BY PEYTON WELCH
From letters and phone calls to campus visits, every university will devote a significant amount of their efforts to tell you why their school is different than the rest. At Samford, we show you why.
My name is Peyton Welch, and I am a freshman here at Samford University. Along with many incoming freshmen, I had my fair share of worries and anxiety about my first days of college. But the moment I drove up to my dorm it nearly all went away. Why? On the front lawn of Mammie Smith Hall stood a large group of upperclassmen (in matching t-shirts, I should add) known as Connections Leaders who would spend the entire weekend making me feel welcome and at home. Samford athletes, ROTC members, nearby church representatives, leaders such as President Westmoreland and countless other volunteers also helped on Move-In Day. I never lifted a finger and all of my belongings were carried to my room for me. Move-In day is one of the many Samford traditions that make new students feel special, displaying the environment of service and community that permeates the student body.
These 90 Connections Leaders spent hours and hours preparing for us to arrive. After we finished setting up our rooms, saying goodbye to our families, and getting to know our individual Connections groups, the leaders took all 800+ of us to the Birmingham Baron’s game which made our first experience of college fun and enjoyable. The following day we took a trip to President Westmoreland’s house to have fellowship, play games, and savor the coolness of Steel City Pops (a local popsicle shop.) I am convinced that Steel City Pops may be the reason some students choose to go to school in Birmingham. They are irresistibly scrumptious.
As much as we enjoyed Steel City Pops with the President, Saturday night would take the cake for the most exhilarating experience of the weekend. At nightfall, nearly one thousand people filled the Bashinsky gym for the annual Connections Weekend Neon Party! It is exactly what it sounds like, only better. Hundreds of glow sticks and tubes of neon paint created an atmosphere that can only be described simply as “the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” My friends will affirm this description.
The following morning, we made the walk to Reid Chapel for Campus Worship. People from different hometowns and diverse walks of life lifted their voices and expressed their faith uniquely. Our campus minister, Matt Kerlin, delivered a sermon on wisdom and then we were dismissed back to our connections groups. We were enriched, enlightened, and encouraged.
That afternoon my classmates and I had the opportunity to walk through “Life” together. We entered the intramural gym to find connections leaders dressed up and completely frozen, each representing a different aspect of student life. In a split second, a siren sounded and all the leaders began to swarm us and drag us to their respective stations. There was mass commotion as we tried to complete as many activities as possible. Fraternity corn hole, Zumba, post office-package-pick-up, road trips, running a lap, and getting a medical exam are just a few of the whimsical simulations. Our leaders played their parts enthusiastically and with no reserves. Fifteen minutes later the siren sounded again and they were frozen once more. We marveled and laughed as we exited the building.
Finally, the climax of Connections is Samford’s Your School Your City concert. This is a Samford tradition like none other. Students gathered together on the quad to enjoy a warm, delicious meal and listen to a music line up that included Penny and Sparrow, Judah and the Lion, and Johnnyswim. Past performers include Grammy award-winning Christian Hip Hop artist Lecrae and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips. Overwhelmed by the excitement of the weekend, the freshman class of 2019 relaxed to the sound of uplifting music and pondered what we had gone through over the past 72 hours. School would start the following morning, but all we could think about were the friends we met and countless memories we made during the weekend. Indeed, we officially became Samford Bulldogs.
I tell these stories purposefully to give you a glimpse into the character of my school. Choosing where you will devote the next four years of your life is certainly something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, I am bold enough (and unashamedly biased) to say that Samford provides as wonderful of a college experience as any school in the nation. And it starts the very first weekend with a group of upperclassman carrying your stuff. That just doesn’t happen on every college campus. You will feel welcomed and wanted here at Samford.
I echo the words of Maya Angelou as she appeals to our longing for acceptance: “I long, as does every human, to be at home wherever I find myself.” Reader, somehow I find myself in Birmingham, Alabama on the campus of Samford University that is over three hundred miles away from all that is familiar to me. People tell me I must really like my school. But you see, Samford is not just my school. Samford is my home.
Maybe one day it will be your home too.