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Reinventing yourself the Juniata way

Jules Slater ’21, Advocacy Communication POE, Future Mayor of Picklesburgh

“College is a time to reinvent yourself.”

If only I could count how many times I’ve heard that phrase. Honestly, I thought the idea of reinventing yourself just because you’re headed to a place where no one knows your name was silly

The more I think about this now, I realize that “reinventing myself” is exactly what I’ve done. Well, by “reinventing” I don’t mean in a way that I completely changed who I am because I didn’t like who I was in high school and I had this chance to switch it up completely. It was more like I started evolving into a more well rounded person when I started to settle in at Juniata.

At the start of my freshman year, I told myself, as I’m sure many do, that I would try to push myself socially. My head was filled with key phrases like, “Get involved!” and “Make the most of it!” I was determined to do both of those things.

In order to achieve this goal, I did a full personality 180 and went from being a proud marching band geek (my high school personality, much love to my fellow trombonists) to super involved in one Juniata’s two club rugby teams, the Hellbenders. I gravitated toward the Hellbenders after seeing a poster in the stairwell of Sherwood, my first-year residence hall. Practice times were outlined on the poster, and the next day I found myself walking to the field behind Ellis (aptly called “the swamp” by ruggers) at 5 pm. I’d NEVER put myself out there like this before so I was super nervous (as you could possibly imagine).

I knew that my new teammates could see that I was apprehensive to jump into a club sport with no experience and without knowing anyone on the team, but they welcomed me in with open arms and made me feel comfortable and accepted. Within a month or so, I’d learned the basics of rugby, played in my first match, and even received a nickname (Bambi)—as is Hellbender tradition.

This isn’t a promo for Hellbender Rugby, though. I want my blog post to be taken as words of encouragement not to reinvent yourself necessarily, but to push your own limits and go out of your comfort zone. If someone had told me during my senior year of high school that three short years later I would find myself a co-captain of a rugby team, my scrawny, marching band self would have laughed in their face. But that’s the beauty of this chance that is college. You have a unique opportunity to try new things without the baggage of already having an established personality.

I’m still involved in instrumental music on campus and I’m so thankful for the chance to shape my identity even further as a student, a musician, an athlete, and a leader. You can seize all of these as a Juniata student, and I’ve found that at Juniata, success favors those who put themselves out there to grab these opportunities as they come.

So, really, I think it’s less about reinventing and more about pushing yourself to find what you’re passionate about, even if it seems out of character.