Titi Nguyen/Podcast Editor

As every incoming first-year recalls, the night before you leave for college is one of the most terrifying experiences before you delve into the unknown. The eve of my move-in, my mom and I sat on my bed slowly packing up the remnants of my room as she began to assuage my fears of starting a new university. While I was fortunate enough to be a mere 40 minutes from home, I found that my comfort zone did not include the prospective 26.5 mile drive to Emory University. 

To cease my melodramatic meltdown, she attempted to frame my imminent move as an exciting new adventure; however, as I harbored on my anxieties, she reminded me that a life of comfort and sureties would quickly leave me bored. She encouraged her shy and sheltered daughter to take risks and, in other words, do what scared her. 

Within my first week at Emory I took that piece of advice to heart: I introduced myself to strangers in the DCT, applied to organizations that I severely lacked the qualifications for and,  for a brief stint, almost joined club row. To me, “Do what scares you,” became a sort of gut-check; was I refusing to participate in an activity because I had no interest in it or because I was simply afraid of it? 

I slowly came to realize that college, and more specifically Emory, will offer you a multitude of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.While it is okay to deny them without a semblance of interest, I would hope that it is not fear that dissuades you from participating in what might become one of your most treasured memories. 

I am sure she offered that advice within a bound of reason, but it has been advice I have taken through every interaction during my tenure at Emory. Just recently, near the culmination of my senior year, my advisor insisted that I should go on stage with Flo Rida at our Dooley’s Week concert. Although the thought of the eyes of 4,000 fellow students petrified me, I acknowledged that the only obstacle preventing me from participating in that experience was fear. 

While I am not saying the key to a successful college experience is mediocrely dancing to “Wild Ones” with Flo Rida (and praying no one took a video), I am the biggest advocate for being open to new experiences and taking calculated risks as a catalyst for growth and transformation. It is easy to let fear hold us back from pursuing new experiences, but it is also easy to let it push us to take risks and pursue opportunities we might have otherwise shied away from.

In complete candor, I will not deny that some of my escapades still incite a cringe (there is, in fact, a video), but it pales in comparison to the haunting regret of a “what if.” Every experience you encounter will stretch the limits of your comfort zone — regardless if it is good, bad or cringeworthy. As I approach commencement and the intimidating stigma of graduation surrounds the senior class, I think about a key lesson I have learned through my time at Emory: The best memories come from doing the things that scare you. 

Ria Puri is from Johns Creek, Georgia and served as Student Programming Council president for the 2022-23 academic year. She was also a senior representative on BBA Council and a Wonderful Wednesday moderator. After graduation, Ria will move to New York City where she will be working at McKinsey & Company as a business analyst.