Finishing the First Year

This past year was my first year of college.  I did not have a typical first year of college.  This is the last class I need to become a sophomore.

I began my career at CC last summer during C block, before I had any sort of orientation for college.  I got off to a great start with that biology class.

I had been accepted to CC as a winterstart, so during my fall semester, I did a National Outdoor Leadership School semester in the Rockies.  It was an amazing experience–challenging mentally and physically.  Spending 90 days with the same people, in the remote wilderness, while learning technical skills, the essentials of survival, and how to be an outdoor leader and educator, was one of the most grueling and demanding tasks of my life.  I cried a lot during that semester, and there were points where I was considering quitting and going home.  But I stuck it out.  I truly returned from that experience a changed person, with the skills to overcome any challenge and a new perspective of the world and my life.

January arrived, and it was time for me to plunge into the world of college with 30 other winterstarts, in the middle of the school year.  Everyone knows being a winterstart is tough, and getting to know other people is quite a challenge.  I had the typical first month of college experience: confusing, fun, intense, scary, and somehow exhilarating.  The second month of school, the second half of my FYE, was not so typical.

At the very end of fifth block, I got very sick, made three visits to the ER in three weeks, and was unable to participate in class.  I barely knew anyone at school, my parents were back in Boston, I was terrified, alone, and could barely get out of bed.  I couldn’t take care of myself anymore.  The last week of sixth block, I flew home to recover for a week.  The stress of whether or not I would get credit for the first block of my FYE, during which I had worked so hard, pushed me over the edge.

I came back to CC for seventh block.  My health was still not great, and I was somewhat traumatized by how my first college semester had begun, but I enjoyed my class and finished it successfully.  Eighth block was a roller coaster.  Some great things happened that block, as well as some scary things that were happening back home in Boston.  I was ready for a much needed break; this was the last straw.  I wish I could have put more effort and focus into my classes, but I did the best I could under the circumstances I was in.  And that’s all that really matters, right?  No one can ask me to do any more than my best.

I finally came home, both relieved and also in utter shock at everything that I had experienced within the past year.  I had a nice break, but I was not yet a sophomore.  I needed one more credit: this class.

Shakespeare: my favorite subject of all time.  I  was SO excited to study the Bard in LONDON with two professors that I had only heard great things about.  I am glad I am here.  I can’t even think about the fact that this course is almost over. I have made new friends and have gotten to know my professors very well.  I have been submersed in Shakespeare culture and learned so much about England’s history.  By the end of this week, I will have studied seven of Shakespeare’s plays, and will have seen even more productions.  Thank heavens I can end my freshman year on a great note.

Sometimes I wish I could redo my freshman year because it was not at all how I imagined it might be.  But looking back,  I wouldn’t change anything.  Of course I’ve left out many details of my story,  but regardless of the little things, I have the option of viewing my freshman year of college in two ways: as a crazy, stressful year that did not go as planned and a time I want to forget, or as a year in which I hurdled an incredible amount of obstacles that made me grow stronger and more mature.

Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  I guess my life began this year, and I’m glad it did.  Now that I think about it, I hope every year pushes me beyond my comfort zone.  Luckily, I’m at the right place to do that.  I could not be at a better school with better people.  I know that my peers and the block plan will never fail to challenge me.

So…Shakespeare in London: a reminder of how much fun I can have during college while furthering my education.  The perfect end to an imperfect year?  I think yes.

The poppy: a flower that I’ve noticed is very prevalent in England.  In Millais’s famous Ophelia painting, the red poppies signify sleep and death.  They’re so pretty, and yet represent something so tragic.  These seemingly polar opposites, beauty and death (or life and death, success and struggle) almost always go together.  My freshman year of college=the wondrous, stupefying poppy flower?  Maybe…