Today, my students, who are incoming freshman, had to spend some time thinking about the impact that they will have on our campus and the impact that the campus will have on them and turn it into a letter. I realized that this was something I hadn’t nearly spent enough time thinking about and I thought I should do the assignment as well. What kind of impact has the campus made on me and what impact have I had on it? What can I still do with my time here? So, here is the letter I wrote to my university.
To My Beloved University,
When I moved here to start school as a bright-eyed 18-year-old curious about the world, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what to bring. My first year, I did fall into a depression. I felt like I didn’t belong because I didn’t party like everyone else in my dorm seemed to and I didn’t know how else to make friends. This was only made worse by being in an accident in my Freshman year that landed me in a back brace for the remainder of my Freshman year. The outcast became further outcasted. Now, I was that girl from Whitney Hall who wore a back brace. I spent a lot of time in my dorm room studying, playing tetris (Netflix streaming wasn’t a thing yet), and wanting to transfer or dropout. My first semester I got straight A’s, but my second semester, I struggled to stay afloat. I didn’t yet know what I brought to the table and I didn’t yet know what college would bring to me. I stuck it out and really turned the tables around. It turned out that the next few years at college would be some of the best ones of my life. I fell so much in love with the town and the school that I moved away for three years just to come back to graduate school here because I missed it.
Even coming back as a graduate student, I wasn’t sure what I would bring to the university. I was older and I wasn’t sure how I would fit in. I had been close with a lot of the English majors and people in the department in my undergraduate years and I was worried that it wouldn’t be the same. Turns out, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to find my place. I found people and I connected. I fell right in with the coursework and the expectations of being a graduate student. I ran for president of our graduate student council and I won. I started teaching my own Freshman English courses. I did all of the grad student-y things.
I’ve been a part of this campus for quite a long time and it seems silly that I would just now be thinking of the impact that I have made on campus. Yes, the campus has had a pretty big impact on me – it has helped define my dreams, realize my responsibility, made me an all around better person – but how have I impacted it? I think I have done a lot of little things in our campus community, but have I done anything “monumentous”? I’ve worked many jobs and taught many students, been a part of many clubs, known a lot of people, but my impacts have probably been mostly on individuals. It’s mostly the individuals that have impacted me, too, such as professors and students. Even the larger events, like the teach-ins and such, have had such an impact thanks to the individuals who spoke at them.
In terms of how the campus impacted me – well, to be honest, in high school when I was getting pretty much all C’s, I thought college wasn’t for me. My first year and a half or so at my college were a struggle, but I soon found out that college was for me. It was so for me that I decided to pursue a course of graduate study. It’s made me a better, more understanding person. It’s challenged the beliefs I had coming from a very gender-normative, more conservative community and made me realize my worth. It’s made me learn to stand up for myself and stand united with others who stand up for their rights. It’s made me learn how to work well with others, even though I STILL hate group projects.
So, how have I impacted the campus? How do I plan to impact the campus with the little time that I have left? I think my small impacts make a big difference. The best way that I think I make an impact is that I am a huge believer in writing thank you cards and will write one for just about every occasion I can think of. I write faculty thank yous when they go just the extra mile to help me and staff members, too, even though they insist that they are only doing their job, but I appreciate that and they deserve the recognition. I write students personalized thank yous at the end of each semester. I acknowledge a lot of the little things and celebrate others’ (and my own) accomplishments, no matter how small. I try to bring positivity to every situation that I can. In my office, I have these little pop-up cards that have positive quotes on them and last semester, in my English EOP group, I gave each student one when our group was going through a particularly hard time. On the last day of class, one of my students mentioned how much that little gesture had meant to them and that they kept that little card in their wallet. I try to be a support to everyone in any way that I can. I try to be as inclusive as I can of everyone and try to make sure all of my students and the other graduate students know that my door is always open for support and for the most part, I think they know that, although I can be quite loud in class sometimes so I am sure that some of them just think I’m obnoxious (being the youngest of four siblings, I have to be loud sometimes and I have the bad habit of interrupting others). I also try to participate in different campus activities that I am interested in and that let me be a “social justice warrior”. I think the best way that I can make an impact on this campus is to just keep doing what I am doing.
Even if I haven’t actually changed the physical space of the campus, I have made a difference by impacting its students, faculty, staff, etc. And, in return, it has helped me believe in myself and my dreams and instilled in me this drive to “not give up and not be a quitter no matter how bad I just want to fall on my face and collapse.” College has made me realize my self worth and has helped me to believe in myself, even though that’s hard. Even now, when I get good grades, I do go through small bouts of doubt where I think “Did I deserve this? Or did I get the good grade because the professor likes me and thought my paper sucked but felt bad?” The imposter syndrome is real, but I still inch forward towards my dreams and set out what I want to accomplish. Chico has done that to me. In Chico, there has always been the support I need to succeed. Because of Chico, I can go forth and conquer my goals.
So, thank you, Chico, for giving me the experience that you have. I look forward to spending my remaining time here and seeing what else I can do for the campus and what the campus can do for me.