By Tyler Mercer–

Hello and welcome to the University of Louisville. If you’re reading this at orientation, I promise it gets better. Orientation barely scratches the surface of everything you will learn, encounter and love about U of L. This is only the beginning and, like many beginnings, everything is uphill from here.

There is something special about U of L that you simply can not experience at another university. Sometimes I think it’s because U of L sits right in the middle of a wonderful, yet busy, city. Other times, I think  I love it here so much for the many opportunities students have here  at our disposal. After this past year, I’ve realized it is entirely something else.

U of L is different because, here, we shoot for the stars. We dream big and we look at every challenge as an opportunity to grow. Here at the University of Louisville, we don’t find success; we make it. That is what sets us apart. I say “us” because we are a family here at U of L and as far as families go, this is one of the best to call your own.

The nation and the world watched as our football team won the Sugar Bowl and  our men’s basketball team won the NCAA tournament. These are titles that mean a lot in the world today, yet mean even more when it is seen through the eyes of a student at U of L. These titles represent the pride and respect we have for our school and the idea that sits behind being a Card.

I will not lie to you, freshmen. At one point of my freshman year here I thought that this wasn’t the place for me and some of you may be thinking the same thing. After many conversations and deliberation, I decided to stay here and that choice has forever changed my life. There are people and situations here at U of L that you never thought would mean anything to you or would ever in a million years affect your life, but they will.

I only ask that you enter your freshmen year with an open mind and a heart that yearns to learn (cheesy, I know).  Finding yourself is what you will do here. You will find yourself, dreams you never knew you had, success beyond measure and you will, hopefully, find the people and accomplishments you’ve been waiting for.

This past year U of L has succeeded tremendously in academics, sports and beyond. There are stars and heroes here and I want each and every one of you to find your place in the sky that is U of L and Louisville. All you need is the dream and the desire to succeed.

It is very important that you shed certain things from your high school years. You must find humility, motivation, drive and a sense of who you are beyond who you’ve been. You must make an attempt to go above and beyond what you have done to find success.

On another note, there are many organizations here to become involved. I urge you to find at least one RSO, or whatever it may be, to be involved with during your first semester. You will hear from many other people how important this is, but I hope that hearing it from a fellow student will somehow make you understand. If you find somewhere to make your own, you will develop a purpose for yourself and purpose is our drive.

I will tell you from experience that the more you are involved on campus and beyond the more you will feel as though U of L is your home away from home. You will be needed and wanted in these organizations and it will help you succeed.

Beyond finding somewhere to belong here, RSOs and other groups will introduce you to many people you may not have known otherwise. These people could possibly become the best friends of your life. If you strive to develop healthy and substantial relationships it will provide you with a security blanket of friends and colleagues that will make a large city feel like a small town.

Finding new friends and creating a network of people may be challenging at first. However, it is important to make new connections here to thoroughly enjoy your college career. There will be many new people with stories and backgrounds you haven’t encountered yet, and that’s okay. Just remember that this is a time of learning and growth, and while it may be uncomfortable to strike up a conversation with a stranger, you never know what you may have in common.

Louisville has endless opportunities for students to take advantage of. There are companies and organizations throughout Louisville who offer part-time and full-time employment and paid and unpaid internships to college students. It is important that you use these opportunities and do not let them pass you by. An unpaid internship or a part-time job will say a lot about your work ethic and character to future employers.

Louisville isn’t all work and no play, though. There are key neighborhoods and areas of Louisville that will provide you with all the fun and laughter you’ll need after a long week of classes. Areas like downtown, Bardstown Road and St. Matthew’s are all great spots to get a group of friends together for a fun day exploring and generally just having a good time.

Once again, welcome to the University of Louisville. I hope the next few years are packed full of wise decisions, lots of sleep and time-management. But if they aren’t, do your best.

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