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Photo Credit: Leanna Rice

“You kids are going to change the world.”

This random father’s optimistic words are the first ones I hear after I pass under the Arch. Parents and students alike line both sides of the path, creating a see of purple. They’re cheering and yelling and whistling, all for us. Any lingering doubt I’d been feeling about transferring here eases into thin air. I have never felt this way before, especially not at my previous college. This was it. I was home. 

After months of feeling alone, scared and inadequate – like a failure who couldn’t adjust to college, or do anything right, for that matter – this feeling of belonging was so foreign to me. It was something I had been longing for, but didn’t think I deserved. Little did this father know, but his comment had just meant the world to me; so much so that I still think about it to this day. 

Photo Credit: Leanna Rice

The magic of March Through the Arch was just the beginning of my roller coaster journey to where I am today. To some people, college is just college and they never stop to think about what it’s teaching them and how it’s shaping them. As someone who took a huge leap of faith to start all over here, I think about these things every day.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that no school is perfect. There are going to be bad days, bad weeks and even bad quarters. I’ve learned, however, that no matter how bad things can get, there is good in everything. I’m a notoriously pessimistic person, but after transferring here, I make an effort to see positives where I can. When classes get hard, I think back to how bored I was at my old school and how I got used to giving the bare minimum and didn’t take pride in any of my work. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I think, “Well, a year ago I would’ve given anything to have so many things going on in my life.” This positive outlook has gotten me through all the tough times I’ve had here. I’m grateful for everything about this school, even the negative parts. 

Another thing I learned is that failing at something doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. I felt like the biggest failure during freshman year when everyone else was making friends, having fun and loving college and I just…wasn’t. I felt like there was something wrong with me, something that I couldn’t fix, and that this was something that would stay with me forever. It got to a point where I couldn’t even imagine being happy again. That all changed when I got to Northwestern. It was hard for me to believe that a simple change of atmosphere could rid me of all these qualms, but it did. I wasn’t a failure anymore. Suddenly, I was someone who was going to “change the world.” 

This newfound mindset has helped me deal with the everyday failures of life. Bad grades and job rejections used to absolutely traumatize me, but now I’ve come to realize that things happen. No one can be perfect all the time. And in the grand scheme of things, all the failures won’t matter as much as all the successes. At one point in time, freshman year felt like my biggest failure, and it is now part of what I think of as my biggest victory. It has also helped me be more gentle with myself and not attribute all failures to a flaw in my character. I have learned to forgive myself, because I’m doing my best.

On top of all that, I think the most important thing I learned is that things have a way of getting better. Things will always be OK, even if it doesn’t feel like it now. I would call my mom every night at my old school, crying to her about how I’d ruined my life. She would always say, with full confidence, it’s going to be OK. I never believed her, not even once. This may sound cliche, but I really did think that there was no way things would ever turn around and that I was doomed to be unhappy forever.

Looking back at that now, I realize how wrong I was. I was so focused on being negative that I didn’t see the potential for what could be. I knew that I felt like a failure, like someone good things just didn’t happen to. I never let myself think about what good the future could hold. 

Now, all I do is think about the possibilities that lie ahead of me. For the first time in my life, I feel empowered. I feel like I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it, and that I deserve good things to happen to me. I feel like, no matter what’s going on now, there is something to smile about on the horizon, even if I don’t see it yet. It is this mindset that I am most proud to have achieved. I feel like I can change the world.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

So, when I say transferring changed my life, I mean it. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to make my own happiness. I wouldn’t be confident in my abilities. I wouldn’t have ever started believing in myself. I can say with full certainty that I wouldn’t be half the person I am today, without all the lessons that transferring taught me. 

Leanna Rice

Northwestern '20

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