I was extremely nervous about what the 2019-2020 school year at the University of Kentucky would hold for me. One of the first hurdles I had to jump over was the reality that this was traditionally going to be my graduation year. I became a wildcat in August of 2016. At the time, I believed that I would follow the "normal" graduate in four years timeline associated with going to college. However, I didn't know that I would lose passion for the major I entered college to pursue. I also wasn't aware that I would wait until the end of first semester of my junior year to finally have the guts to change majors.
Although changing my major was one of the most stressful decisions I've ever had to make, it's been one of the best. But I knew that by doing it that late in my collegiate career meant that I wouldn't be graduating "on time." My parents helped me a lot in this transition. They reminded me that there is nothing wrong with staying in school longer, especially if it meant that I was pursuing a career I was truly passionate about. They gave me positive words of affirmation, prayed for me, and inspired me to keep pushing.
Another thing I faced at the start of this past school year was the fact that I had a lot on my plate. I was balancing two jobs, one as a newly appointed Resident Advisor and another working my third football season at Kroger Field. I was scared about how I would manage my new obligations and my schoolwork to say the least. I knew that being an RA came with a lot of responsibility and I didn't want to let my RD, co-workers, or my residents down because of everything I had going on.
However, I quickly realized that I could manage it all. It took a lot of trial and error, but I came up with a structured schedule centered around my RA duties. I fell in love with my building staff and with helping my residents out. Some days were definitely more rough than others, but I realized that I was getting the hang of my new academic lifestyle.
After Christmas break, I was super excited to get back on campus and back in the flow I had worked so hard to create in the first semester. My plans changed once the COVID-19 pandemic became the center of the world's attention. I had to shift my focus on maintaining my grades, showing up to work, and keeping my residents calm. The university transitioned to online classes. I also had my own fears during this time because as an out of state student, I had to figure out how I was going to complete the semester in Indiana.
Thankfully, my professors were all extremely considerate of the circumstances and made my transition easy. They pushed back due dates when I had computer problems and gave me solid advice when I experienced hardships. I'm also extremely grateful for my parents, who helped me move out of my dorm during the middle of a pandemic. They kept me calm during all of the chaos and motivated me to finish strong when I started doing all my schoolwork online.
So, in spite of the fact that this school year was nothing like I imagined it would be, I'm grateful for all that it taught me. I've learned that I can push through some of the most unexpected hardships and succeed no matter what. Even though I wanted to be a graduate this semester, I'm finally okay with the fact that I won't walk until May 2021. I've changed my perspective on being a fifth year college student. I now understand that college, just like life, is a marathon and not a sprint. And all that truly matters is that I embrace the journey and try my best to finish the strong, no matter the length.