Learning How to Live
Written by Kokko Tso
“As a high school senior, I was dead-set against coming to Hillsdale College,” Victoria Fassett confesses. “My mom actually forced me to visit the campus.” In high school, Victoria had laid out several detailed plans for her future. They ranged from pursuing pro-life advocacy, to working in Rome for the Vatican, to practicing Constitutional law. The one thing those plans had in common was her determination to attend her parents’ alma mater, a major university in California. Hillsdale College ruined those plans in the best way possible.
A single question raised by a student during her campus visit prompted Victoria to begin seriously considering Hillsdale. “I remember sitting in on one of Dr. Wolfram’s political economy classes. The lecture was fascinating, but I still wasn’t completely sold on Hillsdale—to be honest, I wasn’t trying very hard,” she recalls. “Then, the discussion turned to the moral evil of slavery. One of the girls in the class asked this amazing, provocative question about whether one can reconcile economic theory and property rights with the evil of slavery. In that moment, I thought to myself, ‘I want to be able to ask questions like that. I want to get the same depth of comprehension out of my reading and learning that she must have had in order to be able to ask that kind of question.’” In fact, the question so inspired Victoria that she wrote her college application essays on that topic.
The continual changing of her future plans has been a constant theme of Victoria’s experience at Hillsdale. “I’ve always had these big plans for my life,” she laughs. “Coming here, I finally realized that I had the chance to step back and explore all the different possibilities. Hillsdale has helped me see that college is not about training for a career. It’s about learning how to live.” One of the most transformational aspects of her time here has been her involvement with the College’s Great Opportunities for Assistance and Leadership (GOAL) program as a volunteer at the Renaissance School, a local school for children facing unique challenges. “Volunteering at the school has been an eye-opening experience,” Victoria says. “I love the ability to take what I’m learning in my classes and carry it out into the world. While I teach these kids, I’m also learning from them as well.” She recalls sitting with a girl who was crying and fearful that she would be sent to a different school due to her behavior. The girl also expressed how she never saw her dad and brother, who lived in a different state, and how she felt disregarded by her mother. “In that moment, I was able to be there for this girl. I may never be able to relate fully to her situation, but this experience gave me a new kind of passion for kids who come from broken homes. It got me thinking about becoming a teacher, something I had never considered before, so that I could help kids like this girl.”
Victoria believes that the educational and social culture at Hillsdale engenders a spirit of volunteerism in the students. “At Hillsdale, I’ve learned that a conservative, liberal arts mindset is more than just a set of ideas: it’s about loving people more than we love ourselves. There’s a strong sense of community here, and it shows through the way the students interact with each other. When you reach out to your classmates, or take some time to talk with a roommate who’s going through a rough day, or help someone study, it reorients your focus away from yourself. There’s definitely a sense that we’re all pursuing something greater than ourselves, and that we are doing this together.”
In summing up her Hillsdale experience, Victoria says that it’s the students and faculty of Hillsdale that make the College so special. “What you’re learning in college is supposed to make you a better person. Hillsdale College has one of the finest academic programs in the world; the key difference is that the people here take that learning and make it a part of their lives. Looking back, choosing Hillsdale over the university I had dreamed about attending for as long as I can remember was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. It is also one of the best choices I ever made.”
Kokko Tso graduated from Hillsdale College in 2013 with majors in music, Latin, and history. He currently works for his alma mater as the Digital Content Manager.