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Mission: Possible

Advice to the Class of 2010

By Jennifer Gabrielle ’06

So you’re a Smithie. Perhaps you’re wondering what that means beyond the obvious: those who attend Smith and are, therefore, intelligent, capable and ambitious. Just what makes a Smithie a Smithie? The answer to this question is what’s best about the Smith student body—and that, I would venture to say, is that all Smithies are unique individuals. It’s our link to each other and the reason our campus is so full of life.

For the next four years at Smith, you’ll find intellectual challenges, lifelong friends and opportunities to start your career (or decide on one, I should add, for those of you who just panicked). Smith is where you will find yourself, even if you didn’t know you were lost. This is the place you will call home.

(By the way, don’t forget to actually call home—at least once a semester, about as often as you’ll think of vacuuming your room. Though I wouldn’t recommend doing both at once.)

Smithie to Smithie, I’ll tell you what else I know: The greatest thing about Smith (besides the mountains of cookies set out for dessert) is that there is no one thing about it. It, like you, is unique. It will push you to your limit and stretch your idea of what is possible, ripping through the membrane of your wildest dreams to a place you never knew existed. But you’re not expected to get there by yourself, nor are you left speechless and alone in uncharted territory. Smith has a network of people who are ready to equip you for this adventure and support you along the way. You will see how the impossible becomes possible when you’re given a chance to make it happen.

Take this chance at Smith. Actually, take five chances—one for each year here, and one for life beyond.

5. Make friends with upper­classmen.

They know the ins, outs, ups, downs and all the in-betweens at Smith, not to mention the secret passageways (just ask about Sessions House). They know the best professors, the tough classes, where to eat dinner on Friday, who to ask if you want to start a student organization and so on. Since the houses are a mix of class years, and since nine out of 10 Smithies like to share their opinions, your access to this kind of information couldn’t be easier.

4. Get to know your professors.

Like your classmates, Smith professors are an incredible resource for everything from career advice to trouble with your roommate. All of them will share their time, most of them will share their hearts and some of them will share their research or even their homes if you take the initiative to go beyond the classroom. You can start by introducing yourself during office hours. It may be awkward at first, but the potential for a rewarding relationship is more than worth it.

3. Go abroad.

As much as you’ll love Smith, you’ll also want a break from it. You will come back refreshed for your senior year and more appreciative of your campus and the surrounding area. Moreover, nothing can compete with the hands-on experience of immersion in a new culture. It is equal parts self-discovery and global exploration as you face the daily challenges of communication and social protocol.

2. Ask questions.

At Smith, there are more opportunities than you realize. Blink and you will miss them, but ask and you will find a goldmine with your name on it. There are numerous sources of funding for projects, research, educational excursions, internships, emergencies and more. It may take some digging, but this is where your classmates and professors can be of great help and another reason (aside from the pleasure of their company, of course) that you should take time to talk to them.

1. Relax.

With everything the college offers, life can get stressful. You must prioritize. Even your professors don’t expect you to do everything (though they want you to think they do). Slow down and take advantage of Smith’s beauty. Row a boat. Sit in the gardens. Tour the art museum. Go to a concert or a play. Cheer on a team. Just don’t try to do too much. Involve yourself in life at Smith, and you will be greatly enriched. So will your education.

As you prepare yourself for the mission ahead, keep these suggestions in mind to ensure that you make the most of your four years and to ensure you make this place your home. Smith is one of the most unusual environments you will ever live in, and it’s all because of you: each one of you will contribute something to the campus and help carry on its unique nature. Don’t ever doubt that strength within yourself. Strive for the impossible, knowing you will always have a place to call home.

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