As the end of my first semester of senior year quickly approaches, I have begun to reflect more on my time here at SLU and all the special people and experiences that have enriched my life. It seems like yesterday that I was moving onto campus for the first time, into the third flood of Rebert South. I had heard so many great things about the community of people at St. Lawrence, but I was also nervous, not knowing what to expect of my college experience. In a few short months, I finally got it. I finally realized the love for SLU that so many before me had expressed. I finally understood what everyone had meant when they said, “tight-knit community” and “building lifelong friendships”. My smooth transition into college that first year, where I was able to thrive in a community of different individuals, I owe to my First-Year Program (FYP).
The goal of the FYP is to help students make an easy transition to college, not just in the classroom, but socially as well. My first friendships in college are because of the FYP. I consider them my SLU family because no matter how much time has passed or where we are in life, I will always relate to them on a special level. Not only are they the people that will share in my successes, but they are also the people to pick me up when I’m down.
The FYP aims to further develop each student’s research, writing, and presentation skills at the college level. The First-Year Program’s advisors also work to show students many of the resources available on campus such as the WORD Studio (Writing, Oral, Research and Design). Perhaps the most special part of this program, however, isn’t that you form immediate connections with peers and advisors in the classroom based on a subject of common interest, but that you actually live with this group of students during your first year. As part of the learning, advising, and living component to the FYP, you grow to respect and develop deepened admiration with the peers in your class, who are your hall-mates. Our friendships sparked from the late nights we spent together finishing up papers and readings for class, which very easily transitioned into conversations about each other. We bonded over where we grew up, different passions and aspirations we had, and expectation for our next four years. I did not realize at the time that these interactions during these crucial first few months of college would make us into the friends we are today.
My FYP was Curtain College and the class we took together was called The Power of Place. We learned about sacred places and meanings behind them through reflections, group discussions, oral presentations, field trips, and research papers. Kathleen Buckley, the University’s chaplain, taught the class and was also our academic adviser for our first year. She served as a mentor and a great resource as we learned to navigate SLU. Our field trips to Turtle Hill, an environmentally sustainable community where many of us found peace in nature, encouraged us to connect with a community outside of our own and to further expand our horizons. Just as SLU is a sacred and special place to many, so are the experiences gained through the FYP that set us apart from other small liberal arts colleges. I cherish all the memories and have gained a greater appreciation of peers and professors. Through discussions involving interdisciplinary subjects with students of varying backgrounds, we were able to combine great ideas and were encouraged to think critically, from which we grew and developed. Coincidentally, my FYP encouraged me to explore and discover the places I call home. I can say with gratitude that SLU quickly became a second home to me where I was accepted, appreciated, and valued for my beliefs and values.
As an assignment for our first day of class, we were asked to bring a rock from home that had special significance. Students brought rocks of different sizes and shapes, sharing their special stories and different backgrounds. The diversity of the student body was emphasized in the different rocks and over the course of the year at SLU, we built our own rock solid community. In another class discussion, we learned about the significance of different elements in nature and the surrounding world. A powerful topic that stood out to me was our discussion of Inuksuit. Commonly formed through the layering and careful placement of rocks, an Inuksuk is a human-made structure in nature that provides direction, the same way the FYP fostered direction for myself and my peers for the next four years as we were inspired by each other to confidently get involved on campus and in the surrounding community.
Reflecting back on FYP, I realize those first few critical months of school and the people in my FYP shaped my college experience. These were the people with whom I shared tears with when I was feeling homesick. They were the strangers that quickly became friends to share our first meal in Dana Dining Hall. These are the people that I know will always have my back and I will always have theirs.
I am filled with happiness and pride to see the accomplishments of all my FYP members. Who would have thought that members of my FYP would go on to become president of the Thelomathesian Society (our student government), an Admissions Fellow, captains and members of various sports teams, Orientation Leaders, musicians in campus performances, presidents of various clubs, world travelers in study abroad programs, officers in sororities and fraternities, and leaders in the classroom? But most importantly, who would have thought that these people would become my best friends for life? For that, I would like to thank Curtain College, my St. Lawrence FYP.