This year, I have taken the time to reflect on my thoughts about JMU and my original mindset when coming to the university as a freshman. It's crazy how much things can change in just 365 days. As a rising freshman, I wasn't excited to come to JMU. I was thrilled about college, but not particularly James Madison. It's not that it was a bad school or anything, but I just wasn't as excited about it as my other friends were about going to their schools.
I had a bad first semester -- there's no way around that. I was in a major I told myself I loved but really didn't, I was questioning my sorority, I was missing home, and having a hard time adjusting to a new place. These are all things that people stress about more often then you think, so if you're in college and are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, a lot of us have been there!
About three weeks into my freshman Fall semester, I started my transfer application to two other schools in Virginia. Just twenty-one days and I was ready for something else. A community of over 24,000 people and I was ready to quit on it. How can I make up my mind about a place that was so new and I barely explored the school as a whole? I felt locked in my major and didn't feel passion for it, but just hoped it was myself adjusting to a new school.
I waited and waited for April to come so I could hear back from the schools that I sent transfer applications to. I let the National Championship, ADPi functions, philanthropy events, Choices, Spring Break, Greek Sing, and so many other incredible JMU events pass with part of me still waiting on the edge of my seat to see if I could leave. Saying I didn't take the time to open my eyes and just appreciate my surroundings is the biggest understatement.
Well, y'all know the story. I didn't end up transferring. If you want all of the details, you can read more here. Obviously, I'm back at JMU and in August I still wasn't thrilled to be back in Harrisonburg, but I was determined to change my views and was ready to seek out new experiences. You know the quote, "life begins at the end of your comfort zone"? That's exactly what I did. I went to the end of my comfort zone and that's where I started to see the absolute beauty in my school.
First I changed my major. Giving up job security was a big and scary step for me. The entire process of changing my major was stressful because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I also knew I was a rising sophomore and time to choose a major and graduate on time was running out. I decided on communications because it's universal and dips into business, PR, marketing, journalism, and human resources. There were so many options, I knew it was a safe bet. Little did I know, I would fall head over heels for public relations. Switching my major was the catalyst to having a successful sophomore year.
Football season rolled around and I was determined to make it to a few games. JMU had a great team this season and some of the games were such a blowout, I just stayed home truthfully. Sometimes I just needed a Saturday to do absolutely nothing. My parents also bought season tickets this year though, so they joined us every few weeks for tailgating which was such a treat. More tailgates, more football games, more memories made. The football season helped me fall more in love with my school. I loved experiencing the tailgate culture of students, alumni, and families. College Gameday was another football related event that increased my love for JMU. The atmosphere was electric and seeing the pride that everyone had for JMU, only fueled mine.
I also took the time this year to make friends with more girls in my sorority. It's a big chapter so even though we all know of each other, we don't all know each other. Even though yes, I have a group of a few very best friends, I made the effort to get to know more people on a more personal level then just seeing them at chapter and philanthropy events. I'm going to more ADPi events and overall, just getting to know people better. Doing this has significantly contributed to my feelings towards being in a sorority and my JMU experience.
My main problem with last year was my major, which we already talked about, but also me being secure in my friend group and not willing to branch out was another big issue. What did I do? I applied for clubs. I looked through all the clubs offered at JMU and decided on a few things. One, I decided to take on a semester long responsibility in ADPi where I can meet plenty of new members and it's only a few evenings of work a week, so it's very manageable. I'm really excited to get going on this position this semester!
I've touched on this briefly last week, but I applied to be a tour guide at JMU and to tryout for the club tennis team. The process to become a tour guide takes almost four months. You start applying the beginning of October to be accepted at the end of January, which is an extremely long amount of time to wait. It's a prestigious organization to be accepted into, so I was truthfully shocked to get in. With joining something like Student Ambassadors, it means I'm joining a group of 175 new people to meet. So far, everyone has been extremely kind and welcoming and has made me feel like a part of a family. I give my first tour in three weeks and am so excited to welcome new Dukes to JMU!
Finally, I joined club tennis. If you told me last year that I would be a club athlete at James Madison I wouldn't have believed you. I missed being on the court and being on a team, so I just went for it. It goes back to the quote I mentioned earlier -- trying out for tennis was just about as far outside my comfort zone I could get and I am so thrilled I did. I joined a team with some old teammates from high school, new friends I've never met before, and even girls I played against in high school. Practices aren't every single night, so I have plenty of time to spend a night in the library or watching the Bachelor, but I still have the opportunity to get on the court a few times a week, workout, and have a great time while doing so.
After expanding my horizons on JMU these past few months, so many things have become clear to me. Wherever you go, to whatever school, there will be great professors and horrible professors -- you just have to roll with that. Classes are mandatory. Go to class, learn as much as you can, try your best, and get that degree. There will be so many opportunities anywhere you go, but it's up to you as a student to take hold them. Try out for that team, submit your application to that organization, rush that sorority, go to that tailgate, and make friends with everyone.
I JMU for the opportunities the university has presented to me. I JMU for the warm welcome the community gave me last Fall, and the second chance it gave me as I gave it one, too. I JMU for the Fall tailgates, the gorgeous campus, and the on campus food 😛#bringDHallBack. I JMU for the communications program and how incredible the classes are. In fact, the plethora of majors we have to choose from is incredible. From food, to academics, athletics, opportunity, and community I can see that JMU was where I was supposed to end up all along.
Looking back, it's weird to think that just a year ago I hated where I went to school. It was a total "me" problem. I know I'm not the only one to feel unsure in their choice of school, and sometimes the best thing to do is transfer, but I didn't try hard enough back in the fall of 2016. This year, I made JMU my own, and it's hard to think I even thought about transferring. #godukes 💜💛