The Importance of Taking Chances

The May 1 enrollment deadline has come and gone, which means Rochester’s campus eagerly awaits the newly confirmed Class of 2019’s August arrival. Of course, the feelings are reciprocated; you soon-to-be freshmen are surely brimming with excitement, curiosity, and probably some anxiety about your upcoming adventure. There’s no way to say this without sounding cliché, but I truly can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I was constantly checking the Class of 2018 Facebook group for roommate posts instead of studying for AP exams. This year has been a whirlwind to say the least, but somewhere in all the chaos I managed to garner some quality insights and wisdom. As I reflect back on my year, I think the common thread between all of my most positive experiences was venturing out of my comfort zone. As a result, the biggest lesson I learned this year is to take chances.

5 times taking risks paid off this year:

1. Goergen Athletic Center
Applying for a job within the first month of arriving on campus seemed daunting, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to balance work along with schoolwork and other extracurriculars. However, I decided to go ahead and pursue employment anyway. I applied to work at the Goergen Athletic Center (GAC) and was accepted to work as a fitness center monitor.

Since I started working in October, my job has been one of my favorite parts of my UR experience. Working at the fitness center has enabled me to gain confidence and leadership skills. Next year, I’ll be serving as a team leader within GAC, which I’m thrilled about. Being employed has helped me feel a sense of purpose here, and of course it’s been extremely helpful to have a consistent source of income. I love being surrounded by the positive energy of gym patrons working to better themselves, and I’m proud of myself for pursuing student employment right away and not waiting a year.

2. Track
As a former varsity athlete in high school, I felt that something was missing my first few months of school. Coming into the year, I was on the fence about continuing to run at the varsity level. However, after just a few weeks, I missed being on a team and the adrenaline of competition. Though I didn’t run cross country in the fall, I decided to pursue running track in the spring. I remember my first few days of training with the team as being quite intimidating. The team was very close, and I felt so new that I couldn’t imagine feeling as comfortable as everyone else seemed to feel with each other.

Despite a great deal of uncertainty, I kept training with the team and officially made the track roster in December. As time progressed, I formed strong bonds with members of the team, and some of them now are my best friends. I’ve also gained a sense of purpose and belonging from being on the team, and my Rochester school spirit has skyrocketed since being part of the varsity athletics program. Despite my season being shortened due to injuries, I’m grateful for the growth and connections Rochester track and field has given me, and I look forward to future years of Rochester athletics.

3. Phi Sigma Sigma
Before coming to college, I was certain I’d never join a sorority. Greek life just wasn’t for me. However, here I am a year later as a proud sister of Phi Sigma Sigma. I decided to go through the sorority recruitment process in January because many of my friends were, and it seemed like a good way to form connections. Plus, many older girls who I admired for their poise and confidence were affiliated, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least try. I fell in love with Phi Sigma Sigma during recruitment, and I was overjoyed to receive a bid to join.

This semester has been a roller-coaster colored by all the new friendships and adventures of Phi Sigma Sigma. I’ve grown close to my pledge class, and I look forward to growing closer to all my inspirational, motivated sisters. I’m even living on the Phi Sig floor next year, and although I never thought I would look forward to living with 23 other girls, I’m incredibly excited to have the floor as a safe haven next year and to constantly be surrounded by love and laughter. Though the thought of Greek life used to overwhelm me (and quite honestly, it still does at times), I’m proud of myself for and extremely happy about my sisterhood. Here’s a picture of my pledge class after being initiated as sisters:

4. Friends
The first year of college is inevitably accompanied by meeting a lot of new people. From your freshman hall to your classes to any extracurriculars you join, you will be surrounded by new faces. I found this hyper-social environment extremely exciting but also slightly overwhelming. In meeting so many people, it can feel hard to form solid, meaningful connections. However, I’m lucky to have some people that I do feel truly close to. These connections come with effort, though. If I had not pursued closer friendship with several individuals I happened to meet and enjoyed talking to, perhaps I would have missed out on important relationships.

It’s important to remember that all sorts of relationships take time and effort, and forming meaningful friendships in the first year of college especially requires this. However, this time and effort has been worth it for me, as I’ve enjoyed hours of laughter, adventure, and comfort with my friends. Here’s a cheesy candid picture of my best friends Eliza, Emily, and me on the quad enjoying the first nice day of the year:

5. Senate
The combined result of all of my above experiences with working at GAC, varsity athletics, Greek life, my close friendships, and a positive academic experience is that I’ve grown to love the University of Rochester. My growing love for the school as well as my growing confidence led me to pursue a leadership role unlike any I’ve ever held before. About a month ago, I decided to run for a student government position. I figured this would be a great way to give back to the Rochester community, both on campus and off. I was fortunate to be elected as a senator for the 2015–2016 school year, and I can’t wait to serve in this capacity. This is an incredible opportunity that I would have missed if I had paid heed to internal voices of uncertainty.

All in all, I’ve had a year full of highs and lows, but through it all I’ve gained confidence and joy from going out of my comfort zone, trying new things and forming new friendships and relationships. I look forward to what future years will bring as I continue to go out of my comfort zone and seek new adventures. To the incoming class: I encourage you all to take your own risks and form your own identity as Rochester students. There’s plenty of opportunities awaiting you!

Please, please email me at nziegler@u.rochester.edu with any questions you have about your upcoming year! I would love to give you even more advice.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

About the author

Natalie Ziegler

Hello! I'm a member of the Class of 2018, and I study anthropology and comparative literature. Within my comparative literature, I study fiction and creative writing, as well as gender studies. I spend most of my time on campus studying in the beautiful Rush Rhees Library, but I can also be found at various Students' Association Government functions, at work in the gym or the Department of Rare Books, cohosting an online radio show for WRUR The Sting, or relaxing with friends. I enjoy exploring Rochester's neighborhoods and its downtown, and I love newspapers, biking, and reading.

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