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Class of 2017 – What Will You Be?

Nathan Hall

So, you’re in. Congratulations! You’ve overcome some of the toughest admissions odds in the nation to earn that shiny brochure and the acceptance letter you’ll hold onto for your scrapbook (if you’re into scrapbooking). Now that you’ve scaled that mountain, though, and the path to Vanderbilt is fully paved ahead of you… why come? Several of my fellow bloggers have addressed this question, but I want to give it a try in a different kind of way. Instead of telling you why to come here, I simply want you to ask – what can I be if I do?

You will be transported. Maybe you’ll find yourself smiling uncontrollably at the rawness of a Ugandan children’s choir, or breathless and frozen in the Ryman listening to the softest song by your favorite band. Perhaps you’ll stand up at the end of a VOB musical wishing you could stay in that world a little longer, or elatedly grasp the arms of your seat at the Schermerhorn when the symphony opens its performance of your favorite composer. Regardless of how or where it happens, you’ll be captured and stolen away by the arts at Vanderbilt and in Nashville.

You will be humbled. I’ve talked about this one before, but I think it’s an important piece of the Vanderbilt culture. Everyone on campus is brilliant and the number of different ways in which Vandy students are high achievers is a little absurd. Unfortunately, this means your star won’t always shine the brightest. “Wherever you go, you will top all the rest,” Dr. Seuss famously says, “Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.” Too true.

Photo credit to Victoria, who took this stunning picture!

You will be reverent. You could attend an Interfaith Council memorial service on 9/11, or visit Nashville’s only Hindu temple, where you’ll spend a few hours experiencing something completely foreign. You could watch the sun rise from Love Hill, or watch it set behind Nashville’s Parthenon. You’ll lose track of time reading in the silence at Central Library, and you’ll find times of very intense personal quiet. Maybe they’ll come late at night, or maybe early on a Saturday morning when the rest of campus is still asleep. Maybe you’ll even share that quiet with someone.

You will be afraid. Months will pass in the blink of an eye, and you’ll find yourself like me – preparing to say your goodbyes to the last class above you, and feeling totally unprepared to fill their shoes. You could realize you’re stepping up into leadership roles much bigger than the ones you were so good at in high school, and you can’t fail to notice your mentors scattering to the wind when they graduate, leaving you wondering what you’re going to do. You’ll rise to the occasion, though; you will be a Commodore, after all.

You will be inspired. Undoubtedly you will be nearing the completion of your first year here at Vanderbilt as part of a historically impressive class, only to find that, once again, the next incoming class is brighter and more accomplished than you – and it can be demoralizing, but it can be amazing. You’re finally here, living a short four years as part of an incredible community. You’ll watch performances, hear lectures, and speak with people who push you outside of your comfort zone. You could watch a Vanderbilt team rise from obscurity to be a contender, or read a novel written by someone you’ve run into on campus. The only limit to the ways in which Vanderbilt and its students can push you is your own drive to excel.

I didn't think I had aged much since freshman year until I found this gem.

You will be changed. It may happen without you noticing… at first, anyway. You will find yourself buried neck-deep in a hectic schedule filled with assignments, social activities, extracurriculars and more, and it won’t be until that valuable quiet moment that you’ll suddenly realize how far you’ve come. You may find you’ve learned both the value of silence and the courage to speak up, or you may realize you’re comfortable being you for the first time. You may truly understand what it means to be a leader, or you could notice you’ve come to respect your peers as adults and not simply as classmates. You’ll discover new interests alongside new friends, and (as seems to happen at college) you’ll notice which of your old friends will be around for a lifetime. Even though I am afraid sometimes and humbled often, I am so thankful for the times this school and the people around me have inspired me, transported me and changed me. I feel like I can confidently say who and what I am as I approach my final year at this school… but who can say what you’ll be?

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