My First Day

Miriam
Mathless-Abrams
2001
Alumnae

My first day at Barnard was seven days after my father died.  My family had just finished shiva and my mother told me to pack my bags because we were driving down to New York.  I however, had no such intentions.  Instead, it was my well devised plan to sleep out the next two to three years of pain and sadness and then figure out what came next.  Guess who won that battle?  
 
It was my mother who got me to Barnard that day, but it was the people I met there who made me stay.  Since I had missed Orientation, I had arranged to meet the first-year dean, but unbeknownst to me, she had contacted my academic advisor, RA, and future roommate about my arrival.  After our meeting, I was actually tracked down on campus by a student liaison to tell me that my advisor, Professor Rosalind Rosenberg, had come to campus and was waiting to meet with me. This was on a day before the academic year started, with no classes and no departmental obligations.  A full, tenured professor, who I'm sure had other things to do that day had come to campus, just to welcome a new (highly intimidated) student.  Professor Rosenberg spent two hours with me and my mom, answering questions, reassuring me, and introducing me to my first-year seminar professor, Herb Sloan.  (By the way, a first-year seminar with the irreverent, hilarious, and brilliant Professor Sloan is an experience I wish on every Barnard student!)   I spent the rest of the day meeting my wonderful RA and my warm and friendly roommate, and getting to know a few things about campus.  
 
When I finally let my mom leave several hours later, I was definitely still sad, still a bit overwhelmed, but I took the advice of Professor Rosenberg to heart.  She said that getting to Barnard was the hard part, once here, the faculty, staff and student community did everything possible to create an environment where every student succeeds.  At the time, I assumed she meant academic success, but now that it has been 13 years since I've graduated, now that I have become a wife, mother, and Special Education teacher on the cusp of a major career shift, I can say that of course she meant that Barnard engenders academic success, but also the emotional, social, and developmental success necessary to engage and achieve not just at Barnard, but in life.