Seniors Speak: An Unexpected Home

Designed by Sohum Gupta

One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Robert Luo (NYU ’22) who lived in 1507 and was involved in ASIA and CD.

When my mom told me I had gotten off the waitlist to IMSA while our family was vacationing in China, I didn’t know how to react. It was bittersweet, because I didn’t want to leave my twin sister behind, but I was excited about the opportunity to leave my hometown in Southern Illinois. When I arrived to IMSA on move-in day, my head filled with happy thoughts.

I’m going to be living alone! Free from my parents! Independence!

That initial excitement, living away from home, was thrilling. I felt like I’d flipped to a new page of my life, and I couldn’t wait to take advantage of it. I got to set my own schedule, eat whenever I wanted and sleep super late. Without dealing with the constraints of my parents, the first few days away from home seemed great.

But the happiness that came with independence died almost as quickly as it had arrived. Yes, I had heightened freedom, but the initial lack of connection with the rest of the community made me feel like an outcast. At my old school, I was a popular kid, but now, I was a nobody. My first encounter with loneliness was at the Ice Cream Social where I saw people talking with friends they knew, but since I knew no one, I left having made no connections. My roommate and I didn’t get along too well either, so most days I would lie in my bed and vegetate. Groups and cliques formed quickly, and I although I tried to navigate them myself, I was pretty silent. I couldn’t seem to find my place, so I hermitted in my room, doing nothing on my bed, homework, or studying alone at my desk. However, it was just the beginning, so I believed I would find my place sooner or later.

Once the coursework picked up, I realized I was struggling. When I started doing poorly in many of my classes, I didn’t reach out for help because I didn’t know how. Being the quiet, anxious sophomore that I was, I was too afraid to ask for help from any teachers, and I hadn’t formed a solid friend group to approach. After my semester grades finalized and I heard the disappointment in my dad’s voice, I began to think that maybe IMSA just wasn’t for me. I felt lost.

I needed to make IMSA a place where I was comfortable. There was a huge opportunity here, and I couldn’t let it slip through the cracks.

First, I needed to break out of my shell. There were a few friends and some amazing upperclassmen in my wing who I began to hang out with more. Having a community right outside my door made it easy to feel welcome, and I was able to open up a bit more. With all the bean bags on the floor and people who hung out there, the calm atmosphere of 07D downquad helped because I knew I could always find a conversation and relax. From movies to video games, I always enjoyed being that environment. I got to hear the ideas and perspectives of my wingmates, and those late nights became some of my most memorable moments.

I left my room more, opening myself up to the rest of campus. Yeah, schoolwork and grades were a priority during the weekdays, but the weekends were a good time for exploring. Realizing that there were people who live outside of my hall and have their own unique experiences made me want to explore more. On weekends, I hall-hopped to meet new people. Of course people went home, but there were still enough people on campus to make it enjoyable.

There were moments where the entire community came together, such as cultural shows and Clash of the Halls. Seeing everyone promote shows or display their pride in their halls brought the campus together for a moment. Seeing 1507 come together with Black Hand was exhilarating, but the memorable thing was how after the whole week of events, we became closer as a hall. I remember walking into A Wing and not feeling foreign anymore, because after Clash, I became relaxed with people who originally intimidated me, and it made me wish I’d talked to them earlier.

Throughout junior year, even though classes were stressful and my sleep schedule took a hit, I continued to do the things I learned sophomore year. I went out and talked to people, whether it was having a conversation of complete nonsense or giving advice to someone who needed help. As a wing guide, I enjoyed the small conversations I had with my inherited sophomores. I created new relationships with people across campus, surrounding myself with those that made me feel comfortable and could support me when I was down. Hugs, gifts, and notes from friends were abundant as they lifted me on my down days and reinforced my sense of belonging. My original doubts about this place had been erased. I didn’t feel lonely, instead, I felt like I was right where I needed to be.

Now, it’s senior year, and my identity hasn’t changed much. My time here is almost over, and with all the memories I’ve made, this place has become special to me. There are a lot of unique people here, so get to know them. Take advantage of every moment you have; even the small things count. Adventure, try new things, join different clubs, visit other halls, stay weekends, the list goes on and on. From participating in huge events like Clash to late night talks with your upperclassmen in down quad, there are experiences you can cherish. You don’t need a lot of people here to feel comfortable, just enough to support you.

Without a doubt, I can truly call IMSA my home. This was my journey of finding my home. Now, it’s your turn. Make it your home.

About the Author

Chandana Tetali
Chandana Tetali, originally from Naperville, IL, now resides in 06CDQ. Though formally the Editor-in-Chief ('17-'18) of the Acronym, other titles for her include The Master Procrastinator, "Shandonna," Charmander, Sinnamon Roll, and the second half of the Best Roommate Pair on Campus.

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