As with many incoming college freshman, I came to Pitt with an unyielding, idealized picture of my hopeful college experience. And yet— as I suspect is the case with many young students today— it was not so. In a sea of thousands of students, I treaded hard to maintain an image of my individuality while reconsidering my personal values and future plans. These questions are hard enough to answer when you can fall back on the safety of your parental nest. After a few months of school, I still didn’t mesh with any core friend groups and I had to come to terms with the painful idea that I was alone and unhappy.
And so I sought a change. A great friend told me of an opening in his suite so second semester I moved into honors housing. Living in Sutherland pointed me in a totally new trajectory; it became my haven. I still remember the first day I moved in. My new floor mates plastered the hall with “Wanted” posters advertising my face from gleaned Facebook pictures. They welcomed me with open arms. Together, we pushed each other to think deeply about our roles in the community and became curious people. What’s more, in the UHC I no longer felt the internal struggle to compromise my values.
So the UHC quickly became the foundation for my own nest. Over the next few years my newfound confidence would empower me to partake in a range of challenging experiences from interning in Israel and Singapore to leading an impassioned group of engineering students making medical devices. I’ve taken UHC classes in poetry and ethics while testing out various engineering degrees (I picked Computer Engineering after Bio and Electrical) and spent hours deliberating over my future with caring advisors, like Judy Zang. Last year, I joined a powerhouse team of students and faculty to create a new honors course for freshman engineering students which incorporated all of the things we wish we would have learned. This is very much the ideology I learned from the UHC— to understand your community and to leave an improved place for the next generation of students behind you.
My new conception of an ideal collegiate experience is one where you are surrounded by people who all push each other to grow together. To me, this is the very essence of the UHC and, thus, has defined my Pitt experience.