I truly believe my first year of college was one of my best yet: I took four studio art courses and created work ALL the time, perfected the art of coffee-making through my work-study job at the SMFA Café, collaborated on ambitious projects, received a Dean’s research grant, and made an amazing group of friends.
A healthy mindset is key. I worked hard during my transition to college, and although the hard work did pay off, it took more than just work to give me a successful year. It was this mindset: “believe that everything will work itself out in the end the way it is meant to be.” It seemed that through homesick anxious fits, overwhelming imposter syndrome, and inevitable self-doubt, this mindset slipped away too often for my own good. Phone calls with my mom reminded me to be at peace with all that is beyond my ability to change. By enforcing and practicing a healthy and motivating mindset in your first year, the rest of college becomes manageable and less overwhelming.
Stretch your comfort zone. My Intro to Drawing Intensive class with Nan Freeman was the class in which I made the work I was most proud of, but felt most insecure in. Rather than quit and transfer classes, I knew my relationship with the professor was unmatched, and every day I am grateful for what she helped me realize was possible beyond self-doubting, like completing my life-sized drawing of an elephant. Nan and my supportive classmates encouraged me to apply for a Dean’s research grant, and I am grateful for the opportunity given to me despite my initial insecurity.
Seek out unexpected opportunities. When I started at SMFA, I struggled to find the right work-study job for me, until one afternoon I was in the atrium at the right place and right time. My friend pointed me to the manager of the SMFA Cafe and said that if I was interested in working, just walk up and introduce myself! A few days later, I had a huge smile on my face working my first job with incredibly friendly staff, who are now dear friends.
For me, the pandemic tested these three pieces of advice. When the school closed down due to COVID, the separation from friends, remote classes, and uncertainty were unbearable at first. But when I came out the other end better than I had anticipated, it hit me: things work out the way they work out. I have no control as to what the world will throw at me, but I have control over my response and my actions. I survived. It took a pandemic to reinforce this idea. I’m proud to have made it as far as I have and eager to see what I’m capable of in the future. My transition from high school to college was like growing wings and flying for the first time. Once I had taken that leap of faith, there was nothing stopping me. I am determined to take charge of my journey and pursue every single opportunity offered to me, no matter how small or unlikely they are to work out. And I am so happy to have been able to witness this pay off.