Students Outside the Classroom: Abby

Abby Potter is a 3rd year Landscape Architecture student. She is a residence hall assistant (R.A.), a co-captain for Relay for Life, works at the Moss Arts Center, and was an Orientation Leader last year.

Coming to Tech from out of state, I never thought I would become involved in so many things. Over the years I have tried pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I want to be involved in things that not only push my creative boundaries, but also my social boundaries. I try talking to more people, especially different types of people, and putting myself in situations that I normally wouldn’t be in.

Exposing myself to so many different situations helps me gain insight as to how people think. Understanding how someone puts themselves in a space and how that space affects them is one of the biggest things I try to learn. During my time as an Orientation Leader I was walking through and meeting all these people. I witnessed how they saw Virginia Tech for the first time. I would ask myself what they’re going to see and how they’re going to feel when they come here. I made sure they had a welcoming experience to the campus. Being able to create a sense of place for these incoming freshmen was a great learning experience for me.

I wanted to be an R.A. again this year because I wanted to continue being a mentor. It’s a 24-hour job! It’s not something you can close up and put away. We’re always on call so there are times when I have to leave studio to go and help a resident. I consider putting people first as one of my top priorities. Last night I was on duty and I had to stay in the residence hall. On nights like these I roll up my plans, put them in a tube, and spread them all over the floor of my dorm room. I leave my door open and residents will come in asking questions about what I’m working on. Most of them major in business or human development so my rolls of trace paper are different than the PowerPoints and textbooks they are used to. I have the chance to explain my project to people who have no idea what I’m working on. It gives me the opportunity to clarify a lot of things that are going on in my project.

As a freshman I worked at Moss Arts Center part-time. Sophomore year I also became an R.A. and did Relay for Life. This year I added Orientation Leader. I recommend slowly building up the things you do and definitely don’t take it on all at once. Give yourself a little trial run when you start a new organization or a new job. If it works out then that’s fantastic, but if it doesn’t then it’s okay to walk away from it.

Time management is one of the biggest challenges I face – my life is dictated by my calendar. It’s on my laptop and I get notifications throughout the day of what’s next. A lot of professors, especially during freshmen year, tell you that you need to devote your life to your major and that’s it. I personally thought “no, that’s not going to work.” I am interested in different types of things and I don’t want to close myself off to just one. In terms of studio culture, if you go to Burchard Hall there are people down there during all hours of the night and I can’t do that. I can’t stay at my desk for days – I have to leave. If I’m looking at a project for three days in a row and I haven’t left the studio then I’m stuck in one way of thinking. There’s no way to get yourself out of that and into a new mojo. It goes back to the cliché of being a product of your own environment. When it comes to college you need to make your own environment; it’s not going to make itself. You need to form your own mold. And I think that’s why I look to find other opportunities that fit into my schedule.