As students accepted for the Class of 2017 descend on Brown this week for A Day On College Hill, Grace Palmer '13, touched base with three freshmen who, in the last year, have made the transition from prospective Brown student to full-fledged Brunonian. They gave her three different inside looks into the day-to-day life and formative experiences that shaped the beginnings of their lives at Brown. Grace, a history concentrator and student employee in the office of Public Affairs and University Relations, will graduate this May.

The first few months of college present challenges for everyone. Whether it’s living away from home, managing time, navigating the Rock versus SciLi library rivalry, or figuring out the Brown curriculum, incoming freshmen have lots to adjust to when they walk through the Van Wickle gates and into their freshmen year.

Joshua, Niyo and Libby hail from different parts of the country, study different subjects, and favor different dining halls. But all three are freshmen at Brown who are taking maximum advantage of all the University has to offer and are making Brown their home.

Josh came to Brown as a first-generation college student from Oklahoma, where, he notes, few people have heard of Brown and even fewer choose to venture out of state for college. In contrast, Niyo hails from just over the state line in Plymouth, Mass., where he spent his high school years working as a Wampanoag interpreter at Plymouth Plantations. He felt Brown’s allure from a young age, visiting Brown for the annual Pow Wow celebration with his family. As the farthest from home, Libby’s commute to school takes her from Seattle to Providence — two locales that are geographically distant but, she’s found, share affinities for rainy weather and computer science.

As admitted students for the Class of 2017 arrive for A Day On College Hill, these three experienced freshmen are eager to convey that Brown can offer most anything to most anyone. From Joshua who “came to college to take advantage of everything” to Libby who seamlessly blends computer science, literature, and arts classes, all three speak to the importance of taking charge of your Brown education and taking risks to investigate its possibilities.

Whether a noncredit Swahili language class or courses on ancient Mayan writing and the poetics of madness, Josh, Niyo, and Libby have found it possible to explore their passions and interests from the very start. They all credit the Brown curriculum as a critical resource that, with time, transitions from an overwhelming choice to a responsibility that allows for true intellectual engagement.

Josh, who describes shopping period as “the best-worst thing,” sees the experience of choosing among thousands of classes as just one part of the challenge that comes with the depth of opportunity at Brown. “When I first arrived at Brown, I jumped into so much and had crises when I realized I can’t do everything — all these speakers coming, all this free stuff — wait, I still have to do school and homework!” he said.

But in their freshmen spring all three have a better handle on the quirks of the Brown curriculum and have found it possible to mold it to their varied interests. In his second semester, Niyo created and participated in a GISP — Group Independent Study Project, essentially a student-created and led course — on Native American slavery and the transition into higher education. Meanwhile Libby has already joined a research team with a senior computer science professor, and Josh’s frequent meetings with his academic adviser and Meiklejohn peer adviser have provided key supports to his success.

It’s the people, they all agree, who make the Brown experience and who help ease the transition into the college world. Whether Josh’s close relationship with his modern Greek professor or the strong sense of community Niyo has found in the Natives at Brown group, all three have discovered that, as Josh says, “Brown is composed of lots of little families within the one big family of the Brown community.”

Those families are found in all forms and places. A dorm change halfway through the year situated Libby in Perkins, a dorm as famous for its close community as its less-than-close proximity to central campus. Libby, who describes herself as an introvert, at first struggled to find time by herself in the midst of a campus bustling with people. But, living in Perkins, she has found it possible to balance nightly dorm dinners with solo time in the many quiet study spots she’s scoped out around Brown.

This trio gave credence to Brown's consistently high ranking among the happiest schools in the nation. For Niyo, coming to ADOCH cemented what he’d already come to expect from his earlier trips to the school: People smile — a lot. Josh seconds this feeling of happy openness and attests that nothing beats “getting to know Brown through its clubs and communities and how passionate and driven the students are.”

In addition to the challenges and opportunities at Brown, they’ve also found the time to enjoy the place. Libby ranks a trip to the zoo and a winter’s day of sledding at India Point Park among her more memorable experiences thus far. Josh fondly remembers when, as part of his candidacy for Brown College Dems' freshman whip, he had to personify the role by making whipping noises. Niyo is especially fond of the Verney-Wooley Dining Hall’s infamous Chicken Finger Fridays and has also enjoyed having access to Providence’s Waterfire and the small town feel of the “quaint shops” on Wickenden street.

Besides their many amazing classes and multitude of extracurriculars, Niyo, Josh, and Libby all point to the less tangible experiences that make Brown feel like nowhere else. Libby notes the special charisma one feels just by walking around Brown’s campus. “Walking past the Van Wickle Gates, it has a feel to it. Every single day I would be like, this is the most awesome thing ever. They’re really cool,” she said.

And for next year’s freshmen? All three of these first-year veterans have faith that, with time and effort, anyone can carve out a niche.

Joshua, who next year will have a front seat in the freshmen advising process as a minority peer counselor, offers this advice: “Don’t beat yourself up.” He notes that the transition to college can be challenging for anyone, regardless of background, and warns students away from draining too much time or energy comparing themselves to others.

Libby encourages incoming students to believe in their own independence and agency. “Something I had to teach myself,” she says, “was if you’re not content with where you are, you can change it. You don’t have to settle for things. It’s college; be happy about it. If you don’t like your academics, see what you can do to change it. It’s easy to do that here, and there are so many resources to help you, so you might as well go for it.”

And Niyo? He wants to impart unto his soon-to-be underclass brethren one simple message: Brown is a home with a space at the table for everyone.

For the 2,649 students accepted into Brown’s Class of 2017, this is all good news. It’s clear that they too can find a happy, if challenging, home at Brown, and there are many talented individuals already here eager to receive them.