signed up for during the club fair and all the email lists that I’m still on because I keep forgetting to unsubscribe, Vassar On Tap was the one that stuck. Its combination of exercise, creativity and a low commitment of only an hour a week really makes it the ideal club for any overwhelmed and exhausted college student.

Having a place full of amazing people who want to have a blast and do cool things is the ultimate way to to deal with stress. Obviously, for me, that’s tap dancing, but there are tons of amazing orgs that don’t involve coordinated foot movements if that’s not your thing. Have fun and find ways to not let your schoolwork overwhelm you! Also definitely join Vassar On Tap!


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