This is an essay I had to write for my capstone class. The only instructions were to write a self reflective essay on how I have changed since the beginning of college. I have fixed it a bit, revised and edited it for class, but here it is in raw form. I just wanted to share because it means alot to me to realized just how much I really have changed since freshman year:
When I graduated high school, I was a small town girl with no idea of the world. I had never stepped a foot outside the United States. I didn’t know the beauty of diversity. I didn’t understand that there were ways of life beyond that of a small town girl from Heber, Arizona. My parents had provided me with many opportunities, yet I had never experienced much of life on my own.
My first day of college, I had no idea what to expect. Stereotypical, yes, but true. I guess I figured it would be like high school, only glorified. For a while, it was. My classes weren’t particularly difficult. I didn’t drink or party or waste away my life being irresponsible. Although I did enjoy the freedoms of living on my own, I still had the self control to do homework, go to work, and maintain a social life. I had good grades and I worked hard. I knew what I wanted to do with my career; I knew who I wanted to be.
I was a business major, accounting in particular. I chose accounting because I liked numbers; I chose business because I liked men in suits (clearly I was very mature). I had never had a challenge when it came to school. I came to NAU on scholarship, part of which required me to have high grades. It wasn’t hard for me to attain high grades. School came natural to me.
Sometime during the second semester of my freshman year, my friend suggested we study abroad. I had no obligations and nothing to hold me down so I thought, “sure, let’s do it.” I chose to study in Italy. I chose it because I knew it was a beautiful place (and for no other reason). Who knew it would end up being the most amazing and life changing experience of my life.
I went to Italy just a small town girl. I went not fully realizing the challenges that lay ahead. I had never been anywhere where the people didn’t speak English. I had never been anywhere I couldn’t contact my mother whenever I decided to do so. I had never been given free rein to explore. I had never been in a situation where I felt fear, and had to use myself and my own instincts to overcome and remove myself from the situation. I had never been anywhere that tested my faith. I had never been anywhere that challenged my ability to think for myself. I had never fully taken care of myself.
Once I got to Italy, I realized nobody understood what I was saying. I realized I had no idea where I was going. I realized I couldn’t communicate asking for directions. I realized that certain gestures that were appropriate to an Italian felt completely inappropriate to me. I was irritated with the people for not understanding me. I was annoyed they couldn’t speak to me in ways I could understand. I was fearful I might be put in a compromising situation because I couldn’t read street signs. I was afraid. I was tested and pushed to the limit, and yet I was alive with the joys and pains I felt by being there.
I taught myself to love the Italians. I learned to embrace the language barrier because that meant we had something to learn from each other. I learned that the world does not revolve around me. I learned there is more to the world than Heber, Arizona. I learned to travel by myself. I learned to be aware of less than safe situations. I learned to buy a plane ticket and book a hotel room. I learned to use languages and gestures that I was not accustomed to. I learned to be adventurous. I learned to accept and embrace culture. I learned to pull myself out of bed and take myself to church. I taught myself how to cook because I couldn’t just call my mother on a whim and ask a recipe. I learned so many things about the world that I had never known before. I learned just how big the world really is.
I also learned to love and appreciate my family. I learned to love the times we are together, and to appreciate the ability I have to be in constant contact with them. I learned that I love the United States of America. I learned I am patriotic. I learned just how much I loved the wide open spaces and the pine trees. I learned that as beautiful as it was to find new culture, it was also beautiful to be home.
Upon returning to the US, I jumped right back in to school at NAU. I continued to work hard and get good grades, until accounting 302. I had taken accounting classes before, and done decent in them. Not my best work, but I figured it was just the aftershock of taking a semester off and moving abroad. But accounting 302, that was another story. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I hated school. I was never happy in it. I was miserable every day that I had to attend class. I couldn’t figure out the change in myself. I loved school, why was I feeling this way? Then one day it just came to me, “I don’t like accounting.”
That was not acceptable. I was going to be an accountant. Everyone knew I was going to be an accountant, and I couldn’t let them down. I am good with numbers, I have to like accounting. I went back and forth in my mind for several weeks over the topic. I didn’t know what to do, but all the time I was miserable. At the time, I had 18 credit hours. One day, I just decided to drop my accounting class. If I decided to go back, I could start over and retake the class. I f not, maybe that was my answer. After dropping the class, I realized that was what was making me miserable. I was so much happier without it!
So there I had it. I was no longer an accounting major. Where to go from there? I didn’t want to move out of the college of business because I was about 3 years in to it at that point. It wasn’t until I took Bizblock that I realized I wanted to be in marketing. It was the creative side of business, it was so fitting! I loved it; it was the best part of my week to be in marketing classes.
The change that took place in me as a result of changing my major was the realization that I had to be happy in my career, even if that meant telling people I couldn’t handle accounting. I learned to not worry what other people thought, and to do what was best for me. I learned that you can be good at something, and not enjoy it. I learned that college is more than just gaining an education; college is also a pre-step in deciding the rest of your life. Are you going to do what people expect of you, even if it makes you unhappy? Or will you find the courage in yourself to do what you want to do, what is best for you? I learned to do the latter, and I am so happy with my major choice as a result.
My senior year of college, I moved to Orlando for an internship at Disneyworld. I completed the college program there. When I moved to Orlando, I had never lived in such a big city before. I had never been so pressured to smile so much. I had never been taught appropriate customer service skills. I had never seen so much of the United States. I had never helped make anyone’s dreams come true. Disney gave me all of these experiences. I learned how to respond to frustrated guests. I learned how to calm a crying child. I learned how to love children. I learned how to keep smiling all day long no matter what. I learned that by simply playing the part, I was part of the magic of the Disney Company. I also learned the importance of the business side of life. I learned how a company should treat its employees. I learned how employees should treat the company they work for. I learned to trust and respect my overhead. I learned to voice my opinion. I learned to think for myself when finding solutions to problems. I learned to work in high stress situations calmly.
When I arrived home from Disney, I was once again thrown back in to school at NAU. This time it was harder. This time is was senior year. My classes were hard. My professors expected more of me. I didn’t feel like I had more to give. I felt so mentally drained after 4 years of college, and I was ready to be done. Because of this, I learned to push through these rough times. I learned to persist when I feel I have nothing left to give. I learned to keep moving forward when I feel it is time to quit. I learned I have it in me to succeed when I doubt my abilities.
So, here I am now. I am a second semester senior in college. In 10 or so short weeks I will be graduating. I WILL BE GRADUATING. I will receive a piece of paper that represents everything I have just shared. I will receive that confirmation that all I have been through was for a purpose. I will be able to walk up to somebody and say, “I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration in Marketing from Northern Arizona University.” Although that statement might mean little to some, to me it means the entire world. It means I have pushed myself to the limit and come out on top. It means I have taken advantage of the opportunities life has presented me with, and made something of myself. It means I have gone against all odds and succeeded. It means I have the world at my fingertips, to do with what I will. It means I can choose to be whatever I want to be because I have put in the time and effort to learn all I need to be a college graduate.
The biggest change I have seen in myself since my days as a measly little freshman from Heber, Arizona, since I was the girl who had never really been anywhere and had never experienced much about life is that I have learned. I have spent many hours with my face in a textbook and my seat in a classroom, but more importantly I have learned about life. I have learned who I am and who I want to be. I have learned more about the world than I ever knew before. I have learned to have courage. I have learned to have faith in myself. I have learned to seize the day, and take full advantage of every opportunity. I have learned to enjoy life, and to be happy. I have learned that college is not about graduation day, it is about all those hardworking days I spent to get there. It is about all the time I spent in Italy, in Orlando; it is about the time I spent deciding which major would make me the happiest. It is about the lessons I learned to get there. I have learned to find joy in the journey of life. I have learned to embrace people, places, and situations. I have learned that even the worst of situations can teach you the best lessons, as long as you are looking for the right message.
I am not the small town girl I was when I came to NAU. I still have those roots inside of me, but I have seen more of the world. I have had experiences. I have taken care of myself. I have grown and changed in more ways than just learning material in classes; I have been shaped and molded to someone who can survive in the world. I have learned life skills that can only be found by pushing yourself to get a degree. I have learned who I really am, Misty Dunny, college graduate, class of 2010.