I began my college career in "the safest city in America": Irvine, California, at every "Lord of the Rings" fan's dream school — the University of California, Irvine. I packed up my bags, and with my parents help, I loaded my entire life into our SUV. My mom, brother, and I embarked on the seven-hour journey to my new home, UCI.
Though I had always been the one to say that I couldn't wait to get out of my hometown, I was less than thrilled about starting this new chapter in my life. It may have been because I was only 17, and I didn't feel ready to leave the comforts of home, but it is safe to say that I didn't begin my college experience with a positive attitude.
My freshman year was chalked full of classes, studying (mostly cramming), friends, choir rehearsals, beach days, water polo tournaments, and an exorbitant amount of weekend train trips back home.
Even with all of the distractions I had at school, I found myself dissatisfied with the school and my experience. After the long school year away from home, I made the decision that I was not going to go back to UCI for my second year of college.
Alas, I moved back home, taught swim lessons for the summer, and when fall came around, I didn't go back to UCI. I was perfectly content with this situation, until I received a message from one of my water polo teammates who asked me when I was coming back to school.
Her message got me thinking about all of the friends that I was missing, the independence that I had given up, and I realized that I felt as if I was no longer moving forward with my life--as if I wasn't working toward anything.
That same night, I told my mom that I had decided that I was going to go back to UCI beginning after the New Year.
Fast forward to the present, I am now living with one of my best friends and her family near UCI. I have fallen in love with my school. It was love at second sight.
I am now able to appreciate the copious opportunities that are available to me at university. Being away at school has given me a renewed sense of independence. I have been able to reconnect with all of the amazing people that I was blessed to have become friends with last year and to meet new friends each day. Returning to my large research university has allowed me to be a part of something that is bigger than myself.
Since being back, I have engaged more so in my campus community. I have begun to get to know my TAs and professors by going to office hours. I have grown to appreciate the incredible people around me, who fill my everyday life with joy and laughter.
I am not saying that everybody should make the same decisions as I have; however, I do want to share and convey that my time away from UCI helped me to realize my true appreciation for not only the institution, but also for the people who I had left behind.
I want to thank my family and friends for allowing me the opportunity to follow my intuition because it has led me back to a place of happiness and love. I also want to express my gratitude to them for welcoming me back with open arms. I love you all so very much!