Advice to new students: Try new things and activities
Dec 20, 2016 | Atlanta, GA
Jeffery Lee Hendrix graduated with a B.S. in Biology. He came to Georgia Tech from Bulloch Academy, Statesboro, Georgia. He is headed to Guyana, with the Peace Corps.
What attracted you to study in Georgia Tech? How did Georgia Tech meet your expectations?
As one of the most rigorous public universities in the whole country, Georgia Tech offered me the opportunity to challenge myself. I’m from a less-than-wealthy, small farming family, so finances were the biggest factor. I’m also the first person in my family ever to go to college, and I wanted to make a good first impression and to set the bar for those who follow me. Tech proved to be more challenging than I ever expected—in a good way—and it offered a multitude of organizations and activities to challenge me.
What is the most important thing you learned while at Georgia Tech?
You’re never the biggest fish. There’s always someone smarter, wittier, or stronger than you. At a high-caliber university like Tech, it’s important that you become neither complacent nor self-doubtful. Just because I was valedictorian of my class doesn’t mean that I’m gonna be top student again.
What surprised you the most at Georgia Tech? What disappointed you the most?
Georgia Tech is a lot less nerdy than you think it is. Okay—maybe just less. But there are so many ways to socialize, have fun, and grow on campus: being Greek, on the student body, in study groups. Whatever!
I was a little disappointed that many classes and professors were a little harsher than I expected. Yeah, it’s not high school anymore. But I think some leeway and empathy from professors is crucial to students’ success. Without wiggle room, things tend to break.
Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you? Why?
Chrissy Spencer. She was consistently there for any advice I needed, as well as a recommendation letter for the Peace Corps and future recommendation letters for medical school. She was a constant reminder that some professors are spending their time and resources making sure you can go on after Tech and make an impact.
What is your most vivid memory of your time at Georgia Tech?
Studying abroad on the Pacific Program. Every memory on that program is a vivid today as I lived it then. Specifically the hiking and camping in Waitomo Caves and Abel Tasman National Park with new friends every week. If it wasn’t caving with glow worms or hiking volcanoes, it was bungee jumping and going on in Sydney on a Friday night!
In what experiential learning activities did you participate? What was the most valuable outcome of your experience?
I studied abroad on the Pacific Program. It was an amazing experience being in another country, another continent. The cultures are so different, and I learned to appreciate the diversity in the world. I even realized I might not stay in the U.S.
I also had an internship selling books door-to-door for two summers. It would take a book to say what I learned from that; mostly it was how to stay grounded and get off the emotional roller coaster life tends to drag you on.
Being Greek also was a big part of my growth, because it taught me that it’s important to connect to all kinds of people, especially when you might not like what they have to say.
On the basis of your experience, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
Try new things and activities. College is about experiencing new things and finding what fits you best. Don’t stick with just one or two organizations. Try them all! Discover the real you and what makes you happy. You might be surprised!
What feedback would you give to Georgia Tech leaders, faculty, and/or staff to improve the Georgia Tech experience for future students?
Many professors have extra room to support their students. I know professors are so busy, but that extra five minutes to not only give advice on that old test, but also to give encouragement on the next one matters. Students experience a lot of emotions, pain, and distress in college on so many levels: heartbreak, deaths, failure. It’s easy to forget that students are more than just, well, students.
Where are you headed after graduation? How did your Georgia Tech education prepare you for this next step?
I am going to the Peace Corps to work with child and maternal health. They are sending me to Guyana for 27 months! Georgia Tech’s rigorous training and Chrissy Spencer’s astounding recommendation letter have allowed me to be bold enough to go make a difference in the world in ways that will be painful, lonely, and challenging. However, it’s the difficult things that are going to make it that much worth it in the end!