First Year Student Outreach PROJECT.
The ‘P’ in FYSOP stands for ‘Project’ not ‘Program’, contrary to what I had initially believed.
That’s because a PROGRAM has a definitive end.
A PROJECT is a continuous event; a project may never truly reach completion. And with community engagement, the project is never really over. So much to my relief – and the relief of most of those who shared my experience – FYSOP never really has to end.
I first participated in FYSOP as a First-Year Volunteer, during which I volunteered within the Environment focus area. I had an incredible week – I got to engage with the community, learn more about the environmental issues that Boston faces, and meet a variety of new people. It was a wonderful adjustment to school at Boston University, and I made friends with whom I still keep in contact today.
This year, I returned as a Staff Leader. I was hesitant to participate in FYSOP again – at the end of summer, when it came time to head back to Boston two weeks earlier than the rest of the school, I wanted to stay home with my parents. I had a rough spring semester, and I never wanted to leave home again. I was a phone call away from dropping out of FYSOP, but nevertheless, I packed my life into three large suitcases, hopped on my five-hour flight, and dragged my stuff into Warren Towers.
From the moment we kicked off Staff Training, I felt at complete ease. Everyone with whom I came into contact was incredibly kind and open, and I found myself sitting with the other Staff Leaders on my floor in Warren ordering Dominos on the very first night. Never had it been so easy for me to talk to people.
This trend continued for the rest of Staff Training and the week of FYSOP. Every individual participating in the Project was incredible kind, welcoming, and as eager to engage with the community as I was. I had never experienced such a positive, warm environment before. Every single person I met had an enormous impact on me and I found myself making more friends in those two weeks than I made my entire first semester of college.
Aside from the incredible staff and coordinators with whom I worked, I also learned an immense amount about Boston neighborhoods. My focus area focused on the MBTA Orange Line toward Forest Hills, which encompasses Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park. I had never ventured into these local neighborhoods – hadn’t even heard of them, to be honest – as I had spent the majority of my freshman year on campus. But as we started to dive into the issues these communities face and began to head out to work with Community Partners in these neighborhoods, I became incredible invested in their stories.
I am eternally grateful for my FYSOP 2017 experience. I had the opportunity to learn more about the Boston community and neighborhoods I had never explored during my freshman year. I got to interact with residents who share their city with the enormous college population and I got to learn about the issues they face. I got to meet incredible, passionate, genuine individuals who inspired me to work toward the best version of myself. I made strong friendships and bonds and welcomed First Year students to Boston University.
Most of all, I learned about myself. I don’t mean to be narcissistic – after all, FYSOP is about working with and learning from others – but my personal growth was one of the most important aspects of my experience.
I learned that I’m passionate about the community – and I enjoy myself most when I am interacting with others who are also passionate about the community. I learned that I spent the vast majority of my first 19 years worrying about what others thought about me, when in reality, being myself will bring me where I want to be. I learned that maybe I have more of a place at Boston University than I initially thought.
Most importantly, I learned that being a Bostonian is an incredibly special privilege. The residents of this city welcome us college students into their home with open hearts, and it is our responsibility to give back to them and and the city we all call home.
First Year Student Outreach Project 2017 was the experience of a lifetime, and I miss it immensely. But I know it will never be over.
O-R-A-N-G-E, and that’s the way we take the T.