Where I Became a Better Version of Myself
Spring days like today, gloomy and still a little cold, always remind me of the day I received my acceptance letter to Barnard. I grew up in Italy, where students attend renowned public universities for free, but the system does not do much for nineteen year old students who want to keep learning and exploring different paths. After many discussions with my parents about the pros and cons of attending college in the United States, I applied to Barnard right at the deadline. The possibility of attending a liberal arts college in the heart of New York City excited me beyond my wildest dreams, so I placed all my eggs in Barnard’s basket, pressed submit, and hoped for a gentle ride.
A few months later my mother called me while I was on my way home from school and urged me to rush because a carrier had just dropped off a parcel from Barnard. I sprinted home, books and notebooks swinging in my backpack, over-analyzing the word parcel and what it meant for my future. At home I opened the package with trepidation, aware of my father muttering under his breath “it will be okay either way, it will be fine.” Whenever my parents argue with me that emailing decisions has taken away from the ceremonial interpretation of the size of the envelope, I remind them that I received a “big envelope” and we all still thought I had been denied. Fate proved us wrong and we all jumped with joy as I read the words “Congratulations!”
Fast forward seven years later, and I still call Barnard home; not only because I spend at least eight hours a day on its campus, but because Barnard gave me a sense of belonging that extends beyond its iron gates. Living among smart, curious, ambitious women compelled me to develop my own voice and sense of self. I wanted a seat at their table; I wanted to make them proud to call me a peer. I became a Barnard woman because of the examples that surrounded me: women from all over the world and from different walks of life who were following their passions and falling into new ones, all while challenging the status-quo. When I enrolled, I didn’t think about the impact that the people at Barnard would have on me, and yet because of that impact I would make the same choice all over again today. The liberal arts curriculum at Barnard encouraged me to grow through exploration; it taught me to think critically beyond the classroom; to step outside of my comfort zone and embrace the unknown, whether that meant taking an intimidating seminar or a Swing dance class in a sweaty basement on Columbia’s campus. Even though I never returned to that basement again, little by little I tore down the walls between what I thought I knew and what I had no idea existed.
You become an adult in college. I know: I thought I had all the answers to the universe when I graduated from high school too, but having gained some perspective, I now understand that I became my own person in college. During those four years, I learned to poke holes in truths I had never questioned before and see if they would crumble or stand tall. I learned to listen to the women around me who held different creeds, and I allowed change to peak its head. These realizations happen to college students all over the country, so I encourage you to take them into consideration while choosing which institution you want to belong to when you build your own set of values. I became the woman I am today because a portion of my formative years took place on Barnard’s campus. The college enabled me to become a better version of myself: it polished me, made me stronger, bolder, more considerate. Barnard set a standard for me by investing in my growth and empowerment as an individual and especially as a woman, and I will not settle for less.
My four years as a Barnard student live in the conversations I have with my dearest friends (alumnae et non), in the books I choose to read, and in the movies I choose to watch. They are in the hour-long conversation I had with my coworkers the other day on the socio-political themes in LEMONADE. Whether I am walking into Milbank or down Ponte Vecchio, Barnard is never out of reach.
Best of luck,