Before college, I had no idea that when people said college would be some of the best years of my life, they really, really meant it. I currently sit here, a quarantined graduate of Grand Valley State University, feeling very grateful for my four years. And being the nostalgic person I am, I decided to walk down memory lane today.
1. Getting dropped off.
My family and I had moved all of my stuff into Holton Hooker, GV's glamorous and brand spankin' new living center, before taking a trip to Meijer (a horrible idea during freshman move-in). When we got back, campus was so packed with traffic that we realized it'd be more trouble than it was worth to drop me off close to my dorm. As we sat on the main road through campus in gridlock traffic, I grabbed my Meijer bags and hopped out of the car with a quick ‘goodbye!’ from my parents. It doesn’t sound like a fun memory, but for some reason, it’s one of my favorites- and it definitely set the tone for the crazy adventure that'd take place over the next four years.
2. Spending a night in the sand dunes.
I was lucky enough to already know some upperclassmen at GV, some of whom are still my great friends. One Saturday night early on in September, we went to Rosy Mound in Grand Haven - right on the coast of beautiful Lake Michigan - and we slept in the sand dunes. This was my first time sleeping out in the open, and it was equal parts scary and relaxing. We line danced and swing danced by the fire, and I distinctly remember listening to someone sing and play 'Riptide' on the ukelele over, and over, and over again.
Apparently, I also saw a really cool hill.
3. My first mission trip.
In October of my freshman year, I made the ridiculously bold decision to sign up for a trip where I'd be spending 27 hours in a big van with a bunch of strangers to go to a church in Mescalero, New Mexico. Though I almost dropped out because I was terrified, this mission trip led me to meeting one of my very best friends, Sabrina, and reassured me that Grand Valley had the community that I was so deeply longing for. This also goes down in history as the longest car ride I've ever taken (1,498.6 miles, to be exact).
4. I started competing in pageants again.
This one always cracks me up, because I SWORE I was done with pageants. My sophomore year, I won the title of Miss Greater Kalamazoo. I was instantly surrounded with incredible new friends and a director, Beth Hughes, who loved me and cared for me SO much. Eventually, this led to another local title, which then led to me being first runner up at Miss Michigan in 2019. This journey has brought more joy, growth, and if we're being honest, stress than I ever would have thought - but I know I wouldn't be who I am now without it (Literally... I'm wearing a Miss America sweatshirt right now.)
5. My dad suffered a life-altering injury.
Not sure I'd call this one a favorite memory, but it was definitely formative. In January 2018, my dad fell from about 10 feet high, onto concrete. This fall shattered his hip, leading to several surgeries and weeks spent in the hospital. Praise God, my dad made a miraculous recovery - and the experience led to me changing my Social Impact Initiative, or the cause that I choose to promote while competing in pageants, to 'Give Blood, Give Life'. Being an advocate for blood donation has been so rewarding, as we've helped collect over 90 units of blood through hosting blood drives and our continued personal donations.
6. I joined Campus Ministry @ GV's worship team.
What I saw from the outside before auditioning for this worship team was a collection of ridiculously talented and intimidating people who led worship for college kids on Sunday nights. What I found after making the team was that yes, they were ridiculously talented - but they were also straight up the WEIRDEST people I've met in my entire life. They love making music and praising the Lord, and they love going to the Allendale Family Fare for chocolate milk after a service, even if it's midnight. To me, the time spent and memories formed with this team is more valuable than any class I could have taken. Without a doubt, making music and being dumb with this team is what I'm going to miss the most about college. (My favorite memory? Once we did a scavenger hunt together in a mall, and it ended in me getting a piercing so that my team would get the most points and win. You're welcome, team.)
7. I did a lot of other singing, too.
My pageant career definitely affords me a lot of awesome opportunities. In the last few years, I've sung for 5ks, pageants, a GVSU Basketball game, a Grand Rapids Griffins game, and most notably, Miss Michigan night with the Detroit Tigers!
Not many people know this, but performing at the Griffins game was my biggest solo performance EVER. Did I tell myself that right before performing, jinxing myself into singing the wrong words to 'God Bless America'? I absolutely did. I like to convince myself that everyone had already enjoyed their $2 beer and didn't notice.
8. Last but not least... I went to Jonesville, Virginia THREE TIMES!
This place, which you can find a picture of in the dictionary under ‘middle of nowhere’, has such a special place in my heart. Twice, I led mission trips there to Covenant Mountain Mission Bible Camp, and once over the summer, I hopped in the car with my best friends and we drove down to camp, just because we loved it so much and wanted to see our good friends Joe and Tammy again.
While I'm bummed that my four years at Grand Valley State University ended with me sitting in my bed quarantined, I can still say with confidence that they were the best four years of my life. Special shoutout to the faculty and staff who cared so deeply about me, the friends who walked through each season of life with me, and the comfortable seats in Mary Idema Pew Library.
Freshman year of adult life starts NOW!