campus building in fall

Written by Rebekah Slabach.

To all the newest Hokies,

The first thing I hope you do is thank everyone for rooting you on and helping you get where you are now. No one gets here by themselves. Give a hug, call them, but most of all say "thank you." For believing in you.

Lower expectations of yourself right here and now. High standards only create disappointment. Embrace this journey of self-discovery, giving room for growth and grace for mistakes.

You will make mistakes in this new place. But they will be growing and learning times to become more of who you are. Learn from them, but don’t let them be a focus. Mistakes don’t define you. Always know who you are. Sometimes you’ll be rebuilding blocks to start over, but you'll become even better than before.

There will always be someone smarter, more athletic, and more beautiful than you. But no one has the same set of strengths and passions as you. Comparison is the thief of joy. Comparison distracts you from looking ahead and focusing on your pathway and talents for life. Choose to be captivated by purpose.

Don’t try to fix yourself or your brokenness, but focus on what fuels you, because that passion is what will set the world on fire. 

Don’t be afraid of hard things. Push through because you can do it. Don’t settle for easy or convenience. Don’t make a permanent decision because of frustration. Nor because of emotion in the moment. 

Stay true to who you are and the moral compass inside of you. People will actually respect you more and those who don’t, aren’t real friends or ones whose opinions should be valued. You may feel pulled in many directions. But when your values are clear, your decision (or What To Do?) will be simple.    

There will be times you face tough moments. But come through the fire stronger from the flames. When these moments come over you, let friends hold you up. Being strong means being vulnerable enough to cry on their shoulders. 

The classroom is where you will absorb book knowledge. But you need other avenues to apply, expand, and strengthen it. Seek out opportunities like research, competition teams, clubs, and other organizations that will deepen that knowledge and those skillsets. That adds value to your time here.

No one remembers the night when all they did was study. Your GPA will not be on your tombstone and more than likely won’t make or break you getting that job. But you will remember driving all day or through the night for an away football game or weekend trip with friends or a mid-week conference.

Seek out advisors and mentors who will guide you and even kick your butt when you need it. People older and wiser who will still speak into your life beyond college. These can be the biggest difference-makers these four years because when they truly care, they will be real enough to not let you settle. But tough because they know what you can accomplish. 

Find friends and invest in them. Life is too short for surface-level relationships or small talk. Friends can support and carry you through the highs and lows of college, and even into the future.

Surround yourself with people who are different than you – who will help you see people and life events through different eyes and places. Having perspective is one of the best assets you can ever possess!

Take care of yourself. Know your limits and set boundaries and space to rest. Balance is not something you find, but create. Nurture your heart so you are at your best to help care for others and do more.

Stand up for yourself even when it is hard. Sometimes, you have to be your biggest advocate. Stand for truth and morals and values. When you are silent and back down, that lets other noises reign. Remember: regret is one of the worst things you could have in life.

Take in the beauty of the surroundings and the small Blacksburg town. Those mountains became my solace one semester when my dorm was not home for me, and I went hiking every weekend. The New River holds echoes of laughs and conversations from bonfires and tubing adventures. 

When you graduate, you will have more than a degree or piece of paper. You will have a maroon and orange heart full of not just knowledge but experiences and perspective that will serve you well. Strive to leave this place better than you found it. What will be more fulfilling than the degree you will earn is your influence and what legacy you leave behind here. And then find ways to give back later.

Your time as a college student may only be for four years, but being a Hokie is forever. When you make the most of your time here, with no regrets, you will be so fulfilled. Ready to take on the world and do something with what you know and love. Virginia Tech is always part of you. And that starts now.

Welcome home, Hokie! 

headshot of Rebekah Slabach
Rebekah Slabach is a second generation Hokie along with four of her other siblings. She graduated from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2016. Her education came full circle when she returned to her hometown to work as the Agriculture Extension Agent in Halifax County. While at Virginia Tech, Rebekah was an RA for two-and-a-half years and was part of the National Res Hall Honorary. Rebekah's favorite Virginia Tech memories include: having Sam Rogers in a leadership class as the TA, traveling to 12 states and 3 countries, walking barefoot at graduation, and firing the cannon at spring game (as an alumnus).