Looking back on the year


And with that last Canvas submission I have completed my junior year of my undergraduate career. Recently I have been really, really scared. “The real world” is right around the corner, and I have very little confidence in the direction my life is headed. But on top of being scared, I have also been thinking a lot about how amazing this past year has been. A lot of things happened. Some were good, some bad – some amazing.

If you’ve ever read my blog posts or seen my Facebook or talked to me for more than like 20 seconds, I have most likely talked about Camp Kesem in some way or another. Have I tried to get you to donate? Probably. I am rounding out my second year as a Development Coordinator for Camp Kesem at UofM this summer, and it has been a wild and rewarding ride. As of last weekend, we have raised over $100,000 for camp this summer. That is almost all of our 210 campers, and it’s only April.

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I’ve met truly met my people through this organization. Like classic Grey’s Anatomy “my person” type of person, except there’s several of them and I cannot be more thankful that I have these incredible humans to travel the rest of my crazy life journey with by my side.

We’ve had our up’s and down’s this year. There were so many successes that came along with their fair share of failures. There were tears. There was laughter. There was love and loss – but I wouldn’t choose anyone else to go through all of this with. I know for sure that no matter where I end up after graduation next May, I will always look back on this incredible group of people as my people and the most inspiring and loving human beings. Thank you for teaching me what I am worth. Thank you for loving me and teaching me how to love.

I really began to find my passions this year. I served as a group leader for a course called Project Outreach in the Psychology department where I spent my second semester in a row going to Monroe County Youth Center every week to lead art workshops for the juveniles in detention there. From this course, I received an internship with the Washtenaw County Juvenile Court and spent this past semester helping to start a creative arts workshop for the juveniles on probation in this county as well as working alongside probation officers in the sexual offender treatment program at the court. I can really see myself doing this kind of work for the rest of my life, and that is the most confident I have ever felt in anything about my career probably ever.

In addition to all of this, I have traveled to some pretty amazing places this year. I spent a month traveling around Europe with two of my best friends. We visited 9 different countries in less than 29 days, and it was absolutely incredible. We had a bonfire in a valley town in the Swiss Alps. We swam in the Italian Riviera in the most picturesque coastline towns in Italy. We picnicked with wine and baguette sandwiches under the lights of the Eiffel Tower. We casually saw the Queen and the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. We learned how to make sangria and Paella in Barcelona. It was the most amazing month, and I still talk about it almost every day.

I spent a pretty awesome week on a cruise with my family and my grandparents in the Caribbean. We zip lined over a water park in Costa Maya. We swam with dolphins in Cozumel. My dad, sister and I spent a way too long day shopping in Belize City. I practiced my Spanish to perfection after snorkeling all day in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the largest Barrier Reef system in the world)!

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I took a cross-country road trip with my best friend and showed her everything from my home state. We ate so much food our stomachs were in so much pain. We drank hurricanes on Bourbon Street and Cajun danced our hearts away.

I could go on and on about the incredible things I’ve done this year, but most importantly, I have made new friends and traveled the world and learned to cope with loss and grow from it. I have learned so much about my abilities, my passions and myself as a person. I look forward to my summer – an internship at a really awesome Detroit-based organization and traveling the state with my friends. Cheers to another year of learning and loving and exploring!

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On Learning and Reflecting


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Learning what I find important in life has been a difficult journey, and it’s nowhere near over. I am constantly thinking about what I could be doing better, or what I am searching for, and it’s not easy to comprise a list of these things. What I will try to do is tell you what I have learned and what I am in the process of learning.

I have learned that even though I am living away from home, and that I’m probably one of the most independent people I know, I will always miss my family and my dog. Sometimes just the idea of being at home on the couch watching football with my family and a table full of Buffalo Wild Wings in front of me brings me to tears.

I have learned that I’m privileged and lucky. I have a family to miss and a second (and third and fourth) family to love me and care for me wherever I am in the world. I have never wanted for anything that I need to survive.

I have learned that I am a strong person, but I’m not strong enough to handle everything on my own. Sometimes I need help, and that’s okay.

I have learned that I give a lot, and that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes I need to take a step back and say no. A friend and I were talking recently about how we always say yes to things and we think that this will make us happy and productive, but in the end, it makes us stressed and unproductive. It’s okay to say no to things, even if those things might be stuff you don’t think you want to miss out on – there will be other opportunities to hang out with those friends.

I have not yet learned what it is I want to “do with my life.” Despite, constantly getting the question day in and day out, just because I am a junior in college, I do not have my future nailed down, and yes, you asking me that does make me feel a little nervous. I am contemplating a lot of things, and I know that I am the kind of person who will not really know what I want to do until I start doing it.

I have not yet learned quite how to love. Loving is sometimes so easy and sometimes it’s so much harder. I’ve not figured it all out yet, but I’m working on it.

I will always consider myself a learner long after I’m out of school. I will always continue learning new things and I don’t know if I’ll ever really “figure everything out,” but I like to think that I can keep working on it.

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Because I Said So…


This past week I started my placement for my service-learning course – Project Outreach. I am working with a group of adolescents at a youth residential detention and treatment center in a nearby county. We are working with an organization called Youth Arts Alliance! and during our first workshop, we did an activity we called “Because I said so.” 

We each had four slips of paper that we wrote down 4 goals/dreams/etc. with each sentence ending with “because I said so.” I wrote down four things nonchalantly, not really knowing how serious the kids would take the activity. After we all grabbed four random slips of paper out of the bucket to read aloud to the group, I was absolutely blown away by the things I was hearing. 

“I will get a bachelor’s degree and become a business owner…because I said so.” 

“I will be a better sister – because she deserves more than this…because I said so.” 

“I will get out of here and make a life for myself…because I said so.”

“I will be better – for myself, my family and my future…because I said so. 

So, forgetting the simple things I wrote – something about college, traveling and getting a dog – I thought I should re-evaluate what I would do because I said so…so here we go.

I will do what I love because I said so.

I won’t let people tell me what I cannot accomplish, because I said so

I will take care of myself, because I said so.

I will learn how to say “no” when I need to say “no,” because I said so.

I will be spontaneous, because I said so.

I will be happy, because I said so.

So, to this group of kids who stole my heart after only an hour together – I will do these things because I said so, and because you believed in me. And you can do the things you said – you will go back home and be so successful and happy, because I believe in you and you believe in yourself. I know you do.

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An Open Letter to College Freshmen


You did it! You finished high school!

Doesn’t it feel weird? I remember after graduating I just kept thinking of when I was little and the age 16 sounded so old, and then I was 18, holding a high school diploma. It’s a lot to process. You’re probably just ready for summer so you can stop thinking about exams and AP classes and everything else, and good for you! Celebrate! This is a huge milestone in your life! You’ll never graduate from high school again!

You’ve only got a few months until you move to college! If you’re anything like me, you are a whole tangled mess of emotions: excited, nervous, anxious, terrified, happy all at once. It’s a strange time, but soak up every minute of it, because it’ll be gone before you know it.

I’m sure you’ve got a lot of questions and worries about your first year.  I thought I would try to answer some of those questions, or really just give the advice I have for your first year at University.

  1. Be careful about the whole early morning class thing. You may think at first, “Hey. I woke up at 6 AM in high school. I can wake up at 7 AM in college.” No.  Just don’t. It’s going to cause you to talk yourself into skipping way too often.
  1.  Join clubs. I know it’s nerve-racking, especially if you’re at a school really far away from home like I was, but you will not regret it. I promise. There’s usually some sort of festival or exhibition of clubs on campus at the beginning of each semester.  Go to that. Look around. You’re bound to find something you’re interested in.
  1. Do all of the cheesy, traditional freshman things at your University. You will definitely regret it if you don’t. (For example, at my university, students paint a big boulder on campus for their clubs or groups. One of the best experiences ever.)
  1. Try new things. That’s incredibly cliché to say, but it’s so necessary. I know you’re going to want things to make you feel as comfortable as high school, but they’re not going to, so just take the leap and try some different things.  (I tried Thai food for the first time this year. I fell in love with it, and spent way too much money on it the rest of the year)
  1. Don’t be afraid to do things alone. I think that was one of the hardest things for me to do. I never wanted to walk anywhere alone or go to meetings alone, but I forced myself to. I eventually got to the point that I liked eating alone better than with people sometimes.  I would even go to Michigan Theater by myself to see movies sometimes. Give yourself that chance to be independent and the time alone to think. You’ll learn a lot.
  1. Go see new places. This sort of goes along with #4, but I think this is so important. I went to school in a state that I had never been to before for University, this opened a world of opportunity for me to travel around and see things I’d never seen before. During my first semester, my roommate and I decided to go to Chicago for a day. We took a Megabus at 5:00 in the morning, and didn’t get back until 1:00 the next morning. That was one of the best experiences ever. It was so different to be exploring a city without parents or adults. Do that. Go see things you’ve never seen and visit cities you’ve never been to.
  1. Don’t forget about home. I know it’s so super exciting to be away from your parents! They can’t tell you what to do anymore! You can make your own decisions now! Just remember that your family is important. They are so important. Call your mom and dad. Send letters or postcards home. They want you to be independent just as much as you want to be, but they are still the reason that you made it this far. Thank your parents for their support (and for shelling out the money for you to do this). You may be surprised how much you’ll miss them. [I called home crying asking to come home for Thanksgiving because I missed them so much after a month or so].
  1. Have fun, but be safe and don’t lose sight of the reason you’re there! It’s not an exaggeration when people say that college is the time of your life.  You’re paying a lot of money to go to college, so live it up. It’s important to do these exciting new things, and figure out the world for yourself, but it’s also important to remember the reason you’re there. You’re there to learn. It’s called higher education for a reason. There will be a lot of work. Don’t blow off the work to go to a party. On the contrary, go to parties and events and festivals. Be safe with your drinking, though! (Always pour your own drink and don’t leave it sitting anywhere! Make sure you have friends with you just in case something goes wrong or you get into a bad situation! Also, don’t get busted by the cops! It’s not a fun time!)

That’s about all I have, but remember to enjoy your time there. Four years will fly by, as I’m sure you learned from high school. These will be the best years of your life, so soak up every moment of it. College is such an important time of your life. You can do so many things in college that you’ll never have the chance to do again. So, seize those opportunities, take risks, be open-minded, and learn about yourself and others. Good luck, and get ready for the best time of your life.

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