Enrolling in college, for some, is seen as an opportunity to redefine oneself – the chance to become someone different than how you are known by your immediate peers, friends, past teachers, and parents. For others, it is an opportunity to figure out who you want to be, learning from new friends and a new environment and adapting one’s current self to fit a new mold. Some try to cling to who they were before college, trying as hard as they can to remain their own authentic self in a time where everyone is desperately trying to define who they are. All of these people, however, share a common thread: as much as you may want to prepare for a future, it is still uncertain. You never truly know what will happen until the moment itself comes.
For me, I felt a mix of all three outlooks. Coming to Pitt, I was not entirely sure of who I wanted to be. Would I continue with my passions in high school by joining the Parliamentary debate team, spend my weekends volunteering in my community, or continue in my attempt to cook and bake my way through the entire Bon Appétit recipe catalog? With so many options at my disposal, and a seemingly limitless amount of opportunity, it was easy to become overwhelmed and start to question whether I actually liked what I was doing in the past, or whether it was time for a change. While the idea of college is exciting, and is something most of us have looked forward to since we entered high school, the reality of it all changes once you finally commit to where you’re going to spend the next few years of your life. Even more, once you’re actually on campus, it feels as though all of the choices you make in the first few days may alter the remaining course of your time at Pitt. There are so many factors that are seemingly out of your control that it can be easy to get lost in the process and forget the moment.
My guiding philosophy, from day one, was to try everything and anything that came my way. I knew, roughly, that I wanted to go to law school when I graduated from Pitt, so in the first week of school I formally declared myself as a Politics&Philosophy major. I enrolled in an honors course my first semester as a freshman – called “Lawyers in American Society” – partly in an attempt to uphold my idea of what it meant to be an honors student in college, and partly because I happened to be browsing the honors college course listings and saw it among a long list of options and found it interesting. Beyond that, I decided that I would let fate dictate where I ended up – with so many choices that appeared to be life altering, I decided to forget the future and try to live in the moment and truly enjoy the exciting uncertainty that follows the transition into a new chapter of your life.
I had no idea what I was going to do for the rest of my undergraduate career – let alone my spring semester of my freshman year of undergrad. But as a result of taking the honors class, I was asked by the professor – Bernard Hibbitts – whether I wanted to continue working with the material and work on an independent research project in the Spring. In a moment of spontaneity, I decided that I would be ecstatic to do so. In tacking on the independent study to my Spring course-load, I laid the groundwork to continue research into my freshman year summer, where I was awarded the honors college Brackenridge research fellowship and was able to work on researching the country lawyer while paid, full-time. From that point on, I have continued my research, taken more classes with Professor Hibbitts (enroll in his courses – they’re all incredible!), and have decided on declaring a Bachelor in Philosophy with a thesis on my research regarding the country lawyer. None of this would have happened had I not seized the opportunity to conduct an independent study with my professor in that moment – and I am forever grateful that I did.
Beyond my research, I also happened to secure an internship with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (the human rights enforcement arm of the City of Pittsburgh which deals with cases of discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations) as a result of attending an event during orientation week as a freshman which took a group of students to the city-county building. After hearing the former director of the commission speak, I was inspired and amazed by the incredible work they do – so I decided to reach out and ask if I could intern with them. To this day, I still have my internship with the commission, and am excited to continue it into the indefinite future. As a result of much of this work (and other involvements around campus), I was also selected to be a Keefe Congressional fellow through the honors college this summer, where I will intern at Senator Casey’s office. None of this would have happened had I not seized the opportunity on the day I toured the city county building and reached out to the Commission to see if I count intern with them.
In my time at Pitt, I have found a home in the Parliamentary Debate club, Eat@Pitt (a club which visits immigrant owned restaurants in the city and writes articles about the cultural experience), Student Government Board (as a member of the First Year Council, then as the chair of the Community and Governmental Relations committee, and now as the Vice President and Chief of Cabinet for the upcoming board), Phi Alpha Delta (a professional pre-law fraternity), and Beta Theta Pi. Across all of the organizations I’m involved in, there remains one common thread: that without seizing the day and taking a chance, I would have never joined any of them in the first place.
In sum, the best advice I can offer anyone entering into the college experience for the first time is this – carpe diem! Sieze the day! Take every opportunity that presents itself to you – even if its outside of your comfort zone. College is a time to define yourself, and part of that process is allowing yourself to grow and mature in ways you won’t be able to predict years down the road. Instead of getting bogged down in pre-planning the next few years of your life, allow yourself to be influenced by the moment, and be spontaneous – you never know where it may take you!