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Since I live in New Mexico I go home twice a year; Summer and Winter breaks. That means I either stay on campus or nicely ask a friend to stay with them. This past weekend was the three day Easter Weekend and since I was on duty (and because I had nowhere else to go) I stayed on campus. This is a hard thing to do, especially when the majority of your friends have gone home to be with their families for the weekend. Fortunately, there are several groups on campus that put on events for those of us who have to stay because we live so far away.
My weekend began with a trip to the cliffs, a beautiful location just north of campus. The rocky outcroppings jut out into a canyon through which the Juniata River runs. In the fall the leaves on the oaks, maples, and elms are shades of red and orange so vivid, that when the wind blows through the trees it looks like a raging wildfire has engulfed the canyon. My friends and I wandered down to the cave at the base of the third cliff and then continued exploring down the lower path, picking our way through brambles and dead bushes. We got to the fourth cliff and I suddenly had the bright idea to climb up instead of walking back along the trail.
There is something strangely relaxing about doing something risky after weeks of stress. My friends and I climbed up the wall of thorns and rotten logs and loose rocks half hoping, half praying that we wouldn’t fall. It was nice to get back to the simple things, to just focus on where we were and where we were going. When we finally reached the top we just sat, relaxed, watched the sun set over Huntingdon, and of course took new profile pictures.
After we had got all the right angles for our new profile pictures and captured as much of the dying sunlight as we could, we continued on down the trail to the fourth, fifth, sixth cliffs. When we finally reached the end we realized that it might not be the best idea for us to walk all the way back through the dark along the trail so we bushwhacked our way through a bramble thicket and back into civilization. We ended up several blocks away and down a very steep hill from our car so it took us another couple of minutes to actually get back to campus.
One of the best things about Juniata is its proximity to beautiful places in nature. The cliffs and the Peace Chapel are the closest of these, but if you ever get a chance, take the drive out to A Thousand Steps. The climb up all of the steps can be difficult and long but all of that is worth the views from the top. It is easy to get lost in your school work and clubs and sports teams and social life, and all that is well and good for being a successful college student. But sometimes you just have to take an evening, afternoon or an entire day to just go out into nature, take a breath, and just enjoy the sunset.
Well. This is it: my final blog post. Seems like my life is full of endings lately; the last day of internship, a final choir concert, and last house dinners. My parents took a lot of my furniture home with them after convocation, yesterday. However, I had a friend tell me when I was feeling down about all these great things coming to an end, that my life is still in its beginning chapters. And that really made sense and comforted the book nerd in me.
So in those terms, these past four years at Juniata College were just the beginning of my life story. But, what an amazing start! If you would have told me four years ago that college would be this fantastic experience, I probably would have agreed with you; but I don’t know if I would have said that I expected college to change me.
I know that is has though; I started to fully realize this during this past semester in probably one of the strangest ways. I re-watched early episodes of “Glee” on Netflix with my housemate, who had never seen the show before. I was obsessed with the show in high school and while I kept up with the show when I could in college, I haven’t seen the early season since they aired. As I was watching them this past semester, I could easily remember the first time I saw them. And I realized what a different person I was back then.
In high school, I just wanted to blend in. Despite my love for vintage clothes, I wore jeans and Hollister tees to fit in; I didn’t want to cause a stir. I also didn’t stand up for myself, which resulted in me getting emotionally hurt. Juniata, however, changed all that. I found amazing friends who didn’t care what I wore – in fact, liked the unique clothes I started to collect. I took classes and talked with professors who gave my thoughts validity. Without realizing it, I became a much stronger person; someone who could say what she believed, wear the clothes she loved, and have a goal of helping women and girls in harmful relationships. Juniata and this community made all of those things possible.
Sure, Juniata isn’t perfect, but what school is? Really, what home is? Because that is what Juniata has become to me: my home. I know that it is going to be hard to leave (I mean, I’m tearing up writing this – graduation day, I will probably be an emotional wreck), but I know that I will always have the memories of my time here, the strength and knowledge that I learned, and the support of my Juniata friends and community for the rest of my life. I know that my life is going to keep on changing, but I know that because of Juniata, it is going to keep on changing for the better.
Most people are perplexed when I tell them I’m from Los Angeles, CA. They can’t imagine why I would be in quaint Huntingdon, though I’ve pretty much lived here full time for the past three years. So when I accepted a position on campus as one of the Inbound interns, I couldn’t even pretend to be optimistic about spending an entire summer on Juniata College’s campus. But life is what you make it and you definitely get back what you put into any situation.
Campus was silent, there were only a handful of people around, and I was at least 40 minutes from a more populated area. However, Juniata prides itself on its community feel, and I definitely felt that. I made a Facebook group called “JC Summertime,” and to my surprise, there were about 70 students in Huntingdon for the summer. Between my internship and working part-time at the print shop, I made new friends and connections. We had delicious potluck-style bbq’s once or twice a week, volunteered for local organizations, went to State College and Altoona for mini getaways, went bowling and to the movie theatre in town, had social gatherings on Friday nights to relax and unwind, and most importantly, we discovered or introduced to others the many things to do in Huntingdon. And no, that is not a typo, I said “many.” Coming from the city, I’ve never really been an outdoorsy person, but why not give it a try? The scenery here is so beautiful that I was always going on hikes and finding new trails around town and near the Cliffs and Peace Chapel, I exercised at the Thousand Steps, visited the Lincoln Caverns, found GORGEOUS outlooks at the vast Lake Raystown (there’s WAY more than Seven Points Marina), and I tried every single restaurant in the area.
The time passed just as fast as if I was in the city but I just felt more relaxed. Huntingdon can be a culture shock but there are chances to make coming to Juniata the best time of your life. I’ve never regretted my decision to come here, or stay in the middle of nowhere for an entire summer. I’ve chosen to make memories and have great experiences, and anyone can do the same.