October, 13, 2010

What I Wish I Had Known as a Freshman

At the beginning of every Fall semester the Education In Zion staff participates in New Student Orientation, where we each dress up as men and women highlighted in the exhibition and tell their stories.  The rehearsals are long and many-and sometimes very early in the morning – but on performance days when we tell our stories to the few thousand new freshman and transfer students filing through the exhibition, I always get the feeling of knowing that the practices and long hours were worth it.

Each year I have seen the eyes of these new students light up as I tell the inspiring stories of men and women in Church and BYU history, and my own excitement of the spirit of BYU is once again ignited.   I love starting the new school year by teaching about the spirit of the Y.

Since Education in Zion’s participation in NSO is fairly new, I never had the opportunity to experience this event as a freshman.  I came to BYU in the summer of 2006 and my time in school has been a season of the greatest joys I have ever experienced.   However, as an English major I have come to understand the truth in binary opposites and have also experienced and learned very difficult lessons here.

Some of these lessons have come as consequences of bad decisions.   Many of these bad decisions revolve around certain choices I have made in academics, and the majority of these consequences I have had to deal with could have been avoided had I made the effort to try or change.

Education in Zion has changed me.  The spirit and message of this exhibition have taught me the importance of education through its countless stories and examples of sacrifice for the greater cause of education.  I have come to realize that if men and women from the beginning of the restored Church’s history would sacrifice so much of their time and material goods to build up a Zion community through education, it must be important.  It must be worth it.

The prayers and sacrifice and trust in the Lord that allowed BYU to become a reality were not made so I could come to this university and slack off.  Too many people have sacrificed too much for even one student’s experience to be wasted.  And from what I’ve learned in the exhibition, it’s not just our pioneer legacy or the traditions of greatness as exemplified by our BYU presidents and professors that makes BYU’s spirit so special and inspiring; it’s also the students.

I am a student.  Therefore it is my responsibility to take from Education in Zion this message of learning and growing together and share that with other students on campus as well as individuals I will meet outside of Provo in the future and the family I will someday have.

Education in Zion invites us each to come unto Christ and be educated in His light.  I wish I was able to connect that when I was 18 and living in the dorms.  I’m not sure how different the end result would be upon graduating, but I do know that I would have made very different decisions academically.

The good news is that I still have one year left at BYU to partake of its spirit and tradition of learning.  I know this year has the potential to be my best.  The even better news, however, is my deeper understanding of an eternal education.  This message, also gleaned from the gallery, has given me hope in leading a more purposeful life outside of BYU after graduation and for the rest of eternity.

–    Danielle Julander, English Major, Education In Zion Gallery Educator