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Earlier this week, I was interviewing Juniata alum, Niki DeSantis, for a Q&A in the Alumni magazine. My writing internship in the Juniata marketing office has allowed me to make great connections to several brilliant people in the Juniata community. I was interviewing her about her assistance on Alex Ovechkin’s Sports Illustrated photo shoot and we got side tracked talking about the challenges of working freelance.
Wake up at 8 AM on a Sunday, load in a van, stop at Sheetz for the inevitable breakfast/bathroom stop, and hunker down for a five-hour drive – it’s field trip time. Except, when you wake up from that groggy van sleep, you aren’t getting out to hear a lecture. You step out into the cold air of the Finger Lakes and walk into your first of 14 wineries in 3 days. It’s wine tasting time.
As I write this sentence there are 15 days, 10 hours, and 33 minutes until graduation. Not that anyone is counting. Yesterday one of the first-year bloggers wrote about the experiences that she’s had over her first year and today I’ll reflect on my last four years at Juniata.
When I was gearing up to graduate from high school I was nostalgic, scared to leave the place that I had called home for four years, unsure of what was ahead of me. That same nostalgic feeling is absent now. I know what I am doing with my future, at least the next six years of it and I feel academically and socially prepared for the world. Juniata did a good job.
Of course, I’ll miss the quad and seeing the volleyball players frolic in the sun on their portable court. I’ll long for the lazy days where my friends and I would hammock in the trees outside of Founders, talking, and laughing, and dreaming about the future.
I’ll miss my classes and the professors that taught them. I began to enjoy learning for learning’s sake because the professors here don’t just teach you the material, they challenge you to think about what you’re learning and understand not only how it applies to your field of study, but also about how it might help you to better understand the rest of the world. That’s the joy of a liberal arts education, it helps you develop a larger world view that allows you to better understand your place in it and how you can make it a better place.
I’ve received some of the best grades of my life that have led me to four semesters on the dean’s list. And I’ve received some of the worst grades of my life that have given me the worst GPAs I’ve ever had. One of the reasons I feel so prepared for graduate school and the rest of life is that Juniata and the courses I have taken here have taught me how to fail, and how to do it with grace. If I can offer one piece of advice to take with you into your first year it is: learn how to learn from your mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get an A on your first test in biology, or if College Writing Seminar (CWS) has revealed to you that you might not be the author of the next great American novel. That doesn’t mean you’re going to fail in biology or that you’ll never be a good writer. Take the advice that is given to you and follow through on it. Over time you’ll see that your bio grade will go up and your essays will begin to receive glowing insightful comments from your CWS professor.
You are all coming to Juniata next year for a myriad of reasons, but you all have one thing in common: a glowing work ethic and perseverance in the face of adversity. There are too many memories, both good and bad, to share with you in one blog post. That’s OK, because you’re going to be making plenty of amazing memories on your own.
I have eight days left of my freshman year at Juniata. It’s the perfect time to start reflecting on my first two semesters of college. My Google Photos app has been trying to convince me to look through the slideshow of my freshman year for like a month and there isn’t a better time than the present.
It was definitely a year of firsts.
There was my first college paper. It took four trips to the Writing Center and lots of caffeine but I managed a solid A-. Now, I can write a paper on my own with minimal caffeine intake and still earn myself an A.
I was dragged on my first trip to Sheetz and was pleasantly surprised. I was convinced that it wouldn’t live up to my beloved Wawa but I was proved wrong. An estimated 300 Mac & Cheese bites later and I still don’t regret it.
I skipped class for the first time and got caught skipping class for the first time. Completely unrelated, but still good advice: don’t tweet about skipping class to go see Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day and use your class hashtag.
I ate my first microwave cup of ramen noodles. It’s an interesting taste, definitely a meal to save for after you’ve eaten all your other food and you’re desperate to eat something because it’s 2am on a Saturday and you have a paper to work on.
I fell asleep on a public bench for the first time. It was just such a nice day and I was going to read my book for class out on the quad but the grass was still wet from the rain the day before. I dozed off and was awoken by the feeling of a stray volleyball hitting the back of the bench.
I went electrofishing for the first time. I never pictured myself wearing waders and a large yellow backpack while trying not to slip on the rocky bottom of the river while sending tiny electric shocks through the water to stun fish. It was a new experience that I didn’t think I would ever want to do – much less get the chance to do. Turns out fish are pretty cool.
My first year at college has been quite the roller coaster. I have learned many things that will be helpful in the future. Career services helped me create a resume to send out when I’m applying for internships this summer. I took a history class about Australia and New Zealand on a whim and now I’m applying to study abroad in New Zealand. I also learned how to Photoshop photos of my dog so she’s wearing rain boots in my Intro to Information Technology class.
Advice that I wish I was given before starting my freshman year at Juniata? Participate in Campus Events – Res Life has events all the time. I met one of my best friends at a cookie baking and coloring book night in the dorm lounge. Take Calculated Risks – explore your interests. Go rock climbing, join a research team, study abroad, or participate in an outreach project. Have an Open Mind – you might find out that Sheetz is better than Wawa or that Ramen noodles are the new instant mac & cheese. Get a Sheetz Rewards Card – you will earn tons of points which equals free food. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY! I can now say that I’ve been electrofishing, learned to salsa, read an extensive amount of Ernest Hemingway’s writing and attended a live reading done by the award-winning author, Jennifer Steil.
I would like to think that my first year at Juniata was a success. I will be heading into next semester more academically and mentally prepared and ready for whatever the world throws at me next.
Choosing a college was not easy for me. I visited at least twenty colleges, applied to eleven, got scholarships to seven, interviewed at three, and found my place at one. I’ve been on dozens of college tours. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for in a college until I found it. I applied everywhere from Vermont to Florida. Each school had something different to offer.
I made a spreadsheet of quantitative and qualitative data from each of my college visits. I thought that a bunch of graphs were going to help me make my college decision. I had all of the statistics from each college: student population, professor to student ratio, four-year graduation percentage, transfer rate and tuition. I also had all the words that I would use to describe the college and I rated each of the campus services like dining, janitorial services and employee interactions.
After analyzing my extensive collection of data, I realized that the school that had the highest scores was the school that I least wanted to go to. I realized that just because the schools had great scores didn’t mean they were the greatest schools for me. I couldn’t base my college decision off of numbers; I had to base it on how I felt.
After my epiphany, I started narrowing down my potential colleges. I knocked out the ones that were obviously not the place for me. Then I looked at the student population. I didn’t feel like I was the big school kind of person. I don’t like getting lost in the crowd. Then I looked at location. All of the choices I had left were in a five-hour radius of my house so that didn’t help. I ended up thinking of the college tours and my experiences with admission counselors. Which one left me with the best impression?
This gave me my final two schools: Washington College and Juniata College. Washington was only an hour away from my house and they offered me a great scholarship, an amazing apprenticeship, and great opportunities. Juniata was a four-hour drive from my house, offered me a pretty good scholarship, the ability to individualize my P.O.E. and explore countless topics, as well as an incredible community with people who were focused on helping me achieve the most for my future. As cheesy as it sounds, Washington had the money but Juniata had my heart.
Juniata was the college where I felt most comfortable during my visit to campus. The students were welcoming and friendly. The professors that I met made me feel like they actually wanted me to be successful. The concept of the P.O.E. rather than a normal major was extremely appealing because I had big dreams and I’m not sure I could have graduated from normal college without a quadruple major.
When I arrived at my orientation I knew I had made the right choice. I felt at home instantly. The people I met were wonderful, my orientation leaders showed me the ropes, my fellow incoming freshmen made me feel comfortable about my transition into college. When I came to Juniata, I knew I found my place.