September 22, 2021
One of the things I’ve loved most about returning to the university is stopping to chat with some of you while walking on campus. I particularly like to hear you tell me you’re enjoying the school year or when you share something wonderful that you’ve experienced. Even when you have a complaint or advice, I’m grateful for the interaction, given the isolation fostered by the ongoing cloud of the pandemic.
A particular favorite moment of the new school year, for me, was celebrating the opening of our Anne Frank Center. Carolina is now one of only four partner sites of the world-renowned Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, and the only partner in North America. The center’s rooms give us a peek into the life and surroundings of a young girl’s experiences during the Holocaust. It’s a learning opportunity for all Carolina students, as well as for many K-12 students around the state. You might want to stop by for a visit; the center is in the Barringer House, across from Capstone.
Did you know that Anne Frank’s diary, published as The Diary of a Young Girl, has been translated into more than 70 languages and ranks as one of the most translated works of literature in the world? I think that’s because the recorded memories of an individual -- especially the traumatic events Anne experienced -- offer a most engaging way to learn.
Our own stories are usually far less dramatic, but I want to encourage you to consider writing down your own thoughts and experiences with some regularity. Recently, I had occasion to come across some of my writings from my own college days. I can’t remember what drove me to write, but I assume it was a motivation to reflect on events in some deeper way … that, and the alternative was doing my homework!
With some extra time during the pandemic, I also reconnected with my vinyl record albums; they sound great, even through the scratches. More importantly, I found our family photo albums … what a treat that was! I’m certain that very few of you have photo albums beyond those kept by your parents, but you likely have thousands of photos stored on your electronic devices or in the cloud. That’s just not the same kind of interaction. Turning the pages of a photo album, even if the photos have yellowed, is a superb human experience. It was not only remarkable for me to see the people I was close to, but I was also surprised about my own appearance, including the length of my hair and memories of the event that prompted the picture. Two of my very favorite pictures are of myself and Patricia on the day we met, September 8, 1977. There were two “exposures” left on the roll of film on my Kodak Instamatic camera, so we each took a picture of the other person (selfies hadn’t been invented yet, or we could have saved some film!).
I’m not going to recommend printing your photos and keeping photo albums, but I will suggest that you consider keeping a diary of your college experience. If finding the discipline to write daily is an impossible concept, think about doing it once a week – say, on a Sunday evening as you’re thinking about the week ahead. Reflect on the week you just completed, and jot down a few things that stand out to you.
Two good outcomes are likely to come of this. First, you might be convinced to do something differently or better in the week ahead. You might even discover patterns that help you to improve aspects of your personal relationships or your academic work. The other is that you’ll definitely enjoy looking at this glimpse of your college life many years from now.
With our annual Family Weekend coming up on campus this weekend and Homecoming in less than a month, time is quickly passing by. Let’s make the most of each day and our time together. Let’s create the best memories ... they will last a lifetime.