If you were to ask me, “How are you liking Emory?,” my response would be “Emory changed my life.” What a cliche review, right? But, as cliche as it may be, it is the honest truth. Emory is a unique place filled with unique people. 

As I would walk through the Tuesday Farmers Market on Cox Bridge, I would reflect on the beautiful serendipity that Emory encapsulates. How fascinating it is that each of us found a calling that brought us to this campus. I would ask myself, “What is the one thing that all Emory students have in common? What brought all of us, in our differences, to the same place at the same time?” This question stayed with me for the last four years. Finally, as a senior and a member of the second “pandemic” graduating class, I believe I may have found part of the answer. Emory’s students are resilient. We are a community that refuses to accept the status quo and a community that will unite to demand the best from the institutions that we support and represent. I think this is what sets Emory apart and why I accredit Emory for the transformation I have undergone since arriving in August 2017. From the moment I moved into my LSM dorm, I knew that I had made the right choice. It isn’t a tangible feeling but a sort of intuition. I knew that I was going to be changed for the better, whether I was ready for it or not. I suppose that is the goal of any choice we make in life; we hope that it transforms us and takes us further down the path to our full potential.

What I have loved most about Emory is the environment that allows students to realize and meet their potential. If I were to speak with a freshman, I would advise them to use their time at Emory to step out of their comfort zone. College is a time to be open to all possibilities: to meet new people that you would have never met otherwise and take risks to explore your own truths and values. Allow the different perspectives, backgrounds and stories of your colleagues to help you develop as an individual. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, share your beliefs with others and have conversations about what really matters. What you remember most in college is not your GPA. You will look back on the mysterious joy that comes about after countless hours in the library, laughter shared with the friends you run into in the campus Starbucks and last-minute runs to Ali’s Cookies in the Village.

So, how has Emory changed my life exactly? By teaching me to be where my feet are. To never look too far ahead nor focus on what has already passed. Learning to embrace the difficult days as much as the easy ones. Resilience is more than fighting to move forward – it is accepting what is in front of you with an open heart and mind. The diplomas that we depart with represent the resilience that we have exhibited for the last four years and the character that will guide us for the rest of our days. I wish for all who enter the Emory community to fully embrace the beauty that surrounds us and use this beauty to make the world a more resilient place.

Leah Saunders is from Greenville, South Carolina. She is a captain of the Emory Volleyball Team, member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and co-founder of Emory’s Black Letter-Winning Athlete Coalition. After graduation, she plans to pursue her master’s degree in anthropology.