Whenever I start preparing for a trip, lots of thoughts cross my mind. How many shirts do I really need? ls the carry-on approved size of shampoo going to be enough? Will I make any new friends? Who am I going to be by the time I return home?
All across the country and the world, college-bound students are asking themselves these same questions.
I think there is a certain level of anxiety that attaches itself to any new beginning, no matter if that new beginning is a short trip or involves moving across the city, the country, or the world for college.
When Agnes Scott first decided to join the #YouAreWelcomeHere conversation, I did some thinking about what exactly that means. To feel “welcome.” Would it alleviate some of that anxiety for international students planning to study in the United States? Would our prospective students treat it like some kind of metric or guarantee? What would our current students think?
As a proud Scottie myself (shoutout to my Tinkerwolves of 2015; more on that another day), I try to help ease some of that anxiety for students by talking about my own experiences at Agnes Scott. I talk about traditions, clubs, the food on-campus, the food off-campus, and occasionally about how you meet other college students in Atlanta. More than anything, I talk about community. I genuinely think community is what sticks out to me the most when I think about Agnes Scott College.
When I first started as a student, I thought community meant saying “hi” to every single person and quickly making friends during those first couple of weeks on campus. Community was also why all the first years ate crammed together at small tables in Evans Dining Hall so that no one ever had to eat alone. (I promise, after your first semester you start to find beauty in the occasional solitary lunch.)
As I grew into my Agnes Scott experience, I think my sense of community grew, too. Community starts to mean more than the people you share a residence hall with or say hello to on the quad; it becomes a sense of duty towards both yourself and your peers. Community is recognizing that the increasingly diverse makeup of our student body keeps making it stronger and more united, not the opposite. It is about not just hearing someone else’s perspective, but giving them the room and support they need to use their voice. It also means finding that same support in your peers when it comes time to figure out what impact your voice will have on the world.
The beautiful thing about community is that it never leaves you. As an alumna of Agnes Scott, I wear my “black ring of power” everyday and get ridiculously excited when I run into another Scottie. I still reach out to my Scottie siblings for celebration, for support, and to recharge when the world starts to feel like an uncontrollable place.
This community is the kind that gives you a piece of ownership in making it better, because you know generations of future Scotties will benefit from its existence.
So when I think about what it means to feel “welcome,” I think about Agnes Scott.
Not because Agnes Scott is a perfect place; we have our challenges just like any other institution. We are constantly trying to figure out how to be better and, honestly, what “better” even looks like. I think of Agnes Scott as a place where you feel welcomed because, even on our worse days, I see the beautiful, supportive, passionate, sort-of-weird (I repeat, my class mascot was the “Tinkerwolf”) members of this community show up and embrace each other. I see them constantly striving to make Agnes Scott that better place and to engage the intellectual & social challenges of their times.
To me, feeling “welcomed” is the sweet relief of finding a place to belong. It is what our current and future Scotties will continue to push towards as they embrace their Scottie siblings across the many different identities represented within our community.
Just in case you didn’t know, #YouAreWelcomeHere, too.
Emily Davis Hamre is the Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Agnes Scott College. She loves to travel, read, eat, and annoy her cat, Scout. She’s also a proud Tinkerwolf from the class of 2015. To be a Tinkerwolf all you need is fangs and a tail. Oh, and a litter bit of pixie dust…