5 signs you’re at the right school


Choosing a college was stressful, challenging, and one of the biggest decisions I have ever made. As a 17-year-old, there weren’t many things that I decided for myself. This was that first chance at independence, at freedom, at living your own life. I am obsessed with the school I chose (The University of Michigan), and I’m going to share with you, as a graduating senior, 5 signs you know you’re at the right school.

  1. When you walk through campus and smile at how beautiful it is

lawI fell in love with Ann Arbor – with the way the Diag opens up to every building on campus, and how the snow looked in the Law Quad. I fell in love with how happy people looked relaxing in the Arb, and how the city is a sea of maize and blue on game days. Over the years, little bits and pieces of Ann Arbor became home to me. When I am walking to class on the first warm day of Spring, I can’t help but smile because I believe that I live on the most beautiful college campus.

  1. 2. When you find a group of people who make you feel at home

When I think of my college experience, I define it by an organization called Camp Kesem. group.jpg This is a nonprofit run by students at chapters across the country that offers a free week-long summer camp for kids affected by a parent’s cancer. This org has not only shaped my career path, but it has given me the community that I have called my family the past four years. Having a community of peers who understand and care is the greatest gift I have received from my time as a Wolverine. I could not begin to fathom my college career without Kesem.

  1. When you think of what your life would be like if you went to a different college, and literally cannot imagine what type of person you would be
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stadium.jpgI am from Louisiana, and pretty much every student from my small Catholic high school went to one of two colleges in the state. I was one of very few (like literally 6, I think) students who went to a college out-of-state. This was a huge deal for me. I’d never lived away from my parents or my friends, and I knew practically nothing about Ann Arbor. Now, as a senior, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had gone to college in Louisiana. I would not be the person I am today, nor would my career path look the same.

  1. 4. When you go home for breaks and miss your friends and being at school

My parents live in North Carolina, so going home for breaks is far, and they last too long. I love spending time with my family, but usuallytour.jpg after a few days at home, I cannot wait to get back. I text my roommates and friends constantly, making plans for what we will do when we’re back. This is the most obvious way that I knew I was going to the right school.

  1. When you’re about to graduate, and you can’t imagine your life anywhere besides here

Graduation is creeping up on me, and my emotions are all over. I cannot imagine living anywhere else, because Ann Arbor has become my home the last four years. grad.jpgChoosing to go to UofM was an incredibly hard decision, but it is by far the best decision I have ever made. I’m so grateful for the friends I’ve made and the memories I’ve had here. I love it so much, I decided to stick around a little longer to receive my Master’s of Social Work. A2 can’t get rid of me quite yet.

 

photo by jeremymitnick.com

This article was written for ScholarshipPoints Campus Life. You can see my article and contributor page here.

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 why my kids will always have a pet


This past week, my dog [and best friend] of fifteen years passed away. Since then, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how having pets have affected my life. Sometimes when I need a good smile (or cry) I’ll look up videos of service dogs helping their owners. It always amazed me how amazing animals could be.

When I was really upset the day I found out my dog passed, my friend reminded me of something I had heard before. “Every one is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right? Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.” It’s cheesy – but it’s true.

Dogs have been in my life for as long as I can remember. I always remember dogs running around and laying on the couch growing up. Savannah is definitely the most memorable of the many. It had been a little while since our two dogs had grown old and passed away, and our parents were finally ready to get another dog (because the house was just too quiet and lonely). So we went to the Humane Society in Charlotte with two rules: 1. Not a big dog 2. Not a dog that sheds. We came out with a black lab/Chow Chow mix – large and very furry.

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Sorry, Dad. It was fate. I remember perfectly my brother and I running from cage trying to narrow down the choices and the precise moment we saw her for the first time. A volunteer at the shelter had just given her a bath and let us pet her while she was in her arms. We fell in love instantly. She was immediately the best friend I could ask for.

Over the next 15 years, as I grew up through the bad middle school haircuts and the broken hearts and the various phases, she was right there by my side. I could not have made it through those terrible years of my depression eating at my emotions. I would not have been able to get up in the mornings without her nose in my face. I would not have been able to fall asleep not crying without her furry butt cuddled up next to me.

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Choosing to leave the state for college was hard enough to do already, but knowing she didn’t know where I’d be disappearing to made it so much worse. I remember squeezing her so tight before I got into the car for the slowest four months of my life. That first reunion was so, so joyful and I constantly teased my parents about how it was fine to see them, but I really came back for the pup.

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The great thing about dogs is that they never seem to remember if you did anything wrong. No matter what happened at school or work, I always knew I could come home to someone who loved me no matter what I did. I read this article earlier this morning (and obviously bawled like I was watching The Fox and the Hound), but it reminded me of the way she would look at me. The great thing about dogs is that they can teach you so much by not trying to teach you anything. The great thing about dogs is that they appreciate everything you do so much. The greatest thing about dogs is that they never leave your side.

And that is why my kids will have dogs. My kids will learn to love and be loved by someone who is not myself. I can’t promise that I will love perfectly. But a dog will love perfectly.

Savannah, I love you so, so much. You taught me that it’s okay to be upset, but that I always have people to love me. You taught me how strong I am and how much I have conquered and can conquer. It will continue to hurt me forever that I wasn’t there to kiss your face and scratch behind your ear (that little part that had the softest fur on your body) when you took your last breath. I will never stop loving you and I will always miss you. Rest easy, babe.

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Farewell to 2014: Reflections and Memories


It’s approaching that time again – 2014 is coming to a close and 2015 is right around the corner. I’ve never been one to make a big deal over New Year’s. I never really enjoyed going to the parties or counting down until midnight. Despite this, I have always been one for reflection. I enjoy looking back on how I changed, improved, struggled, grew and whatnot over the year. 2014 has been crazy.

[Note: This is sort of like a scrapbook, so there are lots of photos along with the reflections. 🙂 Hope you enjoy them]

I cannot believe that I’ve been in college for a year and a half now. Sometimes it still feels like I’m just on a really long vacation or in a dream and I’ll wake up and be back in Louisiana in high school. Then I pinch myself and realize that it’s real.

This past year I took classes that I loved, and helped me to find my passion. I went to the Quidditch World Cup in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my team, where me made it to the bracket of sixteen! 

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I worked an incredible internship with an amazing team of bilingual therapists in North Carolina. I went to a private event at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley expansion in Orlando and was able to achieve my every childhood dream of riding the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts with my best friends.

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I traveled to San Francisco, and spent an incredible week there with my family. I absolutely fell in love with the city.

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I spent my first year as a counselor at Camp Kesem and met the most amazing college students and kids I have ever met in my life. Since camp, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to serve on the Coordinator Board with some unbelievable people. 

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I moved into a house with people I now consider my second family. This family has helped me so much during this extremely difficult semester.

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I saw a ton of my favorite bands in concert (The Fray and 1D for life!)

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I went to an event in New Jersey where I met some of the most inspiring creators on the Internet, engaging in activities with them and the community.

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I started working a job that I am actually really enjoying. I have never felt so involved with a cohesive team of co-workers as I do here. I helped my chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance to give away over 20,000 books for free to people in the Detroit community.

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That’s only a few of the amazing things I’ve had the opportunity to experience this year. Despite all of these incredible things, it has been a pretty difficult year as well. My mother was still fighting breast cancer, going through treatments all spring and summer. My classes were a lot harder this semester than they were my freshman year. I was incredibly busy juggling school, work, the three organizations I’m involved in, and trying to fit eating and actually socializing in between all of that. The stress sometimes brought out the worst in me, and I don’t like that. Through this, I learned ways to help my anxious mind, and to channel my sadness into activities on my bad days. This year taught me a lot about myself, my passions and goals, my strengths and weaknesses, and my worth.

I can’t wait to have all of 2015 for even more learning experiences, discoveries, journeys and adventures. I bid you farewell 2014, but you will now only live in Instagram photos, tweets and memories.

On hoMesickness and its effects


A year ago, I made a crazy decision to leave my hometown and move to a place I’d only visited once to go to school. I am constantly asked why would I even think of choosing to go to the University of Michigan when I grew up in Louisiana. I have yet to have a good answer to that question. At first, I would try to make up some logical explanation for my decision. Now, after completing an entire year as a student in Ann Arbor, I still don’t have a reason for my decision, but I do have so much proof as to why it was the best decision I have ever made.

It’s been a long year, but so much has happened in that year that it’s felt like it’s been ten. I remember my first day at Michigan, after my parents dropped me off at my dorm and left…I was terrified. I didn’t know anything about this city. I did not know a single person in this city. The only people I “knew” were my two roommates who weren’t moving in for another three days. Those three days were horrible. I barely left my room. I watched a lot of Netflix and cried a lot. I ate a lot of Ramen to avoid having to try to find my way to West Quad. (Boy, did I not realize how well I would know how to get to West Quad later). Finally, my roommates moved in, and all of that worry quickly started to dissolve away.

Those first few months were hard. We were all incredibly homesick. I just wanted to talk to someone about something familiar. It is absolutely the strangest and unexplainable feeling to be somewhere with people who didn’t know anything about your past or where you came from. It is so crazy to be somewhere where there is no one familiar anywhere. Despite the homesickness, I had started making new friends, and I loved it. These people were definitely different than everyone back home, but I loved that. It was so cool learning about different parts of the country (and even the world). The rest of the year was crazy, all because I was putting myself out there and trying things that I wouldn’t have tried if I were at a school back home.

This year was insane. I started my own chapter of a non-profit on campus with girls who I now consider my closest friends. I joined a different non-profit to become a camp counselor for kids who had gone through the same crappy stuff I had gone through. I took a bus to Chicago with my roommate to see a show and get lost downtown because screw public transportation. I sang karaoke at the top of my lungs until one in the morning at a sketchy karaoke place in downtown Ann Arbor with some of my closest friends. I traveled all over the Midwest and all the way down to South Carolina for tournaments with a sports team made up of people that I consider my second family and who I would give anything for.

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I can remember at the beginning of my journey as a Wolverine, I heard other out-of-state students telling me, “You’re going to be homesick now, but wait until the end of the year – you’re never going to want to go home.” I didn’t believe them. I missed my friends and my family and my dog and I could not imagine feeling like staying in Michigan instead of going home. Man, was I wrong. The last three weeks were consumed of the overwhelming sadness that in such a short time, I would be going back to North Carolina for three months and that that was very far from all of my friends. I started to realize that for three months, I wasn’t going to wake up in the same room as two of my best friends or fall asleep after giggling over Tumblr posts or YouTube videos with them until three in the morning. For the next three months, I didn’t have Quidditch practice or parties to look forward to (Who am I kidding? I never went to practice). For three months, I was going to have to work on Friday nights instead of eat pizza and watch Doctor Who with two girls who understand me better than anyone else.

But after being sad because of all of this, I realized that it was going to feel so good to come back to Ann Arbor in August. So, to end all things like they should be ended…with a Harry Potter reference:

“It feels strange to be going home, doesn’t it?”

“I’m not going home. Not really.”

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So, until August, Ann Arbor and everyone in it. I’ll be counting down the days until I am hoMe.

On Fandom and Community


The Weapon we Have is Love

Sometimes I think about all of the things Fandom has done in my life. The majority of my friends are my friends because of Fandom. One of my best friends and I were introduced to each other by a mutual friend because we “both liked Harry Potter.” Another one of my best friends I met at a Harry Potter convention in Oregon in the hotel lobby. Even more than just friends, many of my role models and idols came from Fandom. Many of the people I strive to be like come from Fandom. I’ve been lucky enough to become a part of an incredible community. A community of acceptance and love. A community of innovation and good-doing. A community of world change.

Recently, the peacefulness of this community was shaken. Some of these idols we looked up to were revealed to have done terrible things to people in our community. It hurt us that these role models were not who we thought they were. It hurt us that people in our community were treated terribly. It’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to feel betrayed. As the Harry Potter Alliance said in their statement on Tumblr, “Fandom is an act of trust. Admiration is an act of trust. When that trust is violated, it is not your fault.” It is totally okay to take some time to step back and re-evaluate everything that has happened. But don’t think that the community you were a part of has changed or abandoned you. If anything, we have been encouraged to rebuild and grow stronger.

This community will always be there to support and to grow. Now, I would like to quote Maureen Johnson’s statement on the topic, because I could not find a way to word this any better:

“Those of us who have crashed on the rocks – well, we climbed the rocks and built a lighthouse. And we keep the lights on for you, and we will always be here, and the light will remain on no matter how great the storm. And when the storm is over, we will still be here.”

No matter what we have thrown our way, we will always be here. We will always have this bond. We will continue to gather together at conventions and sing about magic and love together. We will continue to share our favorite stories forever.

Above anything and everything else, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” This is a dark time for our community, but just as Harry and his friends stood together against Voldemort, we must stand together against the bad and together we can prevail and arrive to a brighter day.

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On Moving Away


Moving away from family and friends is terribly hard and incredibly humbling. During my senior year of high school, I applied to eight different schools and I remember receiving the letters from all of them inviting me to study with them. After visiting Ann Arbor in February of 2013, I knew that I wanted to live here. It was new and different. It was beautiful and perfect. Shortly after returning home from my visit, I decided that the University of Michigan was where I wanted to be. It was a crazy decision. I would be moving to a state I had only been to once. I would be living with two girls who I had met on Twitter. I would be leaving behind everything familiar and everyone I loved. Most importantly, I would be moving away from Community Coffee, gumbo and SEC Football. (What even is the Big Ten?)

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The culture in Michigan was completely different than what I had grown up around for the past 18 years. Most of the people I meet have no idea how to peel a crawfish or what to do when it’s hurricane season. The number of times I have had to explain how and why drive-thru daiquiri places are somehow legal where I live is exponential. I remember one of my first nights in Ann Arbor, a girl I was talking to at a party said “Oh my gosh. You just said y’all. That is SO cute.” I knew immediately that I was in a completely different world. There have been a countless number of times that I have had to explain that, contrary to popular belief, there are lots of cities in Louisiana other than New Orleans, and that I actually don’t really live near it. The first time I heard a Michigander refer to Coke or soda as “pop” I think I almost cried. I still refuse to eat the “gumbo” and “po-boys” that the dining halls attempt to make for dinner. And don’t even get me started on the snow.

I miss Louisiana every single day, but living here has been life-changing. After that first visit last February, Ann Arbor has held a special place in my heart. I can remember being here during my first week, walking down East Liberty and seeing Michigan Theater in all of its beauty and thinking “Wow, I have GOT to Instagram this,” but also more sentimental thoughts like, “Wow. I cannot believe that I actually live here.” This perfect little town continues to amaze me and I fall more and more in love every day that I’m here. Sometimes I think about how I got here, and what made me finally decide to leave the familiarity of Lafayette. I think back on my last week there in August and how I had such a strange mix of emotions that I don’t think I even cried about leaving. I was excited and terrified, but also sad and so very happy all at once. Being in a new city all alone forced me to humble myself to ask for directions or even just ask for help. Living on a campus where I knew no one forced me to join clubs and to go out and socialize. Doing that allowed me to meet people from different states and even different countries. I’ve met some of the best people in the world here, and despite how much I complain about just wanting a Turtle Mochasippi (extra shot and whipped cream please) and an entire King Cake to myself, I would not trade the experiences I am having here for anything in the world.

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So if I am trying to make a moral out of this story, it would be: just DO it. If you are considering it, DO it. If you want to study in a different state or a different country for a semester, DO it. If you want to use your spring break to go somewhere new, DO it. Life is short (no matter how cliché that saying is), and there is so much to see and experience before it’s over. I know you’ll miss home. You’ll miss familiar faces and you’ll miss your mom’s good food every night (Mom, please send me red beans and rice), but you will never regret doing something different and learning something new. Home will always be there for you when you want to come back, but the world is just waiting for you to venture out and experience it.

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“It may be the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.” – Jalai ad-Din Rumi