Guest Writer: Jake Mills
Reaching back to freshman year is a stretch for some. Time seems to fly by so quickly, but when you look back, much of it is seems so far away. There are those pieces of memory, those priceless moments, however, that have or will shape who you will become as a student and person. As a senior looking back, those moments are all too clear.
When I first arrived on campus as a freshman back in 2014, I could not have felt more out of place. Taking some liberty on a well-known Star Wars quote, “The fear is strong with this one” is probably the best way to describe how I was feeling at the time.
I had dropped out of college a year and a half before due to family illness and a poor fit at the college I was in. On a last minute decision—two weeks before classes started—I decided to come to AU, the school that my grandparents, dad, aunt and uncle had all attended in the past.
This was my second chance and a new start. But honestly, I had no idea what I was doing in the middle of Indiana, miles from home, with nothing but what I could fit in my parents’ car, a blanket knitted by my grandmother and something called ‘Raven Dollars’ to supply all of my possible needs and wants.
This was a new place, with new faces to learn and new fears to conquer. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I was going to make this place my own and conquer those fears, I would have find my home away from home.
Home away from home is not just a place. It was the person or people to count on and share experiences, joys and even sorrows with. I was lucky in this area.
Within the first week of classes, I found one of the people who would stick with me until the end. Not only did we share a LART class, we suffered through freshman English together, an experience that included many papers and a horrible all-nighter, which, in all honesty, probably contained more goofing off than anything. But we survived, and even managed to pass.
Over this experience, I soon realized that I had found my people. This task had caused me more worry than was probably necessary. I found the person who I could count on to always have a “SpongeBob” quote for every experience life could throw at us.
My next step was to find that place I could call my own.
This place could have been anywhere. It could be a dorm room, a corner in the library, a car or even Mounds Mall if you’re brave enough to spend any amount of time there. The place on campus that I found, however, was the Kissinger Learning Center.
The KLC soon became like a second home to me. I had a few friends who worked there and after hanging around there so much, Tammy Stewart finally offered me a job. This turned into one of the most uplifting experiences of my college career.
The KLC staff became like family, allowing me to have a place to express joys and sorrows. They even kept tabs on my well-being, encouraged me to be the best I could be and fed me more often than not.
In many ways, they helped me become the person I am today. As a graduating senior, I will be sad to leave these people for my next adventure, but I will be forever grateful for all they have done for me.
The people I have met throughout my college career have, and still are, changing my life for the better. They have taught me to overcome fears, embrace diversity and accept change as a positive part of life. As this chapter of my life closes, I will continue to use these lessons to live the best life I can.
This is part of my experience, but it is far from the only one. Everyone has their own story, their own fears and their own place they call home. If you have not yet found your place on this campus, don’t give up. Your place is out there and, though it might take time, the destination is well worth the journey.
Jake is a senior history major from Columbiana, Ohio.