My senior year of high school, I created a memory book reflecting on my high school years and beyond. As my undergraduate career comes to an end, I reflect on the people and experiences that made it all possible (you’ll have to forgive me as my memory of my first two years is lacking)…
Freshman year: I remember being so excited to move into my dorm. I lived on the fourth floor of the newly renovated Manzanita Hall with one roommate Alexa and we shared a bathroom with another set of roommates. I quite liked all the resources the building provided: a dining hall, a gym, study rooms and washing machines on every other floor, large lounges, kitchenettes and more. The space of the room was small and you literally never got any privacy, but that wasn’t so much an issue for me as the constant drunk nights my roommate had. It’s none of my business what she wants to do when she goes out, but when she throws up on the carpet of our room, it become my problem, too. Despite the fact that my roommate and I couldn’t be any more different, our time together went by pretty quickly (thank goodness). Two of my good friends freshman year lived on my floor: Landon (we hit it off through our mutual love of Stanley Kubrick films) and Nolan (who I actually met at orientation before I knew we lived on the same floor and were in the same class block).
I took all general classes my first year, but I remember chemistry being especially easy as I learned most everything taught in the first semester my senior year of high school. With that, I got the chance to informally tutor my peers, which I quite enjoyed. I don’t remember my classes being especially difficult, just not easy; the new university teaching style took some time to get used to.
I made a another notable friend from my class block, Armand, and was friendly with everyone else in the block as well. I went home quite frequently to see my best friends from home: Brett, Sydney and Lucee.
I got my first job as an usher halfway through freshman year at Gammage, the professional music theater on campus, that I still work at today. The first show I worked was Blue Man Group, where I was trained and got to know the other student workers. Everyone was so nice and welcoming and although the staff has had almost a complete turnover since then, most everyone who works there is still lovely.
Sophomore year: Second year, I lived in an on-campus apartment with my friend from high school, Andrea. She was a nice, quiet roommate that I got on with well. It was nice to live walking distance from campus and live in the same complex as Nolan.
I took my hardest class that year: organic chemistry. I did all I could but it just didn’t click. Fortunately, I ended up passing by 0.6%. Additionally, I took some women’s studies classes that landed themselves in my favorite university courses. It was nice to take a break from hard science and learn academically about other things that interest me.
At the beginning of the school year, I was hired at my second job: another ushering job with the School of Music. This job is a lot like my first one (which is part of the reason that I got hired, I image), but with smaller crowds and shorter events. It’s basically the “Diet Gammage.” I still work at this job today and like it a lot (again, although the student staff has had almost a complete turnover there, as well).
I also got into my first “research” lab. However, I didn’t do much hands-on work, just a lot of cleaning and mindless, repetitive work with flies such as sexing them and sorting them into tubes.
A lot of my sophomore year was focused on applying for study abroad and on following through with my application and other major documents. I originally tried to apply in the fall for a spring semester program at the University of Manchester, but the deadline came too quickly. I was disappointed. My study abroad advisor encouraged me to look into programs for my junior year and it was actually my dad who encouraged me to look into programs that last the whole year. With that, I scrambled to meet with advisors and shuffled around classes to make my year abroad possible.
Junior year: Before I knew it, I was at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England for my year abroad. I moved into my on campus accommodations a week before my school year started in mid-September (but not before I got the full experience of Fresher’s Week). I lived in a corridor and shared a kitchen and a few bathrooms with eleven other people. My room was quite cozy and included a sink so we weren’t always fighting over the bathrooms (although there will be blood if someone took the good shower at peak bathing hours). All my roommates were lovely (for the most part); I got on particularly well with Ben and we quickly became best friends. There were a few incidents of especially dirty dishes (such as a pot someone let mold over Christmas break), not taking out the trash, loudness and fighting for limited fridge and cupboard space, but all things considering, we did damn well for twelve university students living in such close quarters.
My courses and final exams were especially difficult as I struggled with the new way of teaching and grading, but all my professors were really open to helping me and answering any questions.
I made a lot of friends through Ben, including my now boyfriend, Daniel. For a while, it was myself, Ben, Dan, Andy and Ryan doing everything together, but once second semester came around, the group dynamics changed a little bit. Regardless, I still always had a great time meeting new people and going out (probably a bit more than I should have…). My other good friends included Kieran and Mirea who I met on my course, Alex who live din the hall perpendicular to mine, Dylan who I could always count on to come out and be my gig buddy and other friends around the island that I met online before coming across the pond. We loved clubbing, going to gigs, heading up to London for plays, protests and everything in between, trying new things, dining out, going to movies, exploring the seafront… you name it! We also valued hanging out with each other and just talking (over a pint, of course).
I was lucky enough to get to travel while I was abroad: all around the United Kingdom and to about a dozen other countries. I was also lucky enough to be accompanied by family members on some of these trips: I met up with my dad’s parents in Prague, got to trot around Germany with my mom’s dad and my dad visited me twice in Brighton while he was on business travel.
On a different note, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety while I was abroad during a particularly difficult time. Although it’s nice to think that every moment of my time abroad was this amazing adventure, it wasn’t. In fact, some days I couldn’t even get out of bed. Fortunately, my university had resources to help me emotionally and academically and I persisted. I can’t imagine my life without anti-depressants and am glad to be (mostly) functional again!
I had such a busy and fun rollercoaster of a year abroad, it was definitely the highlight of my undergraduate experience.
Senior year: The final stretch! This year has been a whirlwind of making up for credits I should have taken last year, involving myself in extracirriculars and working two jobs. This year, for the first time, I live about two miles off campus with three roommates (well, now two because one moved out unexpectedly without telling anyone). I love the size of my room, the facilities at my apartment and the location. I have no strong feelings about my roommates, except when they decided to literally scream at 4:00AM on a school night… not cool.
My first semester was crazy, packing on extra credit hours to make sure I graduate on time, but I found solace in two very interesting classes and their equally engaging professors: environmental ethics and conservation biology. During the fall semester, I also got a chance to mentor first year life science students and although the class was a drag, I like to think I made a difference by providing them with all sorts of resources and answering any questions they had. Finally, I also began research in the hummingbird lab. Since then, I’ve become especially interested in animal behavior, have gotten close with my mentor and lab partners and have become convinced that hummingbirds (and birds in general) are basically the coolest. Rick is a great mentor, researcher and person and working under him has been such a privilege, especially field work. Despite my heavy academic load, that was the first semester I made the Dean’s List!
This year, I also got involved with clubs and activities for the first time such as Central Arizona Chapter for the Society for Conservation of Biodiversity (C.A.C.S.C.B. for short), School of Life Science Ambassadors and field work through the Wetlands Ecosystem Ecology Lab. Needless to say, I’m a busy bee, but I enjoy it. My favorite ways to relax include hanging out with my good friends Ashley (my lab partner) and Jess (my old coworker) and whoever they bring along. I was friendly with a lot of my classmates and coworkers, but those were the only two people I got on especially well with. Not that I had time for any other social engagements.
I can’t believe how quickly these last four years have gone by and I also can’t believe that I’m graduating so soon and moving on to the next chapter of my life. I know it’s going to be a great one.