Dear Wake Forest University Class of 2024,
Four years ago, I was you. Nervously excited to be at Wake Forest, and very ready to kiss high school goodbye forever. During these unprecedented times, this may not exactly be your reality. Your goodbyes to friends, like mine, will have to be over Zoom or FaceTime. Your last time playing with your sports teams, going to prom or being with your bandmates for a final hooray has been stripped from you. Please know that I feel for you. I could not imagine ending high school in this way, and I 100% feel your devastation at everything you have lost.
During this time, as you enter Wake Forest, and I exit, I want to send you all some encouragement and advice. Your class, like mine, is entering college during a presidential election. For some people, there may be a fear here at how this dynamic will unfold on campus (fingers crossed you all will get to start college in person). Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, I want to encourage you to be respectful of one another. Believe as you will, but it is unnecessary to attack a fellow peer, especially within the personal arena of racial and social identity. Agree to disagree, have polite, engaging conversations and remain civil. Anything else is unnecessary and creates more tension than is wanted. Oh, and don’t forget to vote!
I also want to encourage you to enter into Wake Forest unapologetically yourself. Don’t focus on trying to fit the norm, as it can be easy to do. Meet as many people as you can. Get to know your roommate and hallmates. Build relationships with people who are similar to you, but also with those who are different. Never again will you have access to so many unique people at one time. This is an opportunity to meet fellow students from all over the world, who make up multiple intersecting identities. Don’t judge anyone by how they appear, because the person who you think you won’t click with may end up becoming your best friend. Put yourself out there and take a chance, because you honestly never know. Some of the greatest relationships I have had at Wake Forest have been with people I least expected, but who ultimately contributed so much to my understanding of and perspectives on life.
Please do not compromise your values for others at Wake Forest. If there is an aspect of campus culture that is uncomfortable for you, don’t push yourself to engage with it. Just know you are never alone in how you feel; there are others who are just like you. I promise you that if you are patient, you will find those people. It may just take some time.
While you are at Wake Forest, get to know your professors, the dining staff, the Benson University Center staff and the staff who clean your dorms. They have such interesting life experiences and stories, and they will also begin to look out for you, greeting you whenever they see you. Seriously, they love talking with students! For me, it always brightened up my day when I was greeted by everyone’s favorite Starbucks Barista, Ms. Rosalyn, as I walked through Starbucks to the library. Ms. Rosalyn, by week three of my freshman year, had remembered my Starbucks order (and it changed, many times!), and continued to do so up until this year. She always asked me how I was doing and was always looking to help me out. Building those relationships keeps you connected within the Wake Forest community, and makes it feel more like home.
Lastly, take care of yourself and your well-being. Wake Forest is nicknamed “Work Forest” for a reason. I encourage you to carve out time to pursue healthy activities that are important to you, and that will take your mind off of homework and studying, even if it’s just for thirty minutes or so every day.
College will not always be simple, but just know that everything you go through, the good and the bad, will make you a better person. Make the most of your four years! It goes by very quickly. Do everything you have always wanted to do; pursue your dreams, fight for what you believe in, and never, ever let fear stop you from living life in a way that is meaningful to you.
All the best!
Samantha Smart, Wake Forest University ‘20