Sunday, June 17, 2012

Junior Year

Junior year was when I really got to know Katie. We spent four and a half months together in Australia on our study abroad trip. Again, two of the best things I ever did (one – going to Oz; two – convincing Katie to come, not that she needed much convincing). I met more amazing friends, saw some epic works of nature (seriously, the Great Barrier Reef up close – that is epic), and had wonderful experiences. I think this trip could have taken my friendship with Katie two ways. We could have got to the point we couldn’t stand each other and wanted apart. Or, what it did, and made us even closer. This is when she really became my best friend. We had fun, went on adventures, got lost (*coughChinatownBrisbaneat4amSundaycough*), and studied our butts off (okay, only in one class really). We laughed at each other – me at her when she got the slowest scooter ever and her at me when she did better on a paper after a bottle of wine than I did with two weeks prep. Without her there, I think I would have still had fun, but not nearly as much as I did. Who else would convince me to skip lab to go to the aquarium? Or to play video games in the back of Australian History class?

When we returned to school, I spent more time hanging out with her than ever before. Spring eventually turned to summer. Instead of returning home to work as usual, I went home for a week before flying back to take my General Studies Senior Capstone. Once again, Katie proved how amazing and loyal she was when I received some of the worst news of my life. I’m not going to type that all over again, I will start crying, but Katie had driven to North Carolina a few hours before and offered to turn around and drive back that night. She didn’t, but I was touched by the offer. She (and our other friend Tori) were there when she got back.

I don’t know what I would have done without them. (Or Holly and Kelly – they were amazing that summer too!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Berea Three

After Christmas vacation, I settled in even more. Went to work (which still sucked), went to class (discovered I did not like Organic Chemistry), hung out with my slowly growing group of friends. That semester cemented my Biology-only major as well; the intro Education class didn’t fit around most of my lab classes and so I stuck to the sciences. The semester passed fairly quickly though I remember some highlights. Like my first Labor Day. And attacking the roommate of best friend two (let’s call her Katie) with nerf guns when she happened to be very drunk. And going job hunting for the next school year. Not only did I flat out refuse to stay in my freshman year position, my dear amazing office manager wanted me (and the other two students) out of a job I didn’t like.

Summer was a repeat of the year before, working on a fire (this one near Chester, California), saving money for the flight back to school, and hanging out with the friends I was slowly distancing myself from. It wasn’t on purpose or anything, but that’s what happened. We had different interests, different friends, and went to school in different states. By the time August rolled around, I was ready to go back to school. Not so much for the classes, though Botany became a favorite, but for the people. Those amazing people who had become my friends over the last semester.

When I arrived at Berea for the fall term, things were the same and things were new. Same place, same professors, new dorm, new work, new classes, and new people. First, I think, was the new work. Sophomore year was the year I started at the Berea College Learning Center. The two times before that I had been there it seemed like a fairly serious place. Little did I know that’s what they want you to think. I walked into the staff area to hear laughter. It was a bit unnerving and relaxing at the same time. On one hand, the LC, as most called it, was not the quiet, serious place I had believed it to be. But on the other hand, it was relaxed and soon became a favorite place of mine to be. And I got to work with Katie.

Then I met best friends three and four. Or three and three point five. I don’t know. They’re twins (you know who you are) and I had so much fun with them. For ease sake, I’ll call them Holly and Kelly. It’s hard not to smile or laugh when they are around. When I fell into my low points again, all I’d have to do it see them and I’d smile. Especially with calls of “Brandi Monster!” across the quad or even the street. Between them, Katie, and Mana (that’s friend one), I had finally found my place at Berea. I was comfortable and felt like I was in a second home.

As it always does, winter gave way to spring, but that year, it put up one hell of a fight. What is known as the Berea Blackout or the Berea Ice Storm or the many other names, hit with a vengeance. An inch of ice and no power for days. And one amazing Katie parent driving the six hours from North Carolina in three to come rescue us. That was the first time I spent at her house, but certainly not the last. We escaped Short Term finals. And survived to visit my uncle in New Orleans and return to kick butt in Classical Mythology. It shaped up to be a pretty eventful year.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Berea Adventure Part II

Now, I’ve heard people say that high school was the best years of their lives. They clearly never went to college and made the kind of friends I did. The kind that stick with you though all your bad moods, your homesickness, your panics, your joys, your craziness, everything. College was miles ahead of my experiences in high school. I can easily say that in high school, I only had one real friend. In college, I had at least four, two in my year, two in the year below. Though they shifted around a bit, my friends were always there for me. It took until Thanksgiving break that first semester to realize it, but they were there.

The weeks leading up to break were some of the worst of my life. I didn’t really hang out with anyone, didn’t have any solid friends yet. I was homesick. Classes were hard. Work sucked. I wanted to go home. Mom said I had to stick it out until Christmas and then she wouldn’t make me go back; I could transfer to another school if I wanted. But Thanksgiving changed some things. I went home with a friend and spent the weekend in a family environment. Though I wasn’t one of the six siblings running around, it still felt like a home. I think that’s what I needed. I went back to school in better spirits and finished the semester on a high note. I had a true friend and was getting to know her friends; friends that soon became some of my best friends.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but sitting in chemistry at eight o’clock in the morning that first semester, I met two of my best friends. One who would come through immediately; she’s the one I spent Thanksgiving with. The other I would spend a lot longer getting to know, not really calling her my best friend until our junior year. But I will never forget how I actually got to know her.

We were walking down to our first day of lab. I was quiet, shy, and nervous. Doubts plagued my mind. What if I fail? My high school chemistry was more theoretical and less experimental. What do I do? And then there she was. Very enthusiastically asking if I had a partner. It was all I could really do to shake my head before she had my arm and we were walking into lab together. I knew nothing of this crazy person except she had reached out to me. Reflecting back on it, that was probably one of the best decisions I ever made, being her partner that day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Beginning of the Berea Adventure

They tell you to go to college. To get a degree. You’ll get better jobs straight out of school than you would with just your high school diploma. What they don’t tell you is the job won’t be had straight after graduation. And while you’re looking for that job and waiting on phone calls, you’ll be struggling to live, be it on your own or back under your parents’ roof. I was one such person.

All my life I wanted to do just one thing; I wanted to teach. To teach you have to have at least one degree, if not more. But I was the oldest of three in a family where only one parent worked. My step-dad was a stay at home dad and my mom worked all day. I worked during the summers and a bit after school to help out; the usual high school jobs, babysitting, tutoring, staff at the local kids club, and wildfire support. Okay, so maybe wildfire support isn’t so typical, but it paid good money. Needless to say, even with me working, we were a relatively poor family. My mom always told me that if I wanted to go to college, a thing she thought I definitely should do, I had to pay my own way.

Junior year and the summer before senior year were spent doing college research, when I wasn’t gone on fire, which was a lot that year. I wanted a really good education, but on a budget and lots of scholarships. I had a decent list until I started on criteria I wanted. Good education program and biology department? Done. Scholarships awarded on need and grades? Check. Low fees outside tuition? Oh dear. There weren’t that many to pick from. But one did catch my interest. Top comprehensive school in the South, high interest in education and biology, tuition and fees per year - $500.

Whoa! Wait a minute! Tuition and fees only five-hundred dollars? That has got to be a typo; surely they meant $5,000 or even $50,000. It was a private school. Research showed that the book was correct. They meant $500. Private school catering to those in need.  3.8 GPA and 1100 SAT score required. Highly selective.

I was still slightly skeptical, but the school looked amazing and who was I to say no to a new opportunity. The waiting nearly drove me insane. Months passed and four other acceptance letters came before I heard from this school. I got in. I was over the moon before that thing called reality set in again. I was going to fly across the country to a school, to a state, I had never been to. I’d be stuck there whether I want to or not for at least a semester. On one hand, the idea was utterly terrifying, but on the other, it was the start of a thrilling adventure. And what an adventure it was.