Approximately three weeks from now, I will be a graduate from the greatest university in the country, (I’m biased and I’m sure some poll says otherwise) but these four years have taught me so much more about myself than I ever could have imagined. I am genuinely proud of the person that I have become, but I’m more anxious to discover who I will be without the title “student” looming over me.

Four years ago, I took a momentous leap of faith and came to LSU. I’m originally from Dallas, Texas and am the world’s biggest homebody. I have a fierce love for my family, and up until I went to college, I felt like I couldn’t function without them. Originally, I planned to attend TCU, but it was 20 minutes from my parents’ house and I knew I would always go home, which would hinder my ability to make friends and truly have the quintessential college experience. On top of that, TCU is a private university, so why not get more bang for my buck and leave the state?

I chose LSU on a whim. I’m a planner and felt like I needed back-ups and safety schools, and yet LSU was the only school where I finished my entire application. It was fate — and a leap of faith, because I was accepted on December 19, 2012 and never looked back. From that point on, I didn’t look at other schools and didn’t bother filling out other applications; I was leaving for Louisiana. Each time I visited Baton Rouge, I fell more in love. LSU is an SEC school known for its dominant presence in football and baseball, and as a sports fan, that was a huge draw for me. On top of that, there’s Mardi Gras and crawfish, two things much harder to come by back home.

But when I arrived, things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows. My orientation was filled with kids who had known each other for years and none of them seemed too keen to make new friends, not to mention, I was shy. I felt a little out of place but clung to the hope that I would have one friend from back home who was also coming to school here, so I had one person to count on. Then, life happened. I declared as a kinesiology major with hopes of becoming a physical therapist, yet I failed to realize that science made up a very large part of this major, and it was never a subject that I excelled in. I was frustrated because I wasn’t the straight-A student that I was in high school, and I was becoming increasingly homesick. In addition to that, my grandmother was battling cancer and it felt like my world was crumbling around me. By midterms, I was looking up schools in Texas so I could be closer to home. My dad, the king of tough love, insisted that if I made this choice, I should stick with it. The semester ended awfully, but I returned to LSU for the spring on academic probation and it lit the biggest fire under my ass that I had to do better so I could stay in school.

I changed my major, and in that moment, I felt like I changed my life. Communication studies essentially examines why people say what they say and the tones or methods they use to say it, which was a perfect fit for me. My grades were wonderful and I felt like I found what worked for me. As you can see, I stuck it out and made things work.

As I prepare to enter the next stage of my life, I asked my parents for guidance and my dad told me that he didn’t know me as well as he did when I was 18 and still living at home, so it would be hard for him to give accurate advice. Until that point, I felt like I was the same person since birth, failing to realize that my experiences would shape and change me. So, here I am today. Despite bumps in the roads and a few other cases of self-doubt, I will be crossing the stage in three weeks and cannot wait to see what life has in store for me.

I can only hope that I will grow stronger in my faith and continue to pursue my goals with the confidence that I had when I initially applied to LSU. So here’s to graduating, embracing change, and becoming the woman that God set out for me to be — I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

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