Around this time four years ago, I remained undecided about where I wanted to go to college. I had applied to multiple schools but still felt uncertain about what I wanted to do with my undergraduate education, how far I would want to live away from home, and what type of college felt “right” for me. The universal “College Decision Day,” May 1st, kept creeping closer, and I felt the pressure of the decision weighing down on me.
My parents could tell I was struggling with the choice, so one day after school, we drove out to Albany to drive through some of the colleges in the area to help me visualize what living there would be like. We visited UAlbany and the College of St. Rose, but neither felt right; it wasn’t even a feeling I could put my finger on about why they were wrong. It wasn’t until we pulled onto Siena’s campus that I found somewhere I thought could feel like home. As we got out of the car and walked around campus, it became a place where I could visualize myself spending four years, making friends, growing, and I sent in my deposit to Siena shortly after returning home from that trip.
Now, four years later, I’m shopping for a graduation dress, studying for my last final exams, and preparing to leave behind the place that I have come to call “home.” I’m getting ready to say all those hard goodbyes — to roommates, to friends I met during freshman orientation, to the faculty who have pushed me to achieve my academic best. I used to think it sounded cliche when other people would refer to their college as a “home”; it took me time to see it that way, but now that I think of Siena as my home away from home, it makes it even harder to leave. I’m excited to embrace the next chapter of my life with open arms, but I will miss Siena and the meaningful relationships I have made here.
The best piece of advice I can give any incoming freshmen is to embrace every aspect of the college experience. I remember feeling everything in-between scared and excited when I showed up for move-in day back in 2015. Sometimes college won’t feel fun – it’s a lot of hard work and sometimes you’ll fail test or sleep through your alarm or miss an assignment. Sometimes you’ll get homesick; I got homesick even through my senior year. But these things happen; they’re parts of the college experience. With these not-so-positive experiences come great ones — you’ll meet other students that you quickly become friends with. You’ll get to celebrate at the end of the semester with SienaFest, enjoy sunny afternoons on the quad, and feel on top of the world when you ace the test you were sure you’d fail. You’ll foster great relationships with your professors and they will push you to your best. You’ll find a club that you love. And little by little, these small great moments will stack on top of each other until you start calling Siena “home” without even realizing it.
As a graduating senior, I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes to the Class of 2023 — welcome home! Siena is lucky to have you, and I hope you enjoy every moment of your four years here.
First of all, I want to say congratulations! You have worked so hard to get here and every single one of you should be very proud of yourselves. Second, you should know that the decision to come HERE, to Siena College, will be one of the best decisions you will ever make in your lifetime. As a second semester senior, I am writing this letter with mere weeks until graduation and I can’t help thinking back to when I was in your shoes. It really is ok to be nervous, but it’s ok to be excited to! College is going to be a time to figure out who you are and what your dreams and aspirations are going to be for the future. You’re going to meet amazing people and learn so much that it may even feel a tiny bit overwhelming at first! I want to share with you guys some of the tips that my friends and I have learned over the years to have the absolute best college experience, tips that have truly made Siena my own home away home.
- Be friends with everyone: You’re ALL going to be in the same position of moving away from home and that can be wicked nerve-wracking, especially if you live a little bit further away! I’m originally from Boston, Massachusetts which is three hours away from Siena, and it definitely was a little strange to be moving to a state where I didn’t really know anyone. However, the friends I have made over the past four years have literally become like my second family! When you move in for orientation weekend in the fall, make sure you are friendly and say hi to everyone! Strike up a conversation with your hall mate or with the person sitting next to you in your 8am and find out who they are. I actually met my best friend in the third floor communal bathroom of Ryan Hall and we ended up living together during our junior and senior years!
- GET INVOLVED: People have probably been telling you this left and right, but it’s true! Joining teams or clubs or organizations here at Siena is soooooo important because it not only gives you fun things to do each week, but it also gets you involved with the rest of the community. We have an enormous list of things to join and at the beginning of the fall, you’ll have the chance to attend the Club Fair to sign up for various organizations. Over the past four years, I’ve been involved with the Siena College Mentoring Program, Her Campus Siena, the Siena College Irish Step Dance team and the Siena College English Society and I’ve been able to attend events held by other clubs that my friends are in! There truly is something here at Siena for everyone and you’ll be able to form relationships with other students AND faculty that will last a lifetime.
- Be willing to learn: Your professors and classes are going to be some of the most influential things in your life during the next four years and as you choose and declare your major (if you haven’t already), you’re going to be able to take classes that will make you excited for future endeavors to come! You’re also going to be required to take a series of CORE classes, which will open your mind to other areas of study, such as art, science, religion and math. Be open to what these classes and professors are teaching you and don’t be afraid to be curious and to ask questions! Some of the best classes I’ve taken here at Siena have been part of the CORE list and I really have been able to take some of the skills learned in these classes to more professional settings.
- Step out of your comfort zone: I know how scary this can be, but it’s also incredibly important! You may find that you love something that you would have never tried before in high school or that you love a place you’ve never been to. Before coming to Siena, I was a little bit more on the quiet side and had done sports my entire life. Although I still have a love for fitness and being healthy, I have joined so many different clubs, which have allowed me to become so much more outgoing! The relationships I have formed here at Siena are some of the most special I have ever had and some of them have formed just from us stepping outside of our comfort zones!
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You all are going to do amazing here at Siena, and I’m not just saying that! You’ve worked so hard to get here and it also doesn’t hurt that you’re about to come to the BEST school in the world. 🙂 Be excited, be adventurous and most importantly, be a SAINT.
Julia Lowney, Communications/Social Media Intern at the School of Liberal Arts
English major; Marketing and Writing Communications Minors; VERY proud member of the Siena College Class of 2017