A year ago I found myself on a high. I was ready to graduate, get out of my hometown, and start a new life at the college of my dreams. Everything seemed to be going right. I was prepared for final exams. My 18th birthday was around the corner. Family and friends were planning graduation parties to celebrate end-of-the-year accomplishments, and my senior trip to Mexico couldn't come soon enough. If only the month of April could speed up any faster, I thought.

When May came along I didn't think I could keep up. While we had planned weeks in advance, every day spent having an event became exhausting. Having final exams during the middle of it all didn't help either. As senior class president, I enjoyed being able to represent my classmates throughout the year and watching everyone come together to receive their awards made my heart fill with joy. It's amazing to see what a year can do.

Upon graduation night I'll admit I was a little nervous. Everything I had learned up to that point had been defined by my childhood and high school experiences. The future was unknown, and I didn't know what step to take next. Some would say I thrived in high school. I thrived at being at the top of my class, kept a 4.0 GPA, was involved in a multitude of extracurricular activities, worked a part-time job, and still found time to spend with friends and family. However, my speech at commencement did not include bragging rights for me to explain all the good I did throughout my four years at Jacksonville High. After graduating, I felt extremely blessed that I had an amazing experience with memories to last a lifetime. I wouldn't be the person I am today without the encouragement from my family, friends, teachers, and school administrators who made high school a highlight of my life.

But my story doesn't end there. And neither should yours.

Being removed from the standard high school setting and seeing the world for what it has to offer, I would never go back again. Though it was an incredible four years, I know it wasn't the best four years of my life. Yes, I had fun learning new subjects and going to athletic events meeting new people and gaining more friends. It is the place I made many memories, good and bad. But I have learned so much more since receiving my diploma and walking across the stage.

Nothing compares to freshman year of college.

I always knew high school wasn't going to be where I peaked. I've had dreams and aspirations to major in public relations at The University of Alabama, and I've accomplished it. I wanted to make new friends, study new subjects, and attend football games at the best school in the nation. I've found my new home in Tuscaloosa, and I couldn't be more thankful that the Lord has sent me here to make a difference. Though it is exhausting to be a full-time college student working two jobs and be involved on campus, the love and support of a college community are unlike any other. In high school, you are around the same people 24/7, but at university, I meet new people with different perspectives every day.

A year ago, I found myself heading on a road with vision but not knowing which path to take. I thought about all the ways my senior year had changed me and what college had in store. 10/10 would have to say that freshman year was one for the books. I made a new identity for myself — to not care about what others think and to stay true to my own morals and beliefs. With perseverance and hard work, I have been able to accomplish my goals and work towards future ones. I've grown in my walk with Christ and asked him to mold me into a woman of God ready to spread his gospel and use me according to his purpose.

Life has a crazy way of working itself out, despite the fears and anxiety of what is to come. To any high school senior, my best piece of advice is to enjoy this time you have left to the fullest. You'll miss having your friends and family close to your side when you are at university. Spend this summer exploring and experiencing new things. This past year I finally gave myself a chance to start living in the present moment. In response, I have been rewarded beyond measure. I've had incredible experiences and met indescribable people. Today, I am blessed for what the future has in store and trust that God has great plans for my life.

Wow, how a year can make a difference.