Students should focus more on their community, less on themselves

By MARIAJOSE RODRIGUEZ-PLIEGO ’16 

Opinions Editor

I often find myself talking to friends about how unhappy students are at Wellesley. Often these conversations turn to reflections on our own perceptions of the College. I hear people attributing their lack of satisfaction at Wellesley to the high-stress environment, disconnection from the city or to the endless snow. While I acknowledge these challenges, most of the aspects that hinder me from enjoying my time at Wellesley stem from general college student life and learning to thrive in this stage of our lives.

Besides the Wellesley bubble, we also inhabit our own individual student bubbles. Moving away from family and into a student environment tends to shift our focus entirely onto ourselves. I grew up in a family of four children, where getting home from school entailed leaving behind my own academic worries to listen to my parents and sisters discuss the various events monopolizing their lives. Moving into Wellesley meant leaving this daily family interaction behind, and as a first year full of nervousness about the next four years, I often found myself focusing solely on my own life.

As Wellesley students, we are all motivated to concentrate on ourselves, build up our skills and capacities, obtain work experience and prepare for tests. This extreme level of self-focus is understandable but damaging to a community. Constant self-consciousness also damages ourselves, as it exhausts us and increases stress. Developing simple habits such as leaving our own concerns behind before sitting down to dinner and genuinely listening to friends will make our Wellesley experience a better one. 

Student life also intensifies our tendency to think of our lives in terms of deadlines. We look forward to being done with our papers and midterms or leaving for break. This focus on the future is useful when trying to get through particularly hard days, but it strips us of our agency by disabling our ability to enjoy ourselves in the present.

The arrival of spring break is always cause for celebration—until we realize we’ve been living like zombies for the past few weeks while waiting for the break to materialize. 

Our disconnect from life outside the beautiful campus and prosperous Wellesley town makes it difficult to remember how fortunate we are. As Wellesley students, we have high standards for ourselves and our peers, and tend to take simple things for granted. Failing a midterm is far from the worst thing that can happen to us, and we should be grateful to live and study in Wellesley alongside such gifted and brilliant people.

College is full of challenges. While Wellesley certainly does not align with the typical college stereotypes, I acknowledge that there is and will always be room for improvement at this College. However, many complaints about Wellesley are applicable to other colleges. Most importantly, these issues will continue to crop up in our lives after Wellesley if we fail to assume responsibility and grow during our undergraduate years. Learning how to independently lead a balanced, positive life is one of the most important challenges that we face as students. 

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