It was only three years ago when I was standing in line at orientation, waiting to get a picture taken for my I.D. card.
“Turn your head a bit to the right, chin up. Now smile,” the lady with the camera said.
SNAP. The moment is captured—a young 18-year- old, with a smile that turns up in confidence, but eyes that look out of the frame, a bit nervous and lost.
As I carry my card around with me everywhere, I am reminded of my freshmen self— young and naive, but certain that I was ready to begin this journey. And that is what college is—another journey in your life, one that you have just begun.
As Gandalf tells Frodo Baggins in the Fellowship of the Ring, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Just as Gandalf gives his last bit of advice to Frodo before he sets off with the ring, parents have lists of advice for their children as they prepare to send them off to college.
Mark Twain once said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
And so while many of you are running out your doors, eager to find your place in this world, always remember the words of your parents and the advice of the elders.
I have learned much in my three years here. I have left my hobbit hole and traveled many roads, have crossed many bridges, survived the Mines of Moria (yes, this would be finals week) and formed a fellowship of loyal friends along the way.
Although there may be one goal at the end, the paths to achieve that goal are many, each with different opportunities along the way.
It was the opportunities that I took that made me who I am and brought me to where I am today. When I came to the university three years ago, I had never written a newspaper article. If you told me then that I would be the editor of the campus newspaper, I would have never believed you. But all it took was gathering up my courage, walking through the doors of The Traveler’s office into a room full of juniors and seniors and asking to write for the paper.
This is the time for you to test your limits, to break out of your walls and find your- self through your experiences. Join a student organization or better yet, start your own. Take the opportunity to study abroad and experience different cultures. Join an athletic team, the marching band, a play production, the student media, the Associated Student Government or a research lab—the options are endless.
Who knows, perhaps three years from now you could be the ASG president, the leader of a research team, the president of a Greek House or the editor of the paper. It doesn’t take an Einstein or a flying superhero to achieve great feats; it takes hard work and dedication. A simple hobbit can change the course of the world, just as you all have the potential to bring a positive change to the world of those around you.
Many of you are coming to the university knowing exactly what you want to do and where you want to get to, others are coming in with a slight idea, and some with no clue. Parents and professors will always be here to give you advice, but remember that the choice is yours. There is no readymade road; rather, you lay your own bricks through your decisions. There are times when you may step off your path, but in the words of Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Welcome to the University of Arkansas. As you be- gin this journey, keep in mind to pack smart, pack light and get ready for a year of new friends, first time experiences, mistakes and revisions and the start of new memories.