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.

The Adventure of a Lifetime


like brothers in blood, sisters who ride

and we swore on that night we’d be friends ‘til we die

but the changing of winds, and the way waters flow

life as short as the falling of snow

and now I’m gonna miss you I know

This weekend, I got on a plane at 5am and flew from Detroit to Dallas where my two best friends picked me up at the airport for weekend. I feel like Briley and Camille have become that – “best friends from home” – when I talk about them to my friends in Michigan. This weekend was surreal for many reasons, and it is taking a lot in me to reflect on everything I’m feeling to put those feelings into words.

Moving so far away from home after high school was tough, and weird. It was weird to not be able to mention people from my high school or the traffic on Pinhook. It was weird to have “friends from home” and “friends from school” that felt like they were from two different lives. Growing up through middle and high school with Briley and Camille defined my life in Louisiana, and they’re truly the kind of friends that I can pick up with like it hasn’t been months or years since I’d seen them.

So we arrived in Dallas and met up with our friend Kelly (who I hadn’t seen in 2+ years) and even Hank (who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation) and explored TCU’s campus and then left for Arlington to the Cowboys Stadium for what we came here for – the Coldplay concert.

Now, before you judge. Let me take a step back. Coldplay music basically defined our friendship. I have fond memories of them singing Yellow to me during our sleepovers. We listened to Fix You a lot when we were hurting. I pre-ordered their new album for Briley and I months before it came out as a Christmas present for both of us. She came to visit my family in North Carolina and we sat on the couch screaming while watching the NBC special of the Ghost Stories album being performed in L.A. When I left Louisiana for good, Briley gave me a CD with a recording of her singing Yellow to me. I can’t count the number of times I sat in my car in Ann Arbor listening to that and sobbing. So, long story short, we love Coldplay and their music was the soundtrack to our friendship, and basically the soundtrack to the past 7+ years of my life.

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So, fast forward to about 9:30pm CST last night – Chris Martin plays the first few chords of Yellow, and hundreds of yellow balloons fall from the sides of the crowd. And I am stunned almost into silence. I am overwhelmed with so many feelings. I think of how much I have changed in the past 4 years, but how these women standing on each side of me were there with me through it all – even if they were 1,163 miles away the whole time. We are all doing such incredible things but such different things, and it’s so great to be able to support these women follow their dreams while they support me in following me.

There’s a line from one of Coldplay’s songs that goes, “And if we could float away, fly up to the surface and start again. And lift off before trouble just erodes us in the rain. Through chaos as it swirls, it’s us against the world.” Through everything we’ve done together and everything we’ve done since we went our separate ways, I always knew that you were only a text or call or Facetime away for me to talk to. I am so proud of both of you and everything you’ve done. Thank you for being my friends, and I’ll see you soon.

-SGx

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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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50 Reasons to Stay Alive


 

Sometimes it’s hard. Struggling with depression and anxiety for years now has definitely dealt me my fair share of days that this is really hard – thinking of a reason to stay alive. The other night, I had one of those times, and the next day I saw a blog post of a list of reasons to stay alive. I loved that idea. What is worth staying alive for? Well, here’s my list.

  1. Those times that you feel happy
  2. Good days
  3. Jumping in piles of fall leaves
  4. Sand in between your toes
  5. Watching waves roll over your feet at the beach
  6. When your team wins a game
  7. Big hugs
  8. Cheek kisses
  9. First kisses
  10. Fridays!
  11. Warm cups of tea
  12. COFFEE EXISTS
  13. Sundays that you spend the whole day in your PJs
  14. Slumber parties (even when you’re in your 20’s)
  15. Wine
  16. Falling in love
  17. Chocolate
  18. When you get to spend the evening hanging out with friends
  19. Setting goals
  20. Achieving goals
  21. Your favorite book
  22. Finishing a really good book
  23. BOOKS
  24. Weddings
  25. People have babies every day – that’s so cool! You can do that one day!
  26. Smiling
  27. Compliments
  28. Traveling!
  29. Bonfires on Winter nights
  30. Music – music is awesome
  31. Baby animals 
  32. Pay day
  33. PUPPIES
  34. All the world you haven’t been to yet!
  35. Pizza
  36. Beautiful views
  37. Doing something good for someone else
  38. Trying something new
  39. Crossing things off your bucket list!
  40. Doing what you love
  41. Finding peace in yourself – even if it’s just for a few minutes
  42. Really deep breaths
  43. Kicking an old habit
  44. Seeing a new place
  45. Fighting off those feelings
  46. Loving yourself
  47. The people you can be yourself around
  48. Overcoming a fear
  49. “I love you”
  50. Surviving – You can do it.

Feeling like there’s no point to living sucks and I hate it every time I feel that way or I think that people I know and love feel that way sometimes. You can overcome depression. Because I read a quote once that reads, “Depression is also…smaller than you. Always it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast…It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky.

You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”

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On Beautifying my Heart


•ŸWherever you go, may people always recognize you have a beautiful heartŸ•

The other night I was at my friend’s house spending some nice, quiet quality time away from the hustle and bustle of finals and planning meetings and the constant moving that our lives have become. We were discussing our plans. She is graduating in a few weeks. I am moving into my final year of my undergraduate degree. Those constant questions of “so what are you going to do?” are coming from every direction. As an actual perpetrator of the situation, I asked her that exact question. And her answer started a conversation that made me so comfortable with my own answer – “I don’t really know.” I don’t really know and that’s okay.

We spoke of the world of opportunities sitting in front of us. And how we are not required to take one or the other. Referencing the quote above, I realize that I want to have a beautiful heart no matter what I do. This friend probably has one of the most beautiful hearts I know, and that is what I want. Whether I am in grad school, traveling the world, moving across the country or across the world – I want people to see my heart.

Yeah, I’m proficient in Microsoft Word and I can list all the jobs and responsibilities I’ve had, but what I want my coworkers, my friends, my clients, my dentist, and, hopefully, my children to see is my heart – that I love so deeply and so passionately. I want them to see that I am focused on loving and on the betterment of myself while bettering the lives of others. That is why I chose Social Work, after all. I can sincerely be the change that I want to see in the world by treating every person I come in contact with with respect, love and support.

There’s no need to plan out every detail of my future. A “Five Year Plan” is great in theory, but it will lead to disappointment or stress (or both). Yeah, I may end up in grad school after I graduate. I may take a year off. I may take a year in grad school. I may take two or more. I will do what I feel is best for me at the time, but through all of it, I will continue beautifying my heart – free it of stress and pain. Free it of the anger and burdens of the past. Because as my favorite singer, Taylor Swift, said, “And I now believe that walking through a lot of rainstorms gets you clean.”

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Special shout-out to KitKat: I love you and our conversations, whether on your couch or under the stars in Fenton. You are forever beautiful and I am so blessed to call you a friend. ♥

 

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.

SF  SF

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.