My very first opinion article for The DePauw was on homesickness. I was a freshman terrified of college and working very hard to pretend I wasn’t (honest truth: most freshmen are). I put forth everything I was trying to work through into that one small article.
People were concerned for me at the time (which is silly, homesickness is normal) but looking back, everything I said seemed to be a positive way to deal with a drastic life change. I rattled off several suggestions to battle homesickness—talk to people at home, make your dorm room homey, come up with a routine—and then ended with this piece of wisdom:
“With the start of September, here’s my advice: start to see yourself as an actual DePauw student. Don’t be afraid to pick a favorite study spot, settle down with a few new friends and find things you like about campus better than home.”
It’s one thing to give advice; it’s another to take it. Oh sure, I found the perfect study spot (it’s Starbucks), met my lifelong best friends (we’re living together again this year), and loved the walkability of Greencastle more than my urban neighborhood (always take the East College route). But I struggled to see myself as a DePauw student those three years ago. What was a DePauw student, anyway? How could I be one?
What I didn’t realize was how much I valued my education as much as being with my peers. How I enjoyed a Marvin’s run as much as my classmates. How I took the time to get to know my professors just like the people waiting outside the office’s door. How I loved dorm life as much as the upperclassmen. How I hated on the Hub food only to miss it a year later, an experience we all go through.
But most importantly, I didn’t realize how my individual self shaped not what a DePauw student was, but what a DePauw student could be.
My tendency to study only a few days before a test instead of weeks in advance works for me; just because it’s not the “usual” way doesn’t make me a bad DePauw student. Neither does my tendency to watch a movie and eat popcorn instead of frat hop Friday nights, or my aversion to Chipotle. I only add to the mix of all DePauw students, a mix that goes beyond a monotone body of like-minded people.
A liberal arts education is about learning both inside and outside the classroom. Take the time to get to know other DePauw peers. Find out what they feel makes them a DePauw student. Observe differences and learn from them. Grow. Share your story and teach them something, too.
I’m not saying that changing who you are is a bad thing. I’m saying don’t change just because you think you have to. Change because you’re growing, maturing, learning. Be willing to be shaped by your DePauw experience, let new knowledge affect who you want to be. But do it in a way that always stays true to you.
We’re all DePauw students just by being here. So congrats, you’re in! But what kind of a DePauw student you want to be is entirely up to you. There are things that tie us together; that’s how we ended up here in the first place. But we all have our individual gifts that make our university awesome, gifts that shape the DePauw story of our college years.
So first years: What will your DePauw story be? And the rest of us: What has your DePauw story become?
Together, our stories make us DePauw students. And there’s only more to come.
-Sausser is a senior English Writing major from Indianapolis.