As a first year on Duke’s campus, odds are that you’ve heard about the Opportunity Buffet metaphor. Whether it’s when you’re overwhelmed and dripping in sweat at the Fall Activity Fair or frantically searching the course catalog during your registration window, you find yourself face-to-face with an all-you-can-eat selection of great experiences.
You fill your plate with a little bit of anything that looks good, trying new things out and pivoting, if they don’t quite fit. Every opportunity presents a chance to meet friends and connect with rockstar faculty and staff who actively seek out ways to support you. Looking ahead, you still have three years at Duke to hone in on what it is you want to do. There’s time and plenty of it. You’re not supposed to have everything figured out; you’re a first year!
As a sophomore, there’s a new metaphor to come to grips with. It’s time to cook on your own. Ultimately, you have to take a look at your full plate that you compiled from your first year and pick out what dishes you want to make yourself. This year is characterized by choice–choosing your major, choosing a summer job or experience, and choosing whether or not you want to take time studying abroad in the coming year. It’s daunting–to say the least. Suddenly, every decision you’re making starts to feel more permanent. You now have to step up as the head cook in the kitchen and dictate what recipes you want to perfect during your time on campus.
As someone who notoriously likes to keep her options open, this transition from Buffet to Cooking On My Own was challenging for me. It’s something that I still am trying to tackle on a daily basis. My advice? Talk your decisions out with others. Find those friends, faculty, or staff members that you connected with in your first year and take them out to lunch. Ask for their opinions, but don’t adopt solely their points of view. (Trust me, this is easier said than done.) Don’t be afraid to take a leap and jump into one choice or another wholeheartedly. Odds are that you’re picking from a list of many great options, none of them will disappoint.
Lastly, know that everything you end up picking will be an opportunity for growth and something that will teach you more about yourself. This learning process doesn’t just stop after you leave this gothic wonderland. The rest of the world is waiting for you to bring your unique recipe to the table. So, go ahead and call your college advisor or your seminar professor and set up a time to bounce some ideas off of them.