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When something has always been a part of your life, it’s hard to be thankful for it. Normality is the killer of gratitude. Even so, that’s how it was for me when I came to college. Growing up in the suburbs, my whole life was centered around community. I had gone to neighborhood playgroups, I swam on the neighborhood swim team, and I went to the local schools. Community was at the very core of how I lived my life, which meant that I never had to go looking for a place to belong because I already had one.

But then I got to college and everyone started encouraging us freshmen to “find our place.” This didn’t make sense to me because I thought I had a place. I was a Hokie, I was a part of the Virginia Tech community. What I didn’t understand, but know now, is that community is something you have to establish. You have to choose what things you want to be a part of and who you want to be around. Because I had always been a part of a community, I didn’t know that this was a task I had to actively take part in. But having done so these past few years, I have become much more grateful for the community I have formed than I ever realized was possible.

I started with small steps trying to find my place at Virginia Tech. I joined a couple of clubs, I went to school sponsored events, and I talked to anyone and everyone I could. I have found that most people are nice enough to hold a conversation while waiting in the dining hall lines and I kid you not, those are some of the best conversations I have had. Simply talking to different people did a lot for my feeling of community. My confidence grew by being able to relate to so many people based on the fact that we have all had similar experiences as Virginia Tech students. It also introduced me to different communities that I would have never heard of if someone else hadn’t brought them up – the school has over 800 organizations, there really is something for everyone. Taking these small steps helped me discover what I liked and what I didn’t like about different communities on campus, and ultimately helped me decide what I wanted my community to look like.

Personally, I feel that my community is quite diverse. I spend a lot of time in the English department because of my majors and interests, but the faculty and students within it have encouraged me to have experiences outside my studies. I’ve tried out different clubs like swim club, The Big Event, Glossolalia, Wug club, Sigma Tau Delta, horticulture club — which is funny seeing as I am a plant killer — and many others to find which groups I fit in to. I didn’t stay in all the clubs I tried out, although I did stay in quite a few. But that was the great thing about the process of finding community. I wasn’t held to just one atmosphere and I could explore as many groups as I wanted to until I found my footing and even afterwards.

By being able to choose my community, I have gained an incredible amount of respect for the people around me. There’s always something to learn from someone, all you have to do is listen. I have also gained an appreciation for the process of finding one’s place within a larger group. We are all Hokies, but our communities within the Hokie Nation are what make our contributions to the university that much more special. Ultimately, I’ve learned what it feels like to be thankful for the community I am a part of. I am thankful for my community back home, as a Hokie, and the one I have chosen. Creating a space to belong to took time and effort. I’ve learned that you have to be patient in order to start feeling like you belong somewhere because it’s not a feeling you can force. Taking this time to “find your place,” is a lot of fun and you will learn a lot along the way about why creating community is so important. To me, it was important because it was the first time I ever was able to find my own place, which now makes me thankful for all the communities I have ever been a part of but didn’t recognize how valuable they were at the time. The process also allows me now to recognize and be thankful for the community I have built. So, thank you to those who have been a part of my community, have chosen me to be a part of theirs, to those I have crossed paths with along the way.

Amanda Kraemer

Virginia Tech '23

Junior studying creative writing, professional and technical Writing, and English pre-education, with a language science minor. Adores reading books, listening to music, viewing art, and studying language. Also, an avid Disney lover, determined to see the magic in everything.
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