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Samiddhi Weerasiri

Extracurricular activities: Best Buddies, Eta Sigma Phi

Q: Why classical studies?
A: I began taking Latin as a freshman in high school, and my interest in the language was further heightened when I came to Wake Forest. As a classical studies major, I study ancient languages while surveying a variety of texts from antiquity, ranging from the love poetry of Catullus to the oratorical treatises of Cicero. The breadth of the major is astounding and having engaged such a wide scope of knowledge, I will graduate a social historian, a grammarian and a literary scholar. If Wake has taught me anything, it’s the importance of being wellrounded, in academia and in life. I chose to minor in chemistry to further diversify my education.

Q: Did you have a mentor?
A: Professor James Powell retired from his position as chair of the Classical Studies department in 2015, but is an individual that many students still recognize. Dr. Powell knew the names of every student in his classes, without fail, by the second day. To me, he is the emblem of the ideal academic, for whom dusty books with archaic languages have been a welcome and comforting sight. I remember coming to his office for major advising with no intent of taking yet another arduous semester of Latin, but Dr. Powell would always ask, “Ms. Weerasiri, which Latin courses are you taking next semester?” This question always compelled me to rack the recesses of my mind and recall my passion for the language. I’m so glad that, in his own way, Dr. Powell pushed me to rise to the challenge.

Q: In what way has your Wake Forest experience surprised you?
A: My time at Wake Forest has not only been an intellectual journey, but also an emotional and social one. Wake Forest has taught me, in the classroom and through service, that the world isn’t in need of armchair scholars who view the world around them through the words of a book; those who call themselves “educated” need to apply their learning and make an effort to change the wrongs they see in their environment. Pro Humanitate is not simply our motto, but a call to action.

Q: Share a bit about your work with Best Buddies?
A: Best Buddies is an organization founded on friendship. The organization pairs college students with individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Wake students in Best Buddies are paired with a student in the Winston-Salem community. My own buddy and I have been friends for almost two years! Best Buddies encourages the community to exercise increased sensitivity and inclusion, so at this year’s Friendship Walk, Best Buddies invited “Glee” star Lauren Potter, an actress with Down Syndrome, to talk about her disabilities and how she overcame them. My involvement with Best Buddies has challenged my preconceptions of what is “normal,” and I sincerely hope that Best Buddies continues to flourish in the coming years.

Q: What is your favorite Wake Forest tradition?
A: Every year, the University ushers in the advent of winter with the lighting of the Quad. The gleam of soft white light around Hearn Plaza has always made it feel like home – add the splendor of a little snow on the ground, and the Quad seems like a whole other world.

Q: What was your most interesting class and why?
A: The most interesting class I have taken at Wake Forest was “Ancient Pastoral Literature and Its Modern Reception.” Pastoral poetry is typified by the trope of a literary shepherd grazing his flock in a field and singing songs of unrequited love and the splendor of the city. But as the genre developed over time, the shepherd was disillusioned and overcome by the complexities of modernity. The history of literature is a grand narrative in its own right, and the opportunity to trace the development of the pastoral genre was an enlightening experience. I came out of the class with an appreciation and understanding of the classics as the foundation for Western thought and culture.

Q: If you could have another year at Wake Forest, what would you most like to do with that time?
A: I would like to try my hand at teaching to experience what it’s like to instruct the kind of students who attend Wake Forest. I’ve learned so many great lessons during my time here, and I would love to know what kind of preparation goes on behind-the-scenes to continually enrich our academic community.

Q: What is your best advice for freshmen?
A: One of my good friends once said that comparison is the thief of joy. During your time at Wake Forest, you’ll meet people and face challenges that might make you feel small in comparison. My advice is to focus on yourself – your aspirations, your health and your heart. Remember that no one can take away your accomplishments and, no matter how low the grade on your last organic exam, you deserve to be at this school.