By Alec Brewer
Jumping Blind. Imagine that you’re in a plane, well in fact, you’re standing in the open doorway of a plane. The plane is also in the air. Did I mention it’s dark? A voice tells you that it’s time to jump, so naturally you get a little nervous. “C’mon, it’s simple. A kid could do it. Hop out and pull the cord. See what happens.”
Well now at least you know you have a parachute…ostensibly. So you resolve that you have what it takes to do this and you jump. You jump far, so as to make sure the propellers don’t eat you, and you pull your chute cord immediately upon exiting the door so as to give yourself plenty of time to grease your landing and air for your chute to flair.
This is what I tried to do in my freshman and sophomore years of college. My tour here began with an April visit to Pitt-Bradford when I was a high school senior. I thought the campus was beautiful and modern, and I had faith that as a Pitt campus, Bradford had the technical and metaphysical gumption, institutionally, to instill in me what I needed for success in the professional world, all while I received a stellar under-grad education.
It’s not that I’m saying I was wrong, I was just ignorant. I came here in August 2014 as a student for the first time with one set of expectations. With these expectations, I brought with me accompanying fears, gimmicks, values, memories, and experiences. In the course of the last two years, about to finish my sophomore year, I’ve lost some of the aforementioned and gained others.
I had never lived away from home and was afraid of being on my own. Now I begrudge returning to the relatively dependent lifestyle I find myself in when I go home. I was afraid to make new friends as I had shared my life with more or less the same eight people throughout middle and high school, and I was leaving them behind, four hours away. My current fear is about whether I can get an internship I can use for grad school and my chances of pursuing my career as a historian.
In college, I’ve met many new and different people and now have good friends from over eight different countries. I’ve dabbled in two new languages, Chinese and Japanese, and sharpened my fluency in my second language, German. At the same time, I became more active in college. I volunteered with the Asian Culture Association, teaching schoolkids preliminary Japanese, I served as a VISA mentor for international students at Pitt-Bradford, and I worked with the Academic Advising Center helping undeclared students choose a major.
Friends have encouraged me to improve myself; my roommate and I had a running routine in fall term of this year and my German friend influenced me to learn more about working out. With the Germans I went whitewater kayaking and with my housemates I played woodsball for the first time. I also had to face social problems and grow to foster a more mature, less emotional perspective–in lay terms, I had to grow up. I got into plenty of fights with friends and colleagues and resolving them taught me how to deal with people better. My failures in all of these cases taught me far more than my successes, as it’s better, in my opinion, to learn from mistakes rather than overzealously congratulate yourself on success.
Landing fast. I think it goes without saying that I’m proud of myself. I have a high GPA and I’ve discovered abilities that I didn’t know I had. I think though that the single most important experiences I have had at Pitt-Bradford were interactions with foreign students and incorrigible colleagues. I’ve always loved meeting foreigners, since even before I started learning German at fourteen in middle school. Discussions with foreign people allow me to step outside of the American perspective and look outside of my own inherent bias that comes with subscribing to one frame of reference.
Living and working with people who live differently than I do, don’t share my opinions, and sometimes outright piss me off is good for me. It teaches me conflict resolution in a way that no book or class can. To put it simply, how to resolve issues, big and small, without resorting to violence or name-calling. In addition to this, (and in my opinion, most importantly) I’ve learned who, and ultimately what, is not worth losing sleep or sacrificing air for.
So now, in March of 2016, I can hold my head high and regard my foray in Bradford as a success. As I prepare myself this spring term to transfer schools next fall, I can be confident that not only can I do it, but I’ll do it well and have fun in the process. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet some new, interesting people–and as usual, I’ll find time to learn something new about myself.