As I’m sure most students do, I came to college with high expectations. Everyone claimed it was so much better than high school, which sounded great, because in all honesty I loved high school. Mostly because I had found my niche. I was a Gleek before being a gleek became cool. The theater and the drama room were like my second home. I could always go there and hang out with people I loved and I always had fun. But college was going to be better, so I heard, and I thought I would find my niche just as easily as in high school. I wasn’t majoring in theater, so it would be something different, but that was okay.

I decided not to rush a sorority even though all of my friends were. I really wanted to focus on school and the honors classes I was taking. Since I’m from northwest Arkansas I already knew a lot of people here, so I wasn’t as interested in getting involved as other students are.

I did try to join a few organizations that interested me including Stumo, Habitat for Humanity and Invisible Children. They were all great but not exactly what I wanted. I didn’t meet new people that I automatically clicked with and knew I would be friends with for life.

I knew I needed to get involved with my major. Originally a broadcast journalism major, I wanted to volunteer at UATV. A journalism alum talked to one of my classes about how his biggest regret was not getting involved in student media until his junior year. Okay, I thought, I don’t want that to be me. But lo and behold, it was. I wouldn’t call myself a shy person, but I’m also not one to just step foot into a new situation knowing absolutely no one. One of my biggest fears in life is that I will go somewhere new and I won’t fit in. So, my fear held me out of doing anything within the journalism department for two years.

Ironically, it was my study abroad trip to South Africa (where I knew no one) that opened the door for me to start writing for The Traveler. My tent mate was Bailey McBride, then news editor for The Traveler. She persistently encouraged me and another (now the assistant features editor) to apply for The Traveler when we got home- exactly what I needed to get involved, a familiar face.

As they say, the rest is history. I began writing for the features section of The Traveler and in all honesty, I was still terrified, but loved it. And now, in my senior year I’ve finally found my niche. The Traveler office is my second home. The people there are some of my best friends that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’ve gotten so much experience that will help me in life even if I don’t become a journalist, and most importantly, I’ve had so much fun.

If only I had found this my freshman year, I truly believe my college experience would have been 10 times better. (Not that I can complain because it’s been pretty great.) I can’t change the past, but I can share my story so other students don’t do what I did. These are supposed to be your best years, and you are supposed to meet lifelong friends, so don’t let fear rule your life.

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