Dear Hokies,

You are at the finish line for the semester! I hope you are proud of yourself and recognize how far you have come, not just this fall but over the course of the last 18 months.

When people ask me about how our students at Virginia Tech are doing during this time of uncertainty, I can hardly contain my pride for all the ways you’ve continued to adapt and answer Virginia Tech’s call to a life of service. Though much has been hard, you’ve tackled these days with a spirit of possibility, and I’ve watched you find joy, show compassion and empathy, and demonstrate an unyielding work ethic.

But now it’s time to exhale and check in on yourself and others. Over winter break, friends and family will ask, “how are you?” If you’re like me, the answer will be automatic: “I’m fine!” We believe that’s what others want to hear, but it’s also what we often tell ourselves as well, especially when we don’t have a minute to stop and reflect.

The slower pace of winter break affords us the opportunity to look beyond that routine response. As we move into that rhythm, I’d like to challenge you to answer this question for yourself instead: "How are you, really?" It seems like an easy question, but it can be hard to know where to begin to answer it honestly and fully.

A good first step is to practice gratitude. Take time to notice and reflect on the things you are thankful for, both large and small. For example, I’m grateful to work with so many virtuous people. I’m also grateful for Blacksburg’s sunsets and for my family’s newest member, our dog, Maple. 

Next, take stock of your well-being, and think about what you need. I’ll share with you that I’m tired and could use a few good days with friends who know and love me unconditionally. The warp speed of this semester has also caused me to lose touch with the things that are most important to me, and I hope to find my way back. Maybe you feel the same way. 

Just writing these truths here helps me see that I have much for which to be thankful and that there are things I need to re-center in my life that are important for my well-being. I might not have known this if I hadn’t paused for just a moment to allow myself to reflect upon and feel how I am really doing. 

Once you’ve taken time to understand where you are and what you need, try to identify what you can do for yourself over the next month. Do you need to schedule time to laugh with friends? Make time to create art or read a good book? Have a conversation with your family about changing your major to pursue a newly identified passion?

I’d also like to challenge you to share with a friend what you’ve learned about yourself and to ask them how they are, really. Marvel together at your unique journeys, the good and the bad, and recognize that something remarkable and unique is being made with your life.  

With hope,

Frank Shushok Jr.
Vice President for Student Affairs

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