The Essence of The Commons
Gabi Grys, ’18
The word tradition means “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.” My first year of college was marked by one tradition in particular: on Thursdays, I ate pancakes.
Now this was not just a regular culinary habit. Every Thursday, North House hosted “Northern Exposure,” where the signature food was pancakes. Each week featured a new secret ingredient and floors rotated the cooking responsibilities. At 8PM, I would trek down the stairs to our Faculty Head of House’s apartment. We would be greeted by PBarz himself and his husband,Wil, before sneaking our way through the crowd to get a plate. The music, usually Beyonce as per the request of our RAs, would fill the apartment alongside the many voices of our fellow Northerners. On occasion, the small kitchen would get hazy with smoke from the griddles and we would dash to open windrows and turn on the fan before the smoke alarm could go off. Northern Exposure was this sacred hour in my week that I cherished.
The best part about Northern Exposure, however, was not the pancakes. It was the people. Coming to college I was filled with anxiety about making friends and building connections with the people around me. I was joyfully surprised to learn that the 44 other girls on my hall would be phenomenal examples of strong, funny, beautiful women whom I would soon call my dearest friends. Having them there made coming back to my dorm each night like coming home. We filled the hall with candy and balloons when people were sad or homesick. We ventured out to the mall to get cheesecake which we happily ate together on the floor of our hallway. Discussions bounced back and forth from cell biology to R. Kelly, educational pedagogy to Jeni’s ice cream flavors, Myers-Briggs types to shoe sizes, and everything in between. Each of us had different friends and communities at Vanderbilt, whether in Student Government or Greek Life. We all came from different walks of life and had unique sets of experiences and ideas. The one thing that bound us together was that we were randomly assigned to live on North 4. The Commons provides you with this wonderful opportunity to live and grow with people vastly different from yourself, people who can challenge your perspective and help you form new ideas. Every weekly event, every Commons Ball, and every house Mix-Up is more than a chance to score some great food and a t-shirt. These are the moments you slowly begin to figure out who you want to become and who you want walking beside you on that journey.
As I prepare to start my senior year of college, I am also gearing up for my fourth year living on The Commons. The experiences that I have had onhe Commons have defined my time at Vanderbilt. The Commons has given me strong, compassionate mentors; opportunities to grow and develop personally and professionally; and more free pizza than I thought humanly possible. Most importantly, when I look into my residents’ eyes on move in night and tell them that their best friends might come from their first-year hall, I know that I’m telling the truth. The people I have met as a direct result of this community are the greatest gift I have ever received.