My first official event as a Davidson College student was a meet-and-greet for incoming students from the Washington, D.C. area. My mom and I attended the event together, but we split up once we got there; my mom stayed in the living room with the rest of the parents, and I hung out with my future classmates in the dining room. My time mostly consisted awkward introductions featuring questions like “What building are you living in?” and “What do you want to major in?” Current students answered questions we had about Davidson, and I left feeling slightly reassured about having a few familiar faces on campus. My mom had a very different experience. The parents’ small-talk mainly consisted of stories about their own undergraduate experiences; my parents, however, do not have college degrees. For the first time, as I listened to my mom talk about feeling disconnected from the rest of the parents, I doubted my place at Davidson. I felt that we were outsiders. I began to consider whether I had truly earned my place at this school or if I was solely accepted to increase the college’s percentage of first-generation students.
This doubt remained in my mind when I arrived at Sapere Aude, the humanities program pre-orientation. We read texts by Immanuel Kant, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Moses Mendelsohn, all of which went completely over my head. I remember sitting in a rocking chair, watching my peers furiously taking notes, while I had to reread line after line to get a basic grasp of the texts. When we had group discussions, I prayed that the fellows and professors would not pose questions towards me; I was terrified of making a fool of myself. As I left Sapere Aude and began my first year at Davidson, I held on to this insecurity at first, but as time went on a revolution began within me.
I define revolution as a notable shift in existing systems or assumptions. I also see revolution as categorical. Therefore, a personal revolution would be defined as a notable shift in assumptions about oneself. A lot has changed since Sapere Aude. As my first year at Davidson progressed, I experienced a revolution in how I view my place here.
While personal revolution occurs within oneself, it is largely influenced and driven by extraneous factors. For me, those factors were my relationships on campus and my relationship with God. While they may not have known about my internal battle with self-doubt, my professors, mentors, and friends on campus were pivotal in my discovery of my own worth and belongingness at Davidson.
Every professor I’ve had this year has seen potential in me and my work and voiced that potential to me. In addition, they’ve seen me as more than a student. I’ve been asked about my family, my health, and my passions outside of the classroom during office hours. I have had professors express to me that my worth is not just in my ability to write a good essay or ace a test, which has dramatically changed the way I view my time at Davidson.
Kristin Booher, Kanalyn Jackson, and the rest of my Bonner family have reminded me that while this community has a lot to offer me, I can offer so much to it as well. They emphasized that I look beyond myself and cultivate a life of leadership and service, and they have offered me the resources to begin that process. They offered me an on-campus community where I felt valued and comfortable sharing my voice, and the confidence I gained through contributing to Bonner discussions gradually translated to the classroom.
My friends have offered me open ears and open arms every day. They have reminded me that I am someone worth knowing, as they continue to pursue me and ask me real questions despite the walls I put up. They have been patient and kind, and they have pointed me towards God in everything they do.
I have chased after God more than ever before this year. I have also doubted God more than ever before this year. The seeking and the doubt have only drawn me closer to Him, as He has continued to reveal his grace and goodness to me. I have full confidence that it was in His plan for me to meet these people, and I have full confidence that it was in his plan for me to come to Davidson College.
Sapere aude is a latin phrase meaning “dare to know.” The humanities professors titled our pre-orientation program Sapere Aude hoping that we would approach tough texts and tough questions with courage and curiosity. Though my insecurity held me back for a while, I believe I have “dared to know” this year. Not only have I dared to know more in the classroom, but I have dared to know more about myself. As I leave behind my first-year and step into sophomore year, I am daring myself to continue to BELIEVE that I belong here. I dare myself to ignore the lie that I am not smart enough, to continue to ask hard questions about texts and life and faith, and to know that I am more than a statistic.