In the wise words of Miley Cyrus, four years ago “I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan” ready to live my LA dream. Little did I know how much the journey would change me and bring incredible people into my life.
The first night at Oxy, I fell asleep in Stewie, cornered by two walls plastered with photos and memories. Although the transition period up until that moment was rocky, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort. What I didn’t know was that those feelings foreshadowed the next four years. College has brought all the pieces of my life together and helped me figure out who I am.
My first Friday night out, I was getting dressed and doing my makeup in a room full of girls I had barely met, heading to a party hosted by members of the swim team who I had just met the day before. It was so far from what I was used to, but I always felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
My relationships continued to grow as I settled in. Friends, teammates, professors, coaches, staff and The Occidental made this new place feel like home. At the Marketplace (MP) I was always greeted by the lovely staff who would ask how our morning practice was, even though we were always a group of hangry swimmers. These relationships have only continued to blossom over the years and through COVID-19. The other day, I walked to the MP and started chatting with staff members who we now know well. They shared how much they missed having us on campus and they were sad they weren’t going to get to say a proper goodbye to us. During these isolating times, it feels so special to know how much love and care these people have for us and that we have the same love and care for them.
Relationships with my professors were equally as important and I learned more about the world than I ever thought possible because of them. One of my favorite classes, Critical Race Theory in Education, with Professor LaMont Terry led me down the path to pursue my Master’s in education. I walked into class on the first day and was excited to see eight other lively women sitting in the classroom. By the end of the semester, the class became a space for us to reflect on ourselves and the people around us, while still putting goals into action and building relationships to help us heal emotionally. On the last day of class, multiple people ended up in tears after we presented our final projects.
Another moment that stands out for me was my first SCIAC meet where I qualified for finals in the 200- yard butterfly. As I was called up to the block, I remember looking to the other side of the pool and seeing a wave of orange and hearing loud cheers. It was my teammates, ready to cheer me on during my race as I had done for them. As a team, we had been through so much together. After 5:30 a.m. morning practices and Sunday morning lifts, we supported each other when it mattered most.
While college has been a beautiful four years, it has also come with many challenges. I spent many nights spent in friends’ dorm rooms, consoling one another as we took turns to rant or cry. There were times when I struggled balancing athletics and academics. There were times when I felt like I wanted to quit college. But I didn’t. I always got through these hard times because of the people around me who always helped me find my way. Teammates have become my lifelong family, professors spent time checking in with me and the ladies who cleaned our dorms always greeted me with the warmest smile and a cheery “good morning,” making my day no matter what.
That feeling of peace and comfort my first night was because I was exactly where I needed to be. I will never forget the late-night runs to Charlie’s Tacos, three-hour journalism classes with Professor Bob Sipchen, spontaneous weekend beach trips, team breakfasts and dinners at the MP after practices. I found so much joy and happiness in the small gems that popped up around me. I didn’t end up living the Hollywood-esque fantasy I expected, but I found a place and people who helped me learn to love myself. This is dedicated to my friends, professors, teammates, coaches and everyone else who has made these last four years unforgettable. I’ll miss you all.