After growing up in Tampa, FL, coming to college in Pittsburgh was a big move for me. On top of being so far from home, I was worried that I’d get lost in the tangles of a large research university like Pitt. The Honors College provided me with the feel of a small, liberal arts school with all the opportunities of a major research university. Living in the First-Year Honors Community (then in Forbes Hall), I got to meet people with many different backgrounds and intellectual interests. The community was small enough to enable me to actually get to know most of these people instead of just recognizing their faces, something that would not have been possible in a larger dormitory.
My experience in honors housing also opened my mind to the multitude of intellectual opportunities available to me at Pitt. Learning about all the exciting courses my friends were taking encouraged me to broaden my own intellectual scope. Unaware of all the options available to me at Pitt, I had originally intended to focus my studies narrowly in the sciences, with the hopes of getting into medical school. However, I quickly discovered that the opportunity cost of such narrowness meant that I would miss out on more valuable educational experiences than I was willing to forego. The Honors College made it easy for me to venture outside of my comfort zone by offering introductory seminars like the one I took in the humanities. The UHC advisors helped me to discover my interests, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and learned from courses in the humanities. Following my freshman year, I consistently planned my schedule (again with the help of UHC advisors) to include a wide range of courses that led to my induction into the Phi Beta Kappa, an honors society for liberal education.
On top of this added breadth, the Honors College provided me with the opportunity to deepen my knowledge within my psychology major through undergraduate research. Last fall I participated in the UHC Fall Fellowship Program and extended the work I’d been doing in my biopsychology lab. Participating in the interdisciplinary research community was very different from the lab meetings I’d grown accustomed to, and presenting my research to non-specialists forced me to develop a deeper and more complete understanding of my work. I will expand my project into a BPhil this term, culminating my experience at Pitt with the knowledge that I am reaping all the benefits of being liberally educated.