Written by Christian Wiskur.

What am I doing in a non-commercial cave at 2 a.m. on a Monday morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains? That is the question I was asking myself in March of 2015. Let’s backtrack a little bit to better explain how I got myself into this situation. About six months earlier, I was just starting my freshman year at Virginia Tech. I’ll never forget that time of my life.

I was nervous, I was excited, I was sad, I was full of joy. What if I don’t find my niche? What if everyone is way smarter than me in the College of Engineering? Nothing was familiar, but I couldn’t wait to explore the uniqueness of Virginia Tech and Blacksburg. After a few weeks I had found my way around this beautiful campus, I had made great friends, I had been to lunch with more people than I have ever been in my whole life, and I had realized that I was excelling in the classroom. As I’m sure every Hokie will tell you, you quickly become overwhelmed with Hokie pride. I will never forget my first Hokie football game. Looking around at the thousands of people out there repping maroon and orange. Thousands of people from children to grandparents jumping to Enter Sandman. Personally, my favorite thing about the football games was going crazy after a touchdown and celebrating with people I had never met before. That moment following a touchdown at Lane Stadium is what I believe to be the purest moment of happiness and friendship.

There was still something missing though. It was a family. A group of people that I didn’t have to impress, but that I could just be me around. A group that when I ask to hang out they don’t respond with, “What are we going to be doing?” but instead with, “On my way.” Lastly, a group of people who will tell me that I’m wrong and point me in the right direction. I think there are so many ways to find that family at Virginia Tech. It could be in a really close group of friends in your hall, a ministry, a cultural group, a club sports team, or any other group on campus. I found my family in a fraternity. I pledged Sigma Phi Delta the fall semester of my freshman year. To me, these men quickly became my “brothers.” That sense of family really came around Thanksgiving when we had a fraternity Thanksgiving dinner. I looked around at the people around me and the stories being told and I truly felt at home.

But how does this all relate back to me being in a cave at 2 a.m. on a cold morning in March? One more thing that family does for us is challenge us to do things we never thought we would do. They empower us to do things as a group that we could never do on our own. Well, I got a text from one of my fraternity brothers at midnight that said something along the lines of, “There’s an alum in town who says he knows a local cave like the back of his hand. We are going if you want to join.” After instantly responding yes, I quickly changed and got ready to go. I told my roommate what I was doing and he looked even more shocked than I did.  

Caving that night is my favorite memory of my time at Virginia Tech. We climbed a mountain, we went into a small hole, we fell into water, we banged our heads on rocks, we contorted our bodies through parts of the cave we probably should have turned around at, we followed this alum for two hours in this cave, and we finally got to our destination. A beautiful underground waterfall. It takes my breath away just thinking about it. The actual act of caving was so much fun, but what really makes this memory stand out are the people I did this with. The conversations we had while caving, the stories we all shared, and the spontaneity of the whole thing are what make this memory so special.

So to answer my original question: family is why I found myself in a cave at 2 a.m. on a Monday morning knowing that I had class in six hours.

My advice to you is to find your family here at Virginia Tech. Everyone is looking for new friends. Everyone is nervous. You’re going to do well in the classroom--you got into this amazing university for a reason. Four years is a long time to do just school, and you’re going to need a family to pick you up when you’re down. Join a club, check out Greek life, find people of similar interests, and challenge one another. Find that group that will text you at midnight and get you to do something you never thought you would do. That’s what the Hokie community is all about.  

Christian Wiskur is a senior studying Computer Science and Computational Modeling and Data Analytics. He is an avid Virginia Tech dining hall fanatic and a self-proclaimed Intramural All-American.