Shruti Anant,’21, Arts & Sciences
At one point in my second semester at Vanderbilt, I was surrounded by equilibrium. In general chemistry, we learned about chemical equilibrium, describing the balance of reactants and products in a chemical reaction with the equilibrium constant ‘K’. In neuroscience, Dr. Smith gave a lecture on the equilibrium potential of ions within a neuron’s cell membrane, and how changes in these membrane potentials, when ions flow in and out of the cell, can lead to action potentials. In macroeconomics, I learned about the market equilibrium between supply and demand, representing the balance point at which the price buyers are willing to pay equals the quantity sellers are willing to sell in a given market. Even in my intro sociology class, I explored equilibrium. According to functionalism, one of the major sociological perspectives, society functions through the interconnectedness of its parts, where social institutions serve specific functions that keep the whole in equilibrium.
I couldn’t stop annoying anyone who would listen how it struck me that a common thread ran through all four of these very different classes: trying to maintain a precarious state of balance. Reflecting on my first few months at Vanderbilt, I struggled to find my own sense of balance. I was overwhelmed and overscheduled— trying to stay on top of classes, make new friends, attend club meetings, and enjoy campus events. Vanderbilt has some amazing opportunities waiting to be taken advantage of, but I found myself falling into the trap of feeling like I had to do everything, especially because I was surrounded by so many accomplished peers. I felt like a tiny fish in an unnavigable sea.
It wasn’t until second semester that Vanderbilt really started to feel like a new home. I found true purpose when I stopped comparing myself to those around me and started focusing on myself. I went on a life-changing Alternative Spring Break trip, I appreciated the bigger picture of what I was learning in my classes, I joined clubs I cared about, and I was lucky enough to make friendships I know will last a lifetime. After four (4!) different lectures on equilibrium, I finally felt like the balance I studied in the classroom translated to my own life.
My biggest advice as you begin your journey at Vanderbilt is to find your own equilibrium. When things get difficult, take a step back to refocus and reframe your goals. Strike a balance between your academic and social lives, take time to relax, don’t overcommit, and always reach out for help when you need it. Everyone here is cheering you on.