It’s a quiet Friday morning on The Commons
It’s a quiet Friday morning on The Commons. The campus is pausing for a week-long Thanksgiving Break that begins tomorrow. Many people are headed home. Others, especially students who live abroad, will stay here or travel elsewhere in the United States. Hard to believe that it’s “only” been twelve weeks since the semester began in late August. So much has changed since then—-new friends, new classes, new experiences, new discoveries.
A group of students was in the house the other night (I can’t take myself so seriously as to call it the Dean’s Residence, but please do understand that my family and I literally live in the center of The Commons). They were my Visions group (shout out to Group 80!). Every first year student belongs to a Visions group that meets weekly with a student and faculty “VUceptor” to discuss the transition everybody is experiencing as they move from high school to college. It’s a steep learning curve. For our group, that translated into talking for an hour a week about where we were at in the semester—sometimes structured discussion but more often than not general chat. We’d always start by going around the circle and playing “highs and lows” of the week. “My high of the week was seeing my girlfriend from home and my low of the week was the calculus exam.” You get the idea.
Since this was the last official session of the semester (we decided to have one more after the Break to spend our group activity fee on dinner at the world-famous Loveless Café!), we played “highs and lows” of the semester. There were lows. “The Swine”—H1N1—has been an issue here this semester, so sickness was one constant,, as was lack of sleep, as was the discovery that, in fact, not everybody possibly can get A’s. I remembered that my high of the semester was Lindsay’s low; she was crushed that the Phillies lost the World Series and hated the fact I was a Yankees fan! The group started pausing, though, when it tried to remember the “high” of the semester, and fairly soon the consensus started to emerge that there were “highs, ” but these just reduced to a common denominator. They simply liked it at Vanderbilt, they felt at home, were having a good time of it, and felt a growing self-confidence. “Yeah, I’ve talked with some of my friends from high school, and they’re just not as happy as I am.” “That’s true for me, too. I just like it here.”
Of course, for me, as a professor, to be surrounded by young people in both my classrooms and my neighborhood who are comfortable enough to be themselves means that they are tapping into their capacity for personal and intellectual growth—the chief reason we brought them to Vanderbilt in the first place. As they grow and explore, my life becomes richer. That makes me—and my colleagues—happy as well. As does having a Thanksgiving Break.