On the Value of Sharing Your Imperfections

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Member Notes

On the Value of Sharing Your Imperfections


Maggie Fritts, 2021 Sigma Pi Sigma Inductee, Furman College

When I started here at Furman University in fall 2018 as a physics major, the community I met was small and close-knit; all of the majors were friends and would hang out together doing homework in our physics student lounge, affectionately dubbed “the Fishbowl.” However, in March of my sophomore year we were all sent home because of COVID-19, unable to return to campus or our community until September.

The impact of COVID on the Furman community cannot be overstated. During the 2020–21 school year, campus activities were heavily limited due to the pandemic, which meant that as the seniors we knew graduated, one year and then the next, we were not able to build that community with the incoming classes.

Returning for the 2021–22 academic year as one of only three senior physics majors in a department without grad students, it fell largely on me to recreate the physics community that had welcomed me when I arrived. One of the most important things we did for the first- and second-year students was invite them to everything. The SPS chapter hosts multiple events each month, most of which allow us to escape the “Furman bubble” and spend time together outside of the classroom, out from under the pressure college puts on us. We’ve also held impromptu “group therapy”—as we three seniors apply for graduate school, we’ve been sharing our successes and failures with the other physics majors, often confiding in them when we’re not feeling confident.

Physics is a field of big names, important research, and incredible advances, and it can be hard to feel like you matter in a community as beautiful and terrifying as physics. As a first-year student, you may look at the seniors in your department as these incredible students, with summers of research and publications under their belt, and feel like you’ll never measure up. The reality is, none of us know what we’re doing either. We’re the same as you—we’ve just had a little more time. Imposter syndrome has been a huge topic in our discussions lately. I think physics majors appreciate hearing from us seniors how stupid we feel sometimes. Sharing our experiences with them, the struggles, the wins, the tears, and the fears, has helped to show them that there are a million ways to be successful.

This is so important to the future of the physics community—if all you see around you is success, everything that’s less than perfect is going to make you feel like you don’t belong. But if you know your role models and that they’ve struggled in the same way, you might be more likely to meet the challenges with confidence. If you get a chance, spend some time with those who are going through what you’ve gone through already. If they’re anything like me, they could use a friend in physics.

My role in the physics community at Furman has been one of, if not the most fulfilling part of my time as an undergrad. I’m so happy to have been part of Sigma Pi Sigma and the Society of Physics Students, and making the physics community a little less intimidating for someone else.

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