Elon: One down, three to go

Year one is done and I can’t believe I am a college sophomore already! This past year flew by and I know the next three years will too. I genuinely love being at Elon and I’m both happy and sad to have finished up my first year. I’ve been home for almost a month and I’m already ready to go back. I miss the people, the daily schedule, and my dear old oaks. Fun fact: Elon is Hebrew for “oak tree.”

Over Winter Break I took a quick trip to visit my grandpa in St. Louis with some friends. St. Louis is one of my favorite places and visiting always makes me feel more centered and calm about what is going on in my life. We had a great time and I’m happy we were able to go. Going out to NC was tough for me because I knew I was moving myself farther away from my grandfather. He’s the best listener and always makes me feel better when I’m feeling down.

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My second semester was both fun and crazy busy and I continued to learn more about myself along the way. Before I talk about my second semester though, I have to take a minute to talk about my Winter Term in January. A quick rundown: Winter Term is a three week term in January where students have the option to take one class, study abroad, or stay at home. Other schools around the country have a schedule like this, but many students at other schools don’t utilize it. At Elon, a large majority of students are participating in Elon programs during this time.

Through my Fellows Program, I was required to be on campus for this Winter Term to take an introduction to research class. We learned how to create a research question, find credible sources, and write a research paper. Although this wouldn’t have been my first choice on how to spend the month, it was definitely worth it. The class was hard and required an extensive amount of outside effort and work, but I feel much more prepared for the research I am required to do junior and senior year because of it. We did two mini-research projects and mine were on military film depictions and the opioid crisis’ effect on voting in the 2016 election. I enjoyed both and was proud of the final products.

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One of my favorite pictures: me and Mack in front of her future place of employment! 

The best part of Winter Term, and possibly my favorite part of the whole year, was our program trip to Washington DC. The fellows program paid for us to take a bus up, stay in a hotel, and have a metro card. Our professors also set up amazing tours and interviews for us to do throughout the week. I visited the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cook Political Report, the National Art Gallery, and so much more. We also had a lot of free time and independence to create our own schedules. I was able to meet up with family for dinner a couple times and wander around the city with friends. I became closer with my friends and got to meet a lot of other great people in my program. There are 50 of us and it was nice to bond with the people I’ll be with for the next three years. I also just love DC and hope to live there one day, so it was nice to get a feel for the city.

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Me and Nicole and Abe! 

At the end of Winter Term I had a five day break, so I came home to relax, refresh, visit friends, and celebrate my birthday with my family. The nice part about the January break is that the entire time I’m in college I will be home on or around my birthday. I went to visit friends at Ohio State during this time, and enjoyed seeing everyone and finally getting up to OSU’s campus. I liked the campus well enough, but that visit confirmed that a small school was the right decision for me. I freaked out immediately after driving on campus because of how crowded and big it was, if that tells you anything.

When I left to go back to school after this break, I had a really hard time. I think a large part of this was because I knew I wasn’t coming home again until the end of school. This meant I would be gone for four months and wasn’t sure when I would see my family next. Looking back, it was perfectly normal for me to feel this way, but at the time I was so mad at myself for getting upset, specifically going into my second semester of school. Now for second semester.

Class-wise, everything went well. I had a few classes I really enjoyed, and others that weren’t the best but were requirements. I ended with really good grades and decided to be an International Global Studies (Latin American concentration) and Spanish double major with a Communications minor. I’m still debating adding a History minor, but we will see if I have time.

I also tried out Air Force ROTC this past semester. There were parts of it I really enjoyed, and I loved becoming friends with the other Elon cadets, but I decided not to continue in the program for a few reasons. I am so happy I tried the program and experienced what ROTC is like. I put a lot of thought into the decision to start with the program as well as the decision to not continue on next year, and I am happy with how everything went.

 

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The Elon cadets before our dining out. 

Another important part of my semester was going to Houston to participate in hurricane recovery over Spring Break. I was very nervous about the trip at the beginning because I barely knew the other people on it and wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision to not go home. All of those nerves were for nothing though. Everyone on the trip was amazing and I made so many new friends. It was very rewarding and fulfilling to be able to meet people in the Houston community, hear their stories, and help them out. We bonded in a way only a trip of strangers doing physical work can. Texas has its own culture and feels like a totally different world. I ripped out drywall, took down molding, threw out personal belongings, slept on a cot, and had a great week. It was humbling to see the work that still needs to be done in Houston almost 9 months after Harvey. If anyone is considering participating in an Alternative Break trip of any kind, I highly encourage you to take the risk and go.

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Outside the first house we gutted. We spent two and a half days ripping everything out. 

My friendships only grew over the past semester, and I feel like I have a solid group amazing people that I can rely on. We are all from all across the country, which isn’t fun right now since we don’t get to see each other, but it creates a very interesting and diverse group. I continued to play club soccer and volunteer at Family Abuse Services and can’t wait to get back into the swing of things in the fall. I also grew closer with my Christian group and am hoping to find a permanent church home next year.

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We surprised a few friends with an early birthday brunch picnic right before exams!

This summer I am nannying and baby-sitting. I also have an internship in Senator Portman’s Cincinnati office. So far, I like it and I am happy to have the experience here before trying to get an internship or job in DC. My family is headed back to Edisto Island, SC for a week at the beach after a four year break and I couldn’t be more excited. We are also hosting our Spanish brother, Gianluca, for the month of July and I can’t wait to keep up on my Spanish with him.

In the fall I will be living in an on-campus apartment with my roommate and suite mates from this past year because we enjoyed living together enough to want to do it again. We are all excited to have our own kitchen and be able to cook and host more get togethers. I am looking forward to my classes and am anxious to do more work toward my eventual research project. I will have my car, which will be great for exploring the area and visiting family more often.

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Enjoying my smoothie, my hammock, and the NC weather! 

Elon has been such a blessing. I feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be and I am so excited about what the future holds. This past year has had many challenges but through them all I have learned that I am stronger than I think I am and that taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone is when I do my best. I have felt my confidence grow along with my trust in myself. I am happy to be home, but I am anxiously awaiting my return to NC so I can continue to find my way and get settled back into my second home. Long live Elon!

Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.

 

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