As I stumbled into Norris Hall one September afternoon, I scanned around for anyone that looked like they were just as lost or confused as I was. Days earlier, I had given my email to a very energetic president of the Virginia Tech Clay Target team and awaited the first meeting. I had no idea what to expect, picturing people adorned with camouflage, southern accents as heavy as syrup, and people only described as “agrarian”. When I crammed myself into a hot welding room, some people spoke, words that only blurred together from the summer heat. On the first day of practice, I mounted my gun confidently, yet quizzically, and fired at the soaring bird. Bang! I shattered the first bird. With a stupid grin and overconfident attitude, I thought, “Well fuck, this is pretty fun", and proceeded to miss almost every bird after that.

I never imagined that I would join the shooting team. As a runner and swimmer for pretty much my entire life, I imagined myself pursuing that in college. I once trained and even dreamed of swimming competitively in college; now, the thought makes me nauseous. As a lover of change, I wanted a change of pace; I wanted to try something new, exciting, and even daunting. When I heard about the Clay Target team at Hokie Focus, my interest peaked and my thoughts quickened. I had been shooting pistols for 5 years and thought that it would be an EASY transition (boy was I wrong). As the end of my freshman year and the shooting season comes to a close, I can’t help but ponder how much I have changed in such a short time, how much has happened in such a short time, how much I have learned in such a short time. I can’t help but say that the team has made the largest impact on my college experience thus far.

You don’t have to be a redneck to shoot. People of all walks of life, class, age, gender, and ability can and do shoot, even a little Fashion major like me. Not only have I learned how to obviously shoot a shotgun (quite an improvement from my first practice), but also, I have learned how to be a part of something bigger than myself, a team for lack of a better word. I have never felt that with any other sport, any other club or organization, or any other extended group of people. I constantly felt that I was just an outsider in something, but never a cog, working collectively together. They have taught me how to encourage others and constructively help someone without bringing them down. They have taught me that everyone, man or woman, has the same capability and potential as anyone else.They have brought me into this quirky little family and taught me that family doesn’t have to be blood, truly. They have taught me to empathize, to be compassionate, to open myself up and really form a connection with someone. I came into college, never believing that this is where I would make life-long friends. I learned that everything I came to Tech thinking was bullshit. I was so closed minded to enjoying the college experience, really hesitant to be a part of any Kum Ba Yah moment. Now, I can’t picture it any other way, with my fucked up, crazy, little family.

Thanks guys.