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Ben Tan ~ Grad Reflection

Throughout my time at Pres House, I’ve experienced and learned a lot, not just because my years in college so conveniently overlapped, but because of the people and opportunities here within our community. I would like to share a few of those stories and nuggets of wisdom I’ve discovered in the last 4 years with you all today.

I still remember the first time I walked through those doors for Sunday service almost 4 years ago (though it definitely feels longer than that). I had just moved to campus that weekend so I had barely been on campus for a full day and hadn’t made many friends yet. Even though Pres House had been recommended to me by multiple different people, I’ll admit I was still a bit nervous. This was my first time trying to find a new community and since my beloved twin sister wouldn’t come with me I had to do it all by myself. As soon as I entered, however, I was greeted with smiling faces and was immediately offered a seat between Silas Setterstrom and Steven Martell which immediately made me feel welcomed and included. From that point on I never felt any anxiety coming to Pres House, it only took that one service to feel fully accepted and welcomed into the community and I think that says a lot about what we have here.

It also brings me to my first nugget of wisdom: Welcome new people with enthusiasm and open arms because you never know how great of an effect it will have on them. We say that a lot, especially on Council around Welcome Week, but I think it really is worth repeating.

Even more vivid than my memory of that first service at Pres House is my memory of the last time our Freshman Connection group met in person. It was right before spring break of 2020 (so we all know what that means) and this week we were making and eating dinner together. I was quite literally running late from a Calc 2 exam, which I totally bombed, and with the news of a growing pandemic, I arrived at Pres House out of breath with my mind spinning and my anxiety at an all-time high. As I entered Pridham Lounge I was somewhat shocked to see that everyone was relatively calm and in good spirits.

How was this possible when we all seemingly knew this could be the last time we all saw each other in person for a very long time?

That’s when I learned my second nugget of wisdom: sometimes when the world is on fire and the future looks entirely uncertain, all you can do is take a deep breath, have faith that it’ll all be okay, and enjoy what you still have. I think that applies to me and my fellow (almost) graduates right now just as much as it did back in March 2020.

My third story is less of a single instance at Pres House and more of a reflection on my time as a student. Back before college, I was definitely a try-hard, straight-A student, and I expected to more or less keep that trend going. I had become somewhat of a perfectionist at this point. For the first semester that was alright, I had a relatively easy course load and I was able to keep up with no problem. In my second semester, however, I had loaded up my schedule with 18 credits. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right? I had taken 15 credits the semester before and that was no big deal! Well, I couldn’t have been more incorrect and I started thinking about dropping a class just to save my own sanity. At first, I viewed this as a complete failure on my part. I was supposed to be a straight-A student, an absolute academic weapon. How could I be dropping a class and have Bs or lower in half of my classes? So naturally I brought it up to my dad, he’s a smart guy who knows what majoring in Computer Science is like, he must have some wisdom for me (and I’m definitely not just trying to flatter him because he’s here.) His response wasn’t what I had been telling myself up until that point: that I should work harder, lock myself in the library cages until I got caught up, and remove myself from any possible distractions. Rather, after talking through the situation, he simply said, “Well are you still going to graduate on time?” That response (which I’ve heard a few more times since then) completely shifted my frame of reference and honestly saved me from a lot of pain throughout the rest of that semester and the rest of my college career.

This brings me to my third and final nugget of wisdom: Your mental health and happiness are WAY more important than what shows up on your transcript; nor does your transcript reflect your value as a person. Sometimes it’s hard to see that through the “rise and grind” culture we’ve all gotten so used to, but I assure you it’s true. Look around at all the graduating seniors, all of us have had to change our plans at some point, whether it’s changing majors because we lost interest in them, dropping a class, or even just skipping an assignment or two because we needed a break. Everybody has their own path filled with highs and lows, and some scary last-minute changes, but we all made it to the finish line and you will too. Thank you!

Ben is graduating with a B.S. in Computer Science and Certificates in Religious Studies and Entrepreneurship.

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