A Spring Break Message to Students

March 3, 2022

Dear Carolina Students,

I know how excited you are about Spring Break, which starts this Saturday. The true arrival of spring, however, is the vernal equinox, which will arrive this year on March 20 at 11:33 a.m. After this moment, the Northern Hemisphere will begin to tilt a little bit more toward the sun and, little by little, we’ll get to enjoy increasing daylight and warmer weather.

Most people love spring, but few get time off, like you do, to celebrate its arrival with a weeklong separation from their daily grind!

I loved Spring Break when I was in college. Whether I was planning to drive down to Florida with friends to find warm weather, driving up to Montreal for an international experience, or just hanging out with my friends and family back home, I could barely wait for that week. Some things haven’t changed that much.

I’m curious about your plans, but I wouldn’t say I envy you for the fun you’ll have. No doubt, being young is absolutely great, but I’m enjoying this time of my life just as I enjoyed being younger. At my age, I recognize that each chapter of life can be a good one and doesn’t need to be compared to the one before. But if I were to envy anything about your youth, it’s that you’ll have more time than me to see how our world changes in the future. Will we become a better society? Will we slow the degeneration of our environment? Where will technology take us? I’m also envious that most of you will be here to see Halley’s comet on its next return, in 2061. It will be five times closer to Earth than it was the last chance I had to see it, in 1986. That means it will be much brighter and clearer for you than it was for me; make sure to mark your calendar now!

On the other hand, I’ve had experiences that I wouldn’t trade. When I was your age, I traveled to Europe one summer for about $200 round trip. I bought my first new car, a VW Beetle, for $2,200. And I almost convinced my parents to let me go to Woodstock (that was a “no”). But I did get to see the Allman Brothers while I was in college, and I continued to attend their concerts all the way up to their final tour in 2014.

My point is that life beyond college won’t be the same, but it will be enjoyable and gratifying. There’s no reason to fear what’s ahead. If you go straight to work, the first year may not be exactly what you expected or even desired. But do an excellent job, and people will take notice, and you’ll earn a chance at greater responsibilities or promotions. You can keep an occasional eye on the want ads, but don’t obsess about getting out of your first job too quickly. Freshman year probably wasn’t the easiest time for you, either, but, gradually, you got more comfortable, made new friends and settled in. It works that way in your career, too. And a paycheck is not a bad thing either.

If you’re headed for graduate or professional school, that also takes time to adjust to changes. I expected my first year studying public health in grad school to be an extension of college, with weekend parties with lots of new friends. Wrong; that never happened. Many of my fellow students were older, and some already had families. But even that worked out for me over time – I met my wife, Patricia, on her first day of grad school, two years later.

Life goes on and is beautiful. You have a long road ahead. Be excited by that, participate fully and exemplify the leadership you are capable of. In the meantime, enjoy Spring Break 2022, and come back ready to finish the semester strong.

To the graduating seniors: I’ll see you at commencement in May. It will be my last commencement, too. I look forward to your smiles of anticipation, even if there’s a tear or two behind them. In that moment, and for a second time this year, hope will “spring” eternal, for you, for me and for us all.

Please be safe, make wise choices, have lots of fun, and come back rested and well. 

Happy Spring!

Harris Pastides
Interim President