Most past Bergies share a similar memory of one of their first nights in Bergstrom. With their roommate, they moved some ceiling tiles to discover what Bergies of the past had left for them. I distinctly remember finding a comically large print of one of the past residence’s face, a broken dart board, an odd assortment of other miscellaneous items, and several letters, full of very helpful advice and assurances that I would be okay (something that was really helpful at the time, as I was very nervous about starting college). It was a beautiful way to get advice, connect with Honors upperclassmen and the Honors community at large, and it sparked conversations with others in Bergstrom, as we all wanted to know what people had found in their ceilings.
In addition to having a strong memory of discovering these beautiful mementos and messages from past generations of Bergies, I have a strong memory of leaving my own message to future Honors students. As my first year was also the year that we were sent home for COVID-19, my message was a bit… salty. But in addition to sharing my frustrations, I remember using the letter I wrote to really reflect on my time in Bergstrom, to look at how much I had loved my first year of college, to realize that the first year had gone quickly (which, spoiler alert, they go by even faster after that), and to see how much I had grown in those first few months of my time at SNC. I gave advice and assurances, much like that which was left for me, and I had full confidence in what I wrote, having had the opportunity to really look back on my first year.
As most of us know, though, these items were removed from the ceilings of Bergstrom this last summer during the renovations. So, what has happened to these items which represent so many memories? They clearly have value, both in the personal sense and in the historical sense (first hand accounts of big events, like the first days of the pandemic, are really neat primary documents). With all of this in mind, then, it should come as a relief to many that they are still around: they are being housed in the school archives.
I have had the privilege of helping with the organization and categorization of many of the letters found in the ceilings, as I have been given the opportunity to volunteer in the school archives. These letters often share a strong theme of giving advice, like tips on meeting people, getting along with roommates, and encouraging students to cultivate a life outside of academics. But, they also show the personalities of those who have lived there. There are serious topics and recommendations, involving lists of actual tips for studying or places to eat. But, there is also a lot of fun in these letters, including lists of roommate quotes, QR codes leading to Rick Rolls, printed out memes, and full lists of vines that people should watch.
In addition to this, there are, of course, the many actual items that were found as well, ranging from Berts to plastic axes. Some of my favorite items have been large posters signed by several generations of Bergies and copies of Utopia and Black Swan Green, past Honors 101 readings. There have also been various photos, which date back several decades and show how Bergstrom has changed over the years. It is amazing looking at the stories of these items, because they are all things that people found important or interesting enough to leave for future Honors students.
This whole project has really helped me look at the Honors program in more of a “Big Picture” way. Often, the dominant narrative about us Honors kids is that we are just a bunch of nerds (who may or may not be in a cult our first year). However, there is so much more to us, even before we dive down to the personal level. We are a supportive community who really want to help each other succeed (even if we tend to get a bit competitive). We want to help others realize that they aren’t alone; and while we may be nerds, we also know how to have fun and explore, both as individuals and as a community.
On the individual level, there are so many different and beautiful personalities that make up the Honors community, all of us bringing different senses of humor, academic strengths, and ideas of fun to the mix. We are all Honors students; we are all connected. But we don’t need to be defined by that categorization, either. We are more than that, and the things left in the ceiling show this. We are all so beautiful and unique, and we are all connected through Honors.
I hope that current Bergies can find a way to recreate this beautiful tradition, to leave messages for the future. And, I hope they realize that us upperclassmen Honors kids are here to support them. You’ve got this! (And, if any of you find a plastic skeleton, whose name may or may not be Bartholomew, you should totally shoot me an email.)