In less than a week, I will be calling Italy home for six weeks. ITALY. Aside from eating pasta and drinking wine (which I will indeed be doing), I’ll be learning about a completely different culture and experiencing things that I can’t even fathom as I sit at my kitchen counter. Six days and one ten-hour flight stretch between myself and the birthplace of the Renaissance. When I signed up for Italian 101 this past fall, I had no idea it would be my first step toward the capital of the country. I figured it would be fun– which it was– but I didn’t think it would be something I would fall quite so deeply into. 101 turned into 102, bringing me halfway through the language proficiency required for my major. Those classes were bringing me closer toward something else, too: an Italian minor that I didn’t even realize was part of the plan. 

This year has been one of tremendous change and growth (and no, I’m not just talking about getting a tattoo or cutting my hair). Looking back at my incredible second year of college, I see myself farther down the road toward that ambiguous new journey of “adulthood.” Choosing to study abroad was at first purely adrenaline and excitement, but it also meant landing in an entirely new country on my own. It’s bizarre to think that I’ll be so far from home for what seems like so long, but it’s also exhilarating to have the chance to leap into an opportunity like travelling abroad to take classes.

As I continue to find my footing onward I become increasingly mesmerized by the opportunities within my reach. Words like “study abroad,” “undergraduate research,” “internship,” “double major,” and “college upperclassmen” are things that I wouldn’t have thought to apply to myself at the beginning of this school year, yet they’re things that I am now adding to my repertoire. I talk a lot about getting to know the person I am, and it’s becoming clearer that the person I’m becoming will probably wear many hats.

I came into my sophomore year an English major (creative writing concentration) with a Math minor. After taking multivariable calculus my fall semester, it became clear that while I had the capacity to do math, I had absolutely no passion for it. Dropping that portion of my degree, I added on a Philosophy minor– something I had the capacity as well as the passion for. It only took one day of my logic class to realize I had made the right choice (and I could now outline a standard-form argument as to why). While my GPA suffered a minor blow because of that fall semester calc class, it taught me an important lesson: I need to stick with what I’m passionate about and not with what I think someone wants to see from me. Choosing to push math aside in favor of something that worked for me, I also pushed aside the need for a paper credential to define or validate my abilities.

Speaking of passion and validation, this year was also the first time I took any classes on creative writing. I’ve always just kind of gone with my gut, but being in an environment of fellow writers showed me how much more there is to learn about my chosen craft. It also showed me the importance of a community to hear from in order to learn what you’re doing right and what changes can take a piece from good to better to great. It wasn’t always easy when it felt like there was more I was doing “wrong” than “right,” but struggling through those moments of self-doubt (and realizing there is not “right” and “wrong” in creativity), I found my self-confidence. I found in myself someone with the courage to share a piece of writing instead of just letting it collect dust in her hard drive, which gave me the chance to see the first play I’d written since middle school performed on a stage. Someone wanted to share my words, which reminded me exactly why I do what I do– to share what I have to say and connect with those who listen.

Writing needs to be a little cocky, because you have to  believe what you’re saying is worth hearing if you want anyone else to. That confidence led me to an internship with the opportunity to do more of what I love: writing, creating, improving, and learning. It’s strange to think I’ll be an intern this spring, since those kinds of things always seemed reserved for “adults” or “upperclassmen,” but maybe I’m starting to fit those descriptions, too. Without the creative families of both Intro to Fiction Writing and Intro to Playwriting, I would not have had the chance to learn so much about myself as I began to discover the writer I hope one day to be. Both families were different, but both were special and will be pieces of my college experience that I prize the most.

Through my fiction writing family, I found someone I didn’t know I was looking for, and through him I found another pathway forward. I found that there was more to me than just an aspiring novelist (or playwright, or poet); soon, I was encapsulated by the technical side of what I could do with my talents. I began to wonder if maybe there need to be room on my transcript for a Professional Writing major, too. Before I knew it, I was part of a research team and knee deep in questions about web accessibility and what we could do to make a difference not only at our school, but in our community. It became clear that I needed to make some space for another piece of my writing puzzle. With both of those pieces, I began to see a complete picture of myself as a writer.

As the year began to draw to a close, there was the inevitable rush to plan for the next year (and in my case, plan for two weeks later when I could officially call myself “world traveler”). Now research, two majors, a minor, and a spring internship were part of my plan, but there was still a question mark plastered on the pages of my story– what about Italian? I would be done with my requirement at the end of the following year, but I wasn’t sure that I would be ready to finish off that chapter. A little reconnaissance later, and I was convinced– maybe two minors were part of the equation.  I promise, I’m not crazy– just a chick with some extra room in her schedule and a few different passions to fill it.

There are a lot of new (and exciting) things in my life as I move forward into a new phase of my college experience. This week (!), I will take a step into one that will take me to a new place with new cultures and a chance to see a piece of the world. Sometimes it feels like everything has to be planned out from start to finish, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my first two years of college, it’s that the only thing you can plan on is change. If you had asked me when I was 18 where I thought I would be in two years, I probably wouldn’t have predicted a single thing accurately. Each step I’ve taken has pointed me in directions impossible to map out, no matter how small. Walking into Italian 101 translated into a new minor and a study abroad trip, both of which I definitely had not planned on… but somehow they were exactly the destinations I was looking for. 

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