A Note to First Year Students, From A Senior
Amelia Friedman '14... well, she'll tell you what she does in a second.
Dear First Years,
By now, you’ve been here for a month. I bet it’s flown by.
I’m about to start my senior year at Brown, and let me tell you: It happens faster than you’d believe. In the past three years, I have taught English to adult learners in Olneyville, volunteered in Hasbro Children’s Hospital, designed an immersive service learning program for students who stick around during winter break, and been supported by the Swearer Center in launching my own social venture that works with universities to diversify global engagement. For good measure, I also work at the Swearer Center (mostly because of the fancy coffee machine).
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been three years since I was in your place, anxious and eager about entering this new, exciting chapter of life. Looking back, I feel so fortunate to have found a home at Brown, a home at the Swearer Center.
What do I mean by a home?
For me, home is a place where you find people who support you and mentor you and help you when you’re facing big decisions. Home is also a base (a launch pad, if you will) for all the adventures you’re sure to have at Brown.
I’m sure by this point you’ve heard a whole lot about our open curriculum. That freedom that Brown holds so dear has allowed me to take courses in social change and community engagement, and to structure my Brown experience around communities, communication and change.
The courses I have taken led by Swearer faculty (Engaged Scholarship, Leading Social Ventures, Investing in Social Change) were definitely among the best courses I’ve taken at Brown. Why? They challenge us to view our experiences in Providence and other communities across the country and across the world as central to classroom discussion.
I remember the first time I was in the Swearer Center. I was in the basement for an information session on a community program. The coordinator, a senior named Aditya, was telling us about all of the community programs that he was involved with, and I said: “I don’t think I’m going to do too many service programs or other extracurriculars. I don’t want them to detract from my schoolwork.”
At the time, I had no idea that school and service could (and should) overlap.
All of the different ways I’ve been able to engage with the community (teaching, advising, organizing and innovating) have all intertwined with my courses to form a holistic educational experience. My classrooms have no walls.
But back to this idea of home: The mentorship and guidance I’ve received from Swearer staff has been central to the construction of my college education. (You now have been charged with building your own educational experience, and approaching the advisors and mentors around you for guidance and support.) Swearer Center staff has advised me on where to start when I say, “I want to see positive change in the world” and they’ve guided me through turning ideas into action. Students and staff at Swearer have helped me make community work the basis of my Brown life and hopefully my life after Brown. So the Swearer Center is where I’ve found my home away from the home that I left three years ago.
Do you remember when I said I work at the Swearer Center because of the coffee? I love their coffee, but not just because I’m a caffeine addict, but also because the Swearer Center kitchen is a place where the incredible Swearer staff— as well as innovative students who are passionate about our communities— exchange ideas, build relationships, and support each other in our sometimes-lofty aspirations.
I’m not going to talk about the unbelievable variety of opportunities you can find at the Swearer Center because that’s all on the website, but what I am going to say— my biggest piece of advice— is:
Visit the Swearer Center. 25 George Street. You’ll find enthusiastic and supportive people that are there to help you realize social change.