By Olivier Truquet
Courtesy of Olivier Truquet
First, a little bit of background: thanks to my good grades from freshman year in France, I could choose to go on academic exchange at an American college.
I chose Union because it had the best academic ranking among the schools listed. I found out it was a liberal arts college, which, at that time, only meant “small” school.
So, I arrived at Union on Sept. 1 as an exchange student. I was supposed to stay for only two terms.
However, I’ll leave the school as a Union alumnus with a major in economics and a minor in Chinese on the same day as the Class of 2016.
I am only about halfway through college, but I am already convinced that Union has changed my life in a lot of ways!
I have discovered how diverse and vivid college life at a liberal arts school such as Union can be.
The clubs and organizations led by the students, the Minerva Program, ice hockey and Greek organizations were all new ideas that I discovered over my first term here during my academic exchange.
Taking part in these activities has enabled me to appreciate the campus a bit more every day, but most importantly, to connect with other students passionate about Union and willing to make it a better place by sharing their passion with others.
One of the numerous examples I can think of is the Union College Entrepreneurship Organization (UCEO).
The president of UCEO, abroad this term, used our Facebook group to keep us up to date, taking the time to make videos even though she had an extremely busy schedule.
In addition, living in a Minerva House and getting involved in the Minerva Program have been two of the greatest and most meaningful extracurricular experiences for me on campus.
I was assigned to Sorum House when I arrived. Living in the house for one year has enabled me to personally know most of the people living with me and, hopefully, to create long-lasting friendships with some of them.
Events organized by Minerva Councils have also enabled me to feel a bit more a part of this diverse and endearing community.
The events I took part in ranged from having a barbecue celebrating the beginning of spring term to listening to a passionate history professor discuss the political situation in Crimea.
Before going to Union, I barely knew what ice hockey was and I had never seen a game (live or on TV).
My first game ever was the first game of the men’s season and, since then, I have not missed one home game.
I fell in love with the game and the atmosphere in Messa Rink on game day the first time I experienced it.
Students, alumni, faculty members and Schenectady residents coming together to support one team regardless of the final score was greater than watching any football game (sorry, I meant soccer).
Following the game against Minessota, I told myself I could not have chosen a better year to become a Dutchman!
Finally, coming from Europe, the first thoughts that came to my mind the first time I heard the words “Greek life” and “Greek organization” were far niente and debt.
It was quickly explained to me that students gathered into fraternities and sororities with different purposes depending on the organization. I am currently unaffiliated, so forgive me for the vagueness of the description.
I understood that these organizations have two main purposes on campus besides respecting the mission statements of their organizations. First, they have a philanthropic duty; brothers and sisters dedicate some of their time to supporting charities.
The second one is pretty obvious and I do not need to spend too much time on it.
Living in the U.S. has also enabled me to realize how athletics constitute an important part of college life for students.
I am on the track and field team (not for the performance, unfortunately, but for the pleasure of being with people supportive of each other).
Since I have begun track, I have been amazed by the commitment that student-athletes dedicate to their training and the seriousness with which they accomplish it.
This was an important change for me. In France, people tend to emphasize academics first and place less emphasis on extracurricular activities than Americans do.
This first year at Union has probably been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding of my life and I am convinced that it has still a lot to offer me.
I look forward to engaging with Student Forum, the Honor Council or a Fraternity next year — who knows.
But before thinking about next year, I am still a sophomore who has a lot to discover about spring term: Springfest, Alumni Weekend, TDX beach parties, Lobsterfest and more are still ahead!