The car ride to Blacksburg in August 2013 was full of anxiety for me. I remember writing a letter to my best friend from home and 4-H in the back seat while crying, thinking moving away for college was a huge mistake and that I’d never see or talk to her again. I was convinced I’d lose all connections to home and I ruined everything I had by moving six hours away.
At this point, I had also told myself I was only going to join two organizations my first semester. This was due to my fear that I’d join too many organizations in college, be overcommitted, and drown in involvements. The good news is that I can say now that I’ve learned how to combat both of those fears and I’ve come to understand how to say “no” and how to stay connected to life at home in different ways since I’m not there often. These are only two of the things that college taught me.
Other things I’ve learned are how to cook, how to study effectively, how to be a good friend, how to lead with grace, how to challenge myself, how to do my taxes (thanks Dr. White), how the Cooperative Extension System works across the country, what half (or maybe a little more) of FFA’s acronyms stand for, and how fragile both technology and water bottles can be. I firmly believe in four years being the perfect amount of time for young people to learn, challenge themselves, experience adversity, get comfortable and then leave to experience new things, all while discovering their strengths, passions, and who they are.
Sometimes four years didn’t feel like enough time at a place as special as Virginia Tech. Right now is certainly one of those times as I look to football seasons where I won’t be sitting in North End Zone at any football games. Four years at VT means only four football seasons, The Big Events & Relays for Life, 3.2 Remembrance Runs, International Street Fairs, Ring Premieres & Ring Dances, first days of class in Litton-Reaves, and baseball seasons. It’s only four years to enjoy one of the best and happiest places in the country with incredible food, and it’s only four years of living in one of the most resilient, loving communities the world has ever seen.
My time at Virginia Tech hasn’t just been your average “college” experience, it’s grown me into a better person, friend, leader, and Hokie. Virginia Tech has given me the opportunity to fully love on others as a mentor and friend, to rediscover my faith through the love of others, to develop as a young professional through various programs, to connect with some of the most admirable and knowledgeable people in the state/commonwealth and country, and to become the person I believe I was meant to be. Virginia Tech itself is so unique and special that because of being here, I learned more than what I would have anywhere else…like how to live a life dedicated to serving others daily, how to honestly and truly be who I am and to love others who do the same, how to wholeheartedly forgive someone, how to encourage others, how to lead with a heart of grace, how to make every interaction count, how to never take an opportunity or day for granted, how to stay connected to others and show them you care, and how to be my best self.
I came to Virginia Tech thinking I had everything figured out and that I had a pretty decent head on my shoulders, which wasn’t entirely true. I’m broken. I need to ask for help. I’m not always right. I don’t execute things well every time I try. I don’t always react or try as best as I could. But the beauty in my time at Virginia Tech isn’t that I learned how “human” I really am, but that along the way, I was loved, I was learning, I was encouraged, and I was challenged. And because of that, I’ve come out on the other side of four years better and stronger than ever. What means the most to me about my Virginia Tech career is the relationships I’ve built with others. There are people from this community who know that I’d do anything for them at any point- now or in 50 years. It’s not my GPA or how many things I can put on my resume that matter most. It has been finding “home” in my friends that I love so deeply.
That’s what makes leaving so hard, yet so easy. I will always carry these connections with me (the easy part), but saying goodbye to the place that brought us together is dreadful, quite frankly. It will never be the same for me, but what encourages me is as my chapter in Blacksburg closes, thousands of new Hokies are about to embark in a life-giving, life-changing experience. And at the end of the day, Hokies are rooted in caring for and serving others, which means it’s now my turn to come back in another way and to serve as an alumnae so students can have the absolute best experience possible at Virginia Tech.
There are no words I can use to rightfully express how much the Hokie community and Hokie spirit mean to me, or how grateful I am for the people who have made these four years the most phenomenal ride I could’ve ever imagined. I’m eternally thankful to be a Hokie. And if you’re not sure of what a Hokie is, it means that I’m strong, I’m a servant leader, I’m innovative, I’m passionate, and I’m hardworking. And most of all, I’m proud. Thanks for being “home,” Blacksburg. I love you dearly.
With Hokie Spirit,