Asheeka Desai: Communication Studies Major and Head Resident, Hank Ingram Houseby Missy Pankake May. 12, 2016, 4:25 PM
I’m graduating in May, and while it will be hard to leave Vanderbilt, it will be even harder to leave The Commons. The Commons has been such a defining part of my Vanderbilt experience, and has been my home here since day one. After my first year I became an R.A. in Gillette House, then head resident of Stambaugh House my junior year. This year I’ve served as head resident of Hank Ingram House.
I had a rough freshman year, and The Commons is why I stayed at Vanderbilt. By the end of my first semester, I had packed my room in boxes and was planning to move back home to Greenville, South Carolina, to attend Clemson. But during winter break, my R.A. and a Commons head of house, Dr. Roger Cone [the Joe C. Davis Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and chair of the department], and his wife, Midge, talked me through the pros and cons of staying at Vanderbilt. They emphasized the importance of making connections at school—and said that if I didn’t go out and make them myself, they would bring those connections to me. They were amazing. Even today, my parents and I still have a strong relationship with the Cones.
When I returned to campus in January of my first year, I looked around and realized what they’d said was true: Every one of my 1,600 first-year classmates was in the same boat as me. We all faced the challenge of making new friends, or having a hard time with that first chemistry exam. I took Dr. Cone’s advice and, during my four years at Vanderbilt, have been involved in so many different things—from working as a campus tour guide to joining a sorority to being an active member of the South Asian Cultural Exchange.
Now when I see a first-year student who looks nervous or scared, I make it a point to say, “Let’s go to a Commons event together.” They often just need one person to show they care about them, and that’s who I hope to be. In many cases these first-year students, who remind me so much of myself at that vulnerable time, are the people who have turned out to be some of my closest friends.
—AS TOLD TO VANDERBILT MAGAZINE
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