Our ride is coming to an end, my friends, and what a wild one it has been. I’m not usually one for grandiose, sentimental moments, but I suppose there’s room for an exception.

Growing up I thought my college years would be full of wild nights, crazy friends, eccentric professors and homework on homework on homework, which they were. But reminiscing, my fondest memories are the colorful trees on Old Main lawn, that one professor who taught me to dream big and think outside the box, $4 martini night at The Wine Cellar, that one assignment I got a B on (I knew it deserved an A), that impromptu road trip, Traveler staff potlucks, all of Joe’s Lord of the Rings bobbleheads, that time I stumbled across Chad’s high school band’s Myspace page, bottomless cups of coffee at Arsaga’s at the Depot, when I moved into my first apartment, when I saw my first story published, the first day of my internship and the day I found out I was accepted in the Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism graduate program.

The memories go on and on, but most of them involve The Traveler, the valuable friendships I’ve made here, or accomplishments I’ve made as a young journalist. I cherish the friendships and connections I’ve made here during my four years, but I’m excited to close this chapter of my life and start the next.

I’ll be moving to Chicago in September for graduate school, and while I’m nervous about moving hours away from my friends, family, and essentially displacing myself from everything I’ve ever known, I’m excited to be doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing.

Dream big. There’s nothing more rewarding than accomplishing something you never dreamed you could. I’m from a small Arkansas town of less than 2,500 people. My high school graduating class was 102. Of that class, fewer than half went on to college or technical school, and even fewer will ever graduate.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t let anything stand in my way. If there’s something I want to achieve, I’m determined to achieve it. If you’d asked me four years ago what I thought I would go on to do after graduation, I probably wouldn’t have had an answer beyond, “Hopefully I’ll be working!” Sad, but true.

If you ask me now what I’m doing after I graduate, I have a firm answer. I know what I want to do. I know what I need to do to achieve it. I know where I want to go. And I know how to get there. Despite the long hours, strict time commitment and high stress, my time at The Traveler has played an important role in helping navigate me in my future plans.

Take advantage of the time you have left here at the UA. I know people say it all the time, but there’s really no better way to get to know people, to make professional connections, to learn valuable communication skills and to learn what you want to do with your life than by surrounding yourself with people who have your interests.

I got involved with The Traveler in the spring semester of my sophomore year. Since then, I worked as a news writer, the assistant news editor, eventually became the managing editor of the publication and  worked a news reporting internship. Now I’ve been accepted to one of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. for journalism. I’m truly blessed, and I owe almost all of it to the connections I’ve made, the professors who’ve mentored me and all those late nights I spent in the basement of Kimpel in The Traveler office. Like I said, I’m blessed beyond words.

All of this is to say, don’t be afraid to move onto bigger things. Don’t be afraid to do something different than everyone else. One small leap of faith could lead to something extraordinary. Go against the grain. Don’t be reflection of what everyone expects of you.

You never know what you can achieve until you take that leap of faith and try. There will always be a million reasons why you shouldn’t do something, and you’re the only person who can truly decide where you’re life will end up. Don’t sit idly by while you’re life passes by, hoping eventually you’ll accomplish the things you hoped you would. Be active in your dreams.

Growing up and moving on are not one in the same. Everyone grows up, but only those truly courageous take that leap of faith and move on to achieve their dreams. Wherever you go, the UA will always be your Alma Mater. Dive in head first and see where the currents take you. More than likely, you’ll end up somewhere beautifully unexpected achieving dreams you never knew you had.

Brittany Nims is a graduating print journalism major, attending graduate school at Northwestern University in the fall.

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