Never thought I'd be here..but I'm sure glad I am.

So the other day I was sitting in class, and it really hit me that I graduate college in seven months.  Not only that, but I'm graduating from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  You see, I was against going to UT my whole life until I started considering it my junior year of high school.  I had a tough time deciding between UT and another school.  I was scared to make the wrong decision, but I am incredibly thankful I ended up at UT and can't imagine my life had I gone anywhere else.

I wanted to go to Belmont University in Nashville my whole life.  My grandma, mom and big brother all went there, and it's close to home.  I've always loved home and thought going to school 30 minutes away was all I could handle.  My dislike of UT all started when I was in first grade.  My teacher was obsessed with the Vols, and the room was decked out in orange, white and everything UT.  It was just too obnoxious for me.  My family isn't into sports, so I didn't grow up a UT fan.  As I grew up, I began to think of UT as a party school and decided that just wasn't for me.  I ended up going on a tour with a friend, and my mind was completely opened.  I loved the big school atmosphere and how the campus almost felt like its own city.  I also went on a tour of Belmont that year and just couldn't feel the same.  It's a beautiful school that I have nothing against, but I just didn't feel like I belonged.  Suddenly, I became turned off by the idea of a small school.  I came from a high school where everybody knew everybody and their business, and I was ready to get away from that.  I was really confused, though.  I would spend agonizing nights making pros and cons lists.  Was I really going to abandon the school I had always wanted to go to my whole life?  It was a lot more expensive than UT, and I would have many of the same opportunities at both schools.  I think I wanted to go to Belmont to stay close to home and because it was really all I knew.  I judged UT from the outside, but once my mind was opened by actually being on the campus, I felt an indescribable feeling that told me that was where I belonged.

Now as a senior looking back, I know this is where I was meant to be.  I've had a lot of good times and some bad times.  Growing up is fun and hard at the same time.  I'm so different, and my life is so different than it was four years ago that it's pretty crazy to think about.  If I could go back in time to my high school self and explain how things are right now, my high school self would have never believed me.  However, I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I know every twist and turn has led me to where I am now and will carry me into my future.

First, I've talked about this a lot in past posts, but I've had the honor of being a member and leader of the Kappa chapter of Phi Mu Fraternity.  I was so on the fence about rushing and joining a sorority my freshman year and didn't end up joining until sophomore year.  Not only have I had great experiences and opportunities presented to me through Phi Mu, but I've met some of my best friends.  I'm still close with my friends from home and never thought I'd find very good friends here.  I have Phi Mu to think for most of my support system here, including my roommates, Rachel and Lauren, and our best friend neighbors, Kaeli, Caitlin and Lauren.  I can't imagine spending date parties, football games and game nights without these girls.

Next, I know I chose the right major at the right school.  I came into school as a PR major and haven't wavered.  Everything I've taken advantage of through UT's PR program has further affirmed that I made the right decision when choosing my career path.  Besides learning about the field, I met another one of my close friends, Jordan, through my major.  Our lives - from personal things to our career ambitions - are so similar, and sometimes I feel like she's the only person who understands those things about me, because she's going through them as well.  I had the pleasure of having Dr. Abbey Levenshus as my PR writing teacher last semester, and she has become a role model and mentor for me who has taught me so much about what I need to know once I venture into the real world.  I've learned so much through UT's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, and I've already gained a lot from being president this school year.

All the things that have made up my college experience at UT have pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone in order to dream bigger and work harder than I ever thought possible.  I know that being here has given me the courage to do things I never thought I'd do and that my life is richer than I could have imagined.  I'm so thankful I listened to my heart when it came to deciding my college, and I'll continue to do the same as I take my steps into the world and have to decide where I'll live and work once I graduate.


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