August 22, 2019
A Lesson in Openness
Student Orientation Keynote Speaker Shares Advice with First-Year Students
Jamie Slomka, a senior in the Social and Decision Sciences Department, delivered this year’s student keynote to first-year students and their families during Orientation on Sunday, Aug. 18. A transcript of her speech follows.
Hello and welcome to Carnegie Mellon.
I’d love to share stories of all the amazing times I’ve had here, all the lessons I’ve learned and the ones I wish I had known coming in. But I’ve chosen to focus on one: openness.
I’ve gotten to experience a lot of things here at Carnegie Mellon. I’ve joined a sorority, choreographed a musical, spent a summer studying in France, a semester in Washington D.C., become an Orientation Counselor, and am currently pursuing a senior honors thesis. However, I never anticipated doing any of these things coming into CMU. These weren’t steps in some 10-year life plan, but the reason I was able to have these life-changing experiences was because I made myself open to them and utilized the support I was given here.
Carnegie Mellon is a land of a thousand opportunities; do yourself a favor and accept them. Go to Orientation events and meet new people. I found my home in a sorority because I originally tagged along with my floormates looking for free food at Greek Night and figured I’d give the process a try. I participated in Formal Membership Recruitment and was invited to join my chapter. I’ve had a younger brother since I was four and a half, but now I suddenly had 70 new sisters as well. Through my organization, I have been able to hold different leadership positions and found myself with a support system I never expected — a whole chapter of undergraduate women. This is just one of the means of support I’ve found here at Carnegie Mellon.
The guidance and support I’ve received through Dietrich are likely the main reason that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done here at CMU. The faculty and staff, professors, associate deans, and my academic advisors have helped me to realize my potential and they’re here to help you with yours. They don’t just want you to keep your head down and graduate. They want you to find your passions and pursue them, whether that be by doing research, finding an internship or fellowship relevant to your interests, or simply by helping you find the major that’s right for you.
I came in without a major and I was able to have a slew of incredible academic experiences because my adviser took the time to get to know me and say, “Why don’t you take a look at our Washington Semester Program, I think you’d be a great fit.” I hemmed and hawed about spending a summer away from all of my friends and usual support systems, afraid of feeling like I was on my own. But I applied, and last fall, I interned in Senator Cory Booker’s office during the day and took classes next door to the Supreme Court building at night. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My cohort and I in the program were able to tour the city, visit a lot of museums, and watch a performance at the Kennedy Center. I fell in love with the city and discovered my career path, all because I opened myself up to the opportunity (as well as that email from my adviser).
That’s what college is about — opening yourself up. This includes opening your mind to new perspectives and knowledge, opening your heart to new passions and friends, and opening your arms to the unknown. You may not know what these next few years may hold, but I know that they’re going to be great, but only if you let them.
One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis states: “You will not be very safe if you go to sea without a map, but you will not get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea.” Doing without thinking is unwise, but thinking without doing will get you nowhere. It can be easy to get caught up weighing options and considering outcomes that you let opportunities slip past. Do not let them go without living.
Congratulations, and again, welcome to Carnegie Mellon University.