When I joined Her Campus, my first article was how transfer students were essentially Freshmen. I was a sophomore, but I felt like a freshman again. Now I am ~officially~ a senior and it’s time I share the journey to the diploma. I may have a whole year left, but I have so much experience to share. Let’s start with how I found out what I wanted to do.
When I was in 8th grade, I had a fantastic teacher. Mr. Finkill was my 8th grade homeroom and American Cultures teacher. Over the course of the year, I learned a lot and made a lot of memories. The jokes and teaching methods from his classroom are engraved into my brain. When I entered high school, I started excelling in social studies even more than I had been. By the time I was a Sophomore, the option for an internship application began for the Junior year. I shot my shot and emailed Mr. Finkill hoping he would remember me and take me on as his student intern. He accepted and then the following year, I spent every morning in his classroom. I did simple tasks at first like laminating, printing, organizing etc. At the end of the year, I asked if I could do this again. My second year became the year that I remember most. I began to teach small sections of class; I created my own lessons and kahoots and jeopardies. I was allowed to come up with worksheets or exit tickets. My second year allowed me to experience the classroom more. By the end of the year, my career was solidified, and I knew I was going to Roanoke College in beautiful Salem, Virginia. Though I had decided my college before senior year started, I was ready to move 4 hours away and be on my own. My parents were scared but I was determined to succeed there on my own.
Senior year was difficult on its own. I had some annoyingly hard classes. I was heavily involved in theater. My school days lasted from 7am to 11pm on some days in prime theater season. On top of that, my dad was sick with cancer. It was hard doing college visits. I had meetings in Salem for a school fellowship program that required 4 am wake ups and hotel rooms. It was already hard enough. In February of my senior year, I missed a week of school. My dad was sent to the hospital with an infection. He could either have a surgery that he would likely not live through, or we could wait and pray. My mother asked me and my brother what we should do, and we waited. Thank God that we did because that patience gave us another 2 years with him. He was able to see me graduate, go to prom, high school and celebrate my accomplishments. When I finished school, we were all able to go to Ecuador and visit my mom’s family. Everyone was so happy to see my dad, mom, brother and I again. My dad had the time of his life. Everyone knew that right when we came back from this trip, I was starting college.
My first year of college was not the typical frat parties and failing classes. I breezed through my courses and I made some friends at the start of my semester that I have kept today still. I dated some boys, had my heart hurt, but kept my studies at the forefront. I joined Relay for Life,it becoming a really important thing for me. But halfway through my first semester, my dad started to get more sick. I had to go home twice during the semester as an emergency. Without a car, my only option was to take a 7-hour train or have my mom drive the 300 miles to and from to get me to say the least, my parents didn’t see me often with that distance. One of my mentioned new friends Jack and his parents spent family weekend with me when my parents weren’t able to see me due to my dad being in the hospital again. After that semester, only my first in college, I decided I was going to transfer. By January of 2019, I was accepted to Millersville University, again. That second semester, I immersed myself in my studies and Relay. I spent my free time in the library or in my room. I ended up meeting a guy and he started taking up some extra time of mine as we hung out frequently and he introduced me to his friends who are now my friends (Hi Tyler). Eventually, I introduced him to my parents on the day of relay. He remains the only man I’ve dated that has met my parents and was liked by them. He and my dad had more in common than me and him. But ultimately by April, I moved home, and I was staying home. Long distance was tried and failed. My relay experience was one way for me to give back to my dad. I gave a speech, raised money and made sure the event went off without any problems. It was a fun experience that I am glad my mom and dad could be there with me for. It would be the first and last college event my dad would attend with me.
By Fall of 2019, I am starting my first semester at Millersville. I know a few people from high school, but nobody that I am friends with. I made my first real friend, Jake, through a surprise interaction. I joined Her Campus and I was throwing myself out there to make friends with females, something I am terrible at doing. I began to actually make friends though! Go me. Yay for friendships. School was actually harder now and I could no longer breeze through it. But yay for my studies challenging me more. Sometime in October, my parents decided to get remarried. We held a small backyard ceremony with our closest friends and family. I helped my mom find her original wedding veil and wedding book and ring carrier. Pastor Dave from Hospice married them in English and Spanish. It was a beautiful fall day with the leaves down but not too chilly. After the wedding, school resumed for me. I was also juggling a demanding job at a school. I loved my job, but I couldn’t handle school and home with it, so I quit. My shoulders were starting to feel the weight of my world collapse even with the support of my parents, friends and our Hospice team. But I couldn’t keep my head high forever.
On January 21st, 2020, the first day of my second semester, my dad died. One year ago today, he died. My education was one of the most important things in my life. It is the most important thing in my life, but at that time it wasn’t. I took a week off of school. I began commuting almost every other day after that for the first month. I didn’t care about my studies that much. I picked fights with some professors when it came to research topics or stubbornness. I would have my way with whatever I wanted because I was hurt. The denial stage of grief lasted a few weeks and then the anger settled in and did not go away for a few months. Anything set me off. Then, in March, the coronavirus pandemic took away the rest of that semester. I would never live in a dorm again. I won’t ever eat in campus dining again. I don’t know when I will next walk on campus with a backpack again. But through all of this first year, tragedy did not strike everywhere. In fall of 2019, I attended 2 conferences for social studies, one in Harrisburg and one in Austin, Texas. I also attended Her Campus’ College Fashion Week and my friendships with some Her Campus girls began to flourish. I got more and more serious about my career and my studies. With the terror of the pandemic looming through the world, I looked forward to my next semester of course I actually was excited for, which was just completed. I challenged myself with a difficult course load. All of my hard work paid off, as I made Dean’s List and now, I officially am a Senior. This semester I am pushing myself further. I have already begun looking at graduate schools. I will be looking to earn my Master’s in Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Later on, I potentially will get a Doctorate in History or Government or even in Education. I would like to be a professor after I work in public education for several years. HGTV has me knowing what type of house I want and what shades of paint make a room glow. I have learned more than I ever thought was necessary in this past year.
Though this journey is far from over, it was a defining journey for me. I am in therapy now to process everything that happened to me in these short 4 years because God really dumped a whole life of experience into one year for me. I have done things that I never thought would ever do at 18, 19, 20 years old. I have gone to hell and back in the shortest time. College is not at all what I thought it would’ve been, but I am so glad to have this experience in my life. I’m grateful to have my friends that I have met along the way. I love you Tyler, Jack, Jenna, Alexandra and Jake. I’m grateful to my friends from high school that have been with me start to finish. I love you Anna, Michael and Olivia. Though our journey isn’t over, I am sure that I can get through any ups and downs that life throws at me as long as I have the people I love by my side.
In memory of Jose Arvelo-Cruz, my dad.