Bridging the Gap between Engineering and Geography

Simone stands in a research laboratory, with a lab bench behind her and glassware displayed to her left

When Simone Burns came to Syracuse, she knew she wanted to major in Environmental Engineering. During her time here, she found her passion at the intersection of engineering and geography.

What sparked your interest in geography, in addition to engineering?

During my freshman year, I took a class called World Cultures. I never took a class like that in high school – it wasn’t just about cultures. It was also an introduction to the geographical principles of space, place, how we fit within them, and how we interpret or use them. For example, we talked about living rooms, and I really enjoyed thinking about how people from different cultures use the same space in different ways.

Later on, I took a geography class and learned about mapping technology. Using geographic information systems (GIS), you can pull together different kinds of data to create layered maps. I was able to take what I was learning in class and apply it in a real, physical way. For example, the class made maps of all the places we frequently visited on campus. When we put the maps together, we saw that the routes, represented by lines, were different for every person; everyone had different patterns. I remember thinking, “oh, I could see myself doing a lot more with this.”

Indeed, you have done more! Can you explain how you continued to work with GIS?

Most recently, I used GIS for my senior design project. There were about 20 different topics that students could choose from, including GIS, which I immediately signed up for. Our assignment was to solve a problem about bike lanes: there were only three bike lanes near campus, but many people bike around our campus, and there was a need for an online resource.

First, we researched the existing bike lanes around campus. We found that a lot of people could use the existing lanes to get to campus, but once they reached main campus they would share the roadways with buses and zig-zag around pedestrians on the sidewalk. It’s dangerous for everyone involved, but where else could the bikers go?

To get ideas for how to solve this problem, we teamed up with an advisor from Syracuse’s Office of Sustainability, researched bike lanes on other college campuses, took a close look at the bike lanes in the City of Syracuse, and surveyed the people who use them. We needed a lot of information: What kind of bike lanes do people prefer? How could we signify that a lane is intended for bikers? Where do people typically bike while they’re on campus? Where are the bike racks? What other resources do they use?

We decided to collaborate with the University to create an interactive map that bikers can use to plan their trips to, from, and around campus. The map will tell them where the bike lanes and bike racks are, along with places of interest like restaurants, lockers, or places to take a shower. We started out with nothing, at ground zero, and had to build all of those maps with buildings, bike racks, and bike lanes – everything someone would need when mapping out a route.

This project was a manifestation of both my majors, with geography influencing engineering and vice versa. I had to think about the engineering and technical aspects of building the maps, but also think, “okay, from a social aspect, how do we interact with the space?” I have learned that you can’t just think technically to create a design; there are so many other factors that go into it.

Simone and four other students stand in front of a research poster
Simone’s senior design team of civil and environmental engineering students called Green Path. From Left to Right: Simone Burns (Project Manager), Yuanyuan Wang (Design Analyst), Kimberly Fitzgerald (GIS Analyst), Lilin Liu (Design Analyst), and Hope Bartlett (Data Analyst).

It sounds like this project was a fantastic learning experience. What are your next steps?

After graduation, I participated in a short-term study abroad class called Asiatech. I visited and learned from various tech companies in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. After the trip, I began my current internship with SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Physical Plant Department; I am digitizing and modeling their hospital buildings using 2D and 3D drawing software. After my internship, I will pursue my Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, FL where I will conduct research using GIS to improve transportation and evacuation routes in Florida.

Simone dressed in her graduation gown, holding her graduation cap, with the hall of languages and flowering trees in the background

Going to New Heights with Syracuse

Meet Cassie Cooper ‘20
Major:
Health and Exercise Science
Hometown:
West Monroe, NY
High School:
Altmar-Parish-Williamstown High School
Activities:
Syracuse University Outdoor Club, Commuter Organization Group

Health and Exercise Science has brought a world of opportunity my way. This past semester, I interned at my former high school helping with indoor and outdoor track and I’ve been able to study in the human performance lab on campus. However, my absolute best experience was spending three weeks trekking to the Base Camp of Mount Everest.

Getting there

The trip started off when my flight to JFK got cancelled. We sped down to NYC and got to the airport with 15 minutes to spare. Our first flight was a 14 hour flight from JFK to Abu Dhabi. We were delayed and missed our connecting flight to Kathmandu. So we stayed overnight in Abu Dhabi, which was fantastic.

Once we arrived to Kathmandu, we met with the Calgary, Swedish, and University of Michigan teams who were joining us and took another flight to Lukla – which has one of the world’s shortest runways. Hold on!

The journey to Base Camp

Our trekking days were long as we went up and down dirt paths. All the locals were incredibly fit and would lug housing materials on their back while wearing flip flops. Meanwhile, we were in hiking boots, using poles, and trying to catch our breath as they sprinted past. At night we stopped at lodges to acclimate. On those rest days, we explored the towns, went shopping, and played cards.

It took us about two weeks to trek up to the Base Camp. I was surprised to see snow on the ground in June! As we passed Gorak Shep to Base Camp, we saw a pack of yaks come through – they’d run into you if you didn’t get out of the way! When we arrived to Base Camp, you could see the Khumbu Icefall and there were tons of prayer flags. We all cheered and took dozens of photos. I went down to the glaciers and stood by one – it was massive. To get down to the glaciers, you’d have to slide through the rocks, but the views were incredible.

Taking a class at 17,000 ft.

Every rest day, we had a lecture. Topics ranged from decrease in oxygen pressure at high altitudes, to the role genetics might play in altitude sickness, to muscle fatigue. We also learned a lot about the culture in Nepal. To be able to see and interact with the culture firsthand was life-changing. With this trip, we experienced firsthand what we were learning. With the oxygen pressure difference, it wasn’t just learning about it but also having to deal with it as you hiked.

What’s next?

I initially thought about being an athletic trainer. But after this trip, I’m thinking more about being a paramedic or first responder for outdoor adventurers.

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Discovering Public Health

Meet Ryan Patel ‘19
Major:
Public Health, Biology – Pre-Health Track
Hometown:
Manhattan Beach, CA
High School:
Mira Costa High School
Activities:
University 100, Orientation Leader, University Conduct Board, Forever Orange Student Alumni Council, Homecoming Court, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, Peer Educator with the Office of Health Promotion, volunteer at Crouse Hospital and Syracuse VA Medical Center

How did you get connected to Public Health?

As soon as I got to Syracuse, I signed up for a million clubs; literally anything that had the word “health” in it. However, one club stood out: the Society for Public Health Educators (SOPHE). I became involved and discovered Public Health through a research opportunity looking at malaria rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Through my Public Health classes, I’ve studied epidemiology, clean water access, fertility and maternity rates, the societal impacts of health access, among other topics.

How has experiential learning been part of your education?

Experiential learning is a key element of Public Health, with several classes requiring an internship component. I’ve had first-hand experiences at Vera House, the Syracuse City School District’s Refugee Assistance program, and the Office of Health Promotion. I’ve also been able to study abroad in South Africa through a Public Health course. With the Refugee Assistance program, I assisted in teaching health literacy to refugees in the North Side of Syracuse.

Why did you decide to pursue Pre-Health?

I knew I wanted to be Pre-Med from a young age. In high school, I took a medical assisting course and fell in love with medicine. I joined the Pre-Health track when I came to Syracuse and have relied heavily on their resources.

What resources are available through the Pre-Health Advising office?

Pre-Health advisors assist with the development of medical school applications and portfolio. We also have a recommendation committee who will read your application and submit a recommendation on your behalf. In addition there are different clubs and organizations that are popular amongst Pre-Health students: Camp Kesem, Medical Brigades, and Syracuse University Ambulance.

Where are you at in the medical school application process now?

Instead of going right into medical school, I’m taking a non-traditional gap year to pursue a master’s in Medical Sciences. Right now I’m relying on my Pre-Health advisor to review my graduate school application materials and be sure I have everything required to apply. After receiving my master’s, my goal is to enter medical school.

Why is Public Health a good option for students who are considering Pre-Health?

It’s out of the ordinary and identifies you as a unique candidate for medical school. Public Health teaches you to think about health holistically. While you’ll still take courses in biology and chemistry, you’re also studying how a person’s community affects their health, nutrition, and lifespan. Public Health prepares you to think of the health outcomes, which is needed in any clinical health career.

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Engineering Abroad

A group of fourteen students pose for a photo on a sand dune at sunset

Last summer, Haley Bigando set off for what would be a “life-changing” experience, studying abroad as part of the James Mandel and Samuel Clemence Civil Engineering Internship at the Dubai Contracting Company. While collaborating with students and professionals from around the globe, she learned how civil engineering concepts apply to multimillion dollar projects, and prepared for her own future as an engineer.

You said that your experiences in Dubai were “life-changing.” What was most memorable part of the trip?

I’ve never been abroad before, so studying in another country and learning about another culture was a huge change. One day they picked us up in SUVs and we drove into the desert. It felt like a large-scale skate park when we drove up the dunes and dropped back down. We stopped at sunset, and drove down to base camp for dinner. Some of us rode camels and went sand boarding, which is basically snowboarding, but in the sand!

It sounds like you formed some close relationships while you were in Dubai. What was it like to study with students from another country?

Half of the students in the program were from the Lebanese American University. We got along with them so well; we lived together, shared our experiences, and showed each other pictures of our hometowns. We had lunch together every day in the office and it would always be something different; some of it we didn’t like, some of it we loved! It was also fun when they would teach us different phrases in Arabic.

A group of sixteen students pose for a photo in front of a city skyline at night

How did you connect with executives and other engineers at the Dubai Contracting Company?

When we arrived, each department head explained what their department does. For example, we toured the planning department and then had a lecture on planning, scheduling, and how that relates to the rest of the project. We even gave presentations to the chairman of the Dubai Contracting Company, Mr. Yabroudi (’78, G’79) and he critiqued us. He pushed us to work very hard, because we jam-packed everything into four weeks.

A group of students gather around a set of blueprints, which are spread out on a table. The students are wearing reflective vests, and their hard hats are sitting on the table.

How did studying in Dubai change the way you look at engineering?

We went on site tours around Dubai almost every other day. We started with sites where construction had just begun, and by the end of the program we were touring completely finished buildings. We were taught to pay close attention to detail and quality; now I pick up on things all the time that I never would have noticed before. Even if it’s just a sidewalk, or something that could have been designed better, I’ll notice it!

Picture of Haley standing at a construction site, with the city skyline behind her. She wears a reflective vest and hard hat.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I will continue at Syracuse with my master’s degree, because I love the close-knit community here and want to get more experience in structural engineering. After graduate school, I look forward to working for The Chazen Companies as a project engineer.

What advice do you have for high school students who might be intimidated by the idea of studying abroad?

When I was preparing to apply for the study abroad program, I questioned whether to go through with it, because I’d never been abroad before. But the Dubai program is short-tem, I knew everyone going, and a professor went with us. All of that made it easier. I’m so glad I handed in my application because I will never have the chance to do something like the Dubai program again. Now I’m not afraid to travel – I want to travel more!

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How to Build Genuine Relationships with Alumni

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One of the most rewarding parts about Syracuse University is meeting incredible alumni that were once in the exact same position you are.

I’ve had the opportunity to connect with SU alums from all walks of life. From executives at multi-national corporations to entrepreneurs starting businesses from their parent’s houses. I’ve come to notice they all share a similar trait: an immense passion for Syracuse University.

As a student, you can take advantage of that passion by reaching out to alumni. Here’s a secret: SU alumni love talking to SU students.

You can meet alumni everywhere. During homecoming weekend tons of alumni come back to campus for events. You can also reach out to alumni through LinkedIn, an online professional network. Alumni will also come back to campus throughout the year for recruiting and other events.

Here are few simple things you can do to build genuine relationships with SU Alumni:

When you’re reaching out to an alumni for the first time, don’t do it because you want something

The absolute worst thing you can do when trying to build a real relationships with someone is to reach out to them for the first time and ask for something. It indicates that you’re only interested in what they can do for you.

The best way to start a relationship with an alumni is to reach out and ask to learn more about their career. Set up a quick phone call with them to talk about what they do for a living and how they got there.

It’s easy to tell when you’re talking to someone that’s just interested in getting something from you. Before you start reaching out to people, develop a genuine interest in learning about others.

Keep the relationship going

What’s worse than having no network? Reaching out to a bunch of people and not following up.

The best relationships are developed over time. Keep in touch with the alumni you connect with by following up with them every couple of months. Keep a spreadsheet of the people you’ve talked to and what you talked about. It will help you keep track of your professional relationships.

An easy way to initiate follow-up contact with an alumni is by sharing a news article relating to what you talked about last time you spoke, or even better, a piece of SU news they would care about.

Offer your help

This seems trivial, because how could a student possibly help an established alumni? The point of offering help is less about helping someone on the spot and more about letting the person know you want to help them if and when they need it.

You would be surprised how many people could use your help once you start offering it. Relationships are supposed to be mutually beneficial. Everyone has some sort of knowledge or skill they can share with others. Figure out what that is and distribute it.

Written by Daniel Strauss ’19, a Finance major in the Whitman School of Management. Daniel is a member of the Daily Orange, the SU Investment Club, Delta Sigma Pi, and Syracuse University Enactus.

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Educating the City

Meet Sierra Eastman ‘20
Major:
Mathematics Education, Psychology
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
High School: Henninger High School
Activities: SU Literacy Corps, SU Bowling Club, CHAARG, School of Education Peer Advisor, Kappa Delta Pi

How does Syracuse University prepare you to be a Math teacher?

Beginning my freshman year, I’ve had field placements in schools across Syracuse. Early on it’s observational; we see how the students work, and the logistics behind the scenes. I’m getting manageable, hands-on experiences to prepare me for the student teaching I’ll do next year. It’s made me even more motivated to student teach.

Tell me about Syracuse University’s Mary Ann Shaw Center, where you work as an intern.

The Shaw Center, the University’s center for community engagement, has several unique initiatives that go out into the Syracuse City School District. There’s SU Literacy Corps, which tutors students in all areas of literacy, including Math. We also have Balancing the Books which teaches high schools about financial literacy. The Nutrition Initiative teaches students to cook recipes from around the world and increase their nutritional knowledge. Engineering Ambassadors is another initiative that provides hands-on science activities after school.

What’s your involvement with SU Literacy Corps?

We go into local schools and work with a couple of classrooms each week. My first semester, I worked with kindergarten through third grade students. With the second and third graders, we focused on math literacy: doing math facts, flash cards, or similar activities.

How has SU Literacy Corps impacted your Education classes?

Working with SU Literacy Corps has helped my confidence in the classroom during field placements, and given me relevant examples to talk about during class discussions.

Why should students consider volunteer work, such as the initiatives through the Shaw Center?

It’s a chance to get out into the community and be a role model for students.

Why should prospective students consider the School of Education?

The Education community is like a little family, which helps with class discussions as we feel more open to talk about real things. And within that family, obviously, is the staff. They work extra hard to get us what we need and take that extra step beyond the classroom to support us.

What has been your best memory so far at Syracuse University?

My favorite memories have been as a Freshmen Orientation Peer Advisor. Every year for orientation, we all dress up in our matching orange shirts and give our advisees tours around campus based on their class schedule. Ultimately, it’s a big support group, helping freshmen get all of the resources they need to succeed.

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Syracuse’s Welcoming LGBT Community

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Walking down the promenade on a windy Monday afternoon, the banner above Schine Student Center caught my eye. Schine almost always has a banner above the doorway, advertising a University Union event or bringing awareness to a campus campaign. This one held my attention, because it said, on a rainbow background “Queer and Trans Existence is Beautiful”.

LGBT resources and community spaces were not something that I looked into while determining my college of choice, but I have found that Syracuse University has many. The first week of classes, I was able to attend an event put on by the LGBT Resource center, and solidified my first friendships here while sitting on the front lawn eating ice cream at their kick-off Ice Cream Social. I haven’t attended many of their discussion groups, because often they are comprised mostly of graduate students, but that first event I went to, where students spilled out the front door of the building and covered the lawn, was a powerful motivator to find more resources and forms of community on campus.

Noah Mendez, a sophomore Forensic Science major, took some time to tell me about his experience with LGBT communities and resources on campus – specifically the LGBT learning community housed in Lawrinson hall. During his freshman year, he was able to meet people like himself, make connections, and feel a sense of community among the members. The friendships he made were lasting, and based on a shared identity. Other past and present members of the learning community comment that, as a freshman, having the learning community was a welcoming way to start their college careers.

Pride Union is a registered student organization on campus for LGBT students. It meets on Friday nights in the Hall of Languages, and it’s a great source of community on campus. They also put on some pretty cool events throughout the year: a drag show, which two years ago had RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Milk as a special guest. A less extravagant event that I’ve always enjoyed was the Pride Union clothing swap, where you can bring clothes that you no longer wear and pick up new clothes that other people have brought to pass. It’s great for sprucing up your wardrobe, and getting rid of clothes you don’t wear anymore – particularly if you’re looking to trade your old blouses for men’s button-ups or your jeans for skirts.

Syracuse University has shown me a lot of different places of community and resources for LGBT students, a refreshing and unexpected change from high school GSAs.

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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Filling Time During Spring Break

Students working on a project for the Near West Side Initiative–an organization that students regularly volunteer with

Spring Break is the one week off during the school year where you probably don’t have any obligations. In the fall, there’s Thanksgiving, and in the winter, there’s Christmas, New Year’s, sometimes Chanukah depending on the calendar. That means family holiday parties, traditions, family time. Spring Break does not have any of that! The closest thing it has to a big, important holiday is Saint Patrick’s Day, and that is really more of an excuse to eat green food.

So what does one do with a whole unencumbered week smack dab in the middle of the semester? Here are some things that Syracuse University students do:

  1. Volunteer

Nothing gives you the warm fuzzies and keeps you busy like taking your free time and using it to help others! Friends of mine stayed local this past spring break to build tiny homes for homeless people in Syracuse. Syracuse is a city with one of the largest wealth gaps in the country, so even though the area around the University is clean and nice, coming down off the hill to help the community is a great way to give back!

  1. Work

Yes, it’s boring, but going home and picking up shifts is a great way to fill up your schedule as well as your pockets! Plus, a few nights of babysitting and house-sitting is all it takes for me to feel like I’ve had a productive week off, even if I spent the rest of my time sitting around like a couch potato.

  1. Visit Friends

If your spring break lines up with other friends from home, you may just want to go home and visit them, but it’s also a great time to go visit with college friends too! Bringing someone home for Spring Break made my spring break way more fun – I had an excuse to go to the hipster coffee joints and stores that I would not have ventured to otherwise, to show a newcomer the cool parts of my town and city. Plus, a buddy who will yell at the TV with me while we watch bad reality television.

  1. Travel

Traveling could be as simple as road-tripping to Toronto or Niagara Falls for an afternoon, or as wild as jetting down to somewhere much warmer, sunnier, and maybe even beachier than Syracuse. I know people who have gone to Europe, to the Dominican Republic, to Florida, and people who drove down to see friends at nearby schools. Spring break is a great time to explore the world! Or the state. Or the campus of someone else’s college.

The world really is your oyster, and there’s so much that can be seen, done, and accomplished in one free week. So take it and run with it!

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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Summer College to Syracuse

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Growing up with a mom who worked in communications, I was curious about her role in developing a company’s image and reputation. During my sophomore year in high school, I wanted to find a way to learn more about the field and get a taste for college life. Syracuse University Summer College for high school students offered both.

Summer College allows high school students to take courses in various programs over a 2-, 3-, 4- or 6-week time period while living in Syracuse University housing and experiencing college life.

At first, it was exciting to live on my own, but I also had to take responsibility as there was no one to remind me to stay on top of my schoolwork. I had been away from home before, but never in an environment where I knew absolutely no one. At Syracuse, everyone was so nice! The classes I took at Summer College helped me earn college credits that I was able to apply to my undergrad studies. And best of all, it helped confirm my decision to major in public relations.

As a junior in high school, I was excited to have a goal to work toward. I felt so confident because I was certain of my major. While Syracuse was one of my top choices, I kept an open mind and visited other colleges along the east coast. But none of them felt like home. After visiting Syracuse a second time in the fall – when I could see it during the academic year – I knew it was everything I ever wanted from a school. I chose to apply Early Decision to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and never looked back.

My Summer College experience didn’t keep me from feeling homesick my first semester, but overall, I felt more confident on campus and in the classroom having spent significant time here before enrolling. Now, after being here for a semester, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. The community at Syracuse is so inspiring and diverse. The more Newhouse classes I take, the more certain I am that I made the right choice. Courses are challenging, but the topics are so interesting and my professors are extremely knowledgeable and supportive.

I have found friends at Syracuse that I couldn’t imagine living without, and I proved to myself that I can succeed. My field of study is very broad, but I’m confident that with time, internships and more classes, I will find the specific track that’s right for me.

Regan Talley ’21 is studying Public Relations in The Newhouse School of Public Communications. She grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Regan is a member of PRSSA and in her free time she enjoys baking, going to the gym, and getting coffee with friends.

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Built-in Bestie

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The summer before I came to Syracuse University, I heard piles upon piles of sage college wisdom. Aunts, uncles, teachers, older friends, each dispensed their nuggets of College Knowledge on my waiting ears. They expected me to be stressed – about classes, about leaving home, about making friends – and tried to assuage my fears with fun stories about their time at college. Whether it worked or not, I can’t say, but I tried to absorb it all as if I was studying for a final exam.

Overwhelmingly, the advice wasn’t about classes, or dining halls, or getting lost on the first day (though to be fair, that stuff turned out to be pretty straightforward). Everyone wanted to tell me about their college roommates.

Every story seemed pretty much the same: lasting friendships, sisterly bonds. An aunt told me that my roommate would be the first person to come through for me in a jam. My dad was in one of his college roommates’ weddings.

It’s really cathartic to know going into a new, scary place where you don’t know anyone, that you’ve got a built-in friend on your very first day. Many of my peers and I were of the opinion that Facebook is mostly for moms, but everyone I knew was putting that aside to scour Groups and Pages for the perfect roommate – their perfect first friend. That seemed like a lot of work for me, so I put in a request for a random roommate and let fate guide me from there. It was only afterward that I started to fret about it. What if we didn’t like each other? What if we weren’t friends? Would my college experience be ruined?

(Spoiler Alert: no.)

Fast-forwarding to my first few days after move-in, my new roommate and I quickly realized we had next to nothing in common. She was nice and smart, and she kept to her half of the room, and for my entire freshman year, that was about as far as our friendship went. We sat in companionable silence and did our homework on opposite sides of the room. I offered her pizza when I ordered too much, and she offered me some leftover fries. Beyond that, we kept to our own circles.

At first, I felt a little gypped. I’d heard all these great roommate stories, where was my automatic BFF? But as the semester went on, I quickly found my own friends, in dining halls, in classes, on other floors of my dorm. People I did have things in common with, who I really jived with. Within a week, I had a veritable circle of new friends, who I’d only met because I wasn’t attached to my roommate all the time. One trip to the dining hall by myself, one “great T-shirt, dude, I love that show!” and I didn’t even need a built-in best friend. I’d found the people that would become my best friends all on their own.

The one thing nobody told me on my journey toward Syracuse was that in the end, you don’t have to be best friends with your roommate. At this point, I think it was better for me that I wasn’t. I branched out, met more new and interesting people than I would have otherwise.

Now, though, as a sophomore, I can tell you that having a roommate that’s also your best friend? Also a pretty sweet deal.

 

Meg Burnard ’20 is studying Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Rochester, New York. Meg is a member of Democracy Matters, and in her free time she enjoys reading comics, going to concerts, and playing games with friends. More blogs from Meg Burnard.

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