Walking into this semester, I did not know what to expect. This was the first time in three years that I was going to sit in a normal classroom; it was the first time in four years I would be out of the hospital. Although I had no clue what to expect, I knew I was equipped with all the tools I needed. Ambitiously registering for eighteen credit hours with two labs, I was determined that, no matter what was thrown at me, I would find a way. And I did find a way.
I found a family. Watauga Residential College set the stage for the community I longed for. I was surrounded with a beautiful variety of people with different goals, passions, and beliefs. As I grew closer to the individuals within this community, the students and professors challenged me to look beyond myself. In my class, Living, Loving, and Be(com)ing Lost, professor Michael Dale, gifted me with more than just education. He gifted me with the chance to explore and question my own thoughts. After I discovered my own thoughts, he challenged me to quiet my soul so I could learn to hear others more clearly. Within this community, I discovered how to humbly meet others as they are.
As my heart expanded, I found what it truly means to have a heart of service. During this semester, there were many times where I dropped everything to be by a friend’s side. I realized, during those intense times, that a heart of service starts with my family, friends, and community. Constantly, I am looking to reach out, but I am reminded that I can never forget those who are right in front of me. I must first take care of the people I love and the community around me before I can reach out to impact the world.
With my passion to one day make a change, I found the courage to pursue opportunities, no matter how big or small. This semester, I applied to the Harvard Kennedy’s Public Policy Leadership Conference. I interviewed to be a Student Orientation Undergraduate Leader (SOUL) at App State, and I submitted a one-minute audition video, “Redefining Resiliency,” for the TedTalk Idea Search. I realized I am more afraid of never trying than I am of rejection. In the words I told a friend, “I would rather have a ‘no’ than a ‘what if.’” To broaden my horizons, I must first push my own boundaries.
Walking out of this semester, I am reminded that life will never go as planned. I hit many walls and was thrown into multiple foreign situations, but it was through those times that I found the people and opportunities that changed my life. I discovered college is doable and attainable, but as I build my path, I must remember that everything I do must stretch deep rather than wide. I want to make sure that I am able to give my time, care, and effort into all that I do. The supportive environment I both found and created at Appalachian provides me with everything I need to accomplish my future endeavors. While finding a way, I found a home.
Written by: Jama Brookes