Opinion: A reflection on four years

I’m set to graduate in May, and I don’t know what is coming next. Anybody else in similar shoes? Anybody else desperately want to leave and desperately want to stay at the same time? 

I’m feeling sentimental some these days as I cling to my college memories and try to finish my WCU bucket list. I have been looking back on the past few years, and I’d encourage others to do the same. Things have changed and it hasn’t been the smoothest ride, but it has been a good one. 

It hasn’t always been set in stone. I came to WCU to study physical therapy… then I failed chemistry. I did a one-eighty and started studying journalism. I like it. It feels like a better fit for me, but your college career might change. That’s fine. You need to be able to meet change and roll with it. However, I would also encourage people to take chances and try new things, especially while they’re here. 

Say what you will about Western, some things I think it has down pat are the resources and opportunities for engagement it has offered and the faculty. These have really positively impacted my experience here. There were campus trips, arts, entertainment, ice cream socials, craft nights, sports, education, and recreation.  

WCU offers an incredible arts scene. Bardo frequently alternates exhibits, the Mountain Heritage Center does the same. Theater majors and Film and TV majors all present their cumulative work. Side note, consider checking out the Controlled Chaos Film Festival in May. The gym, especially the rock wall, kept me active and allowed me to literally work through my mental health. I am glad I got a GroupX pass, but I wish I would have used it more. The Last Minute Production events always lighten the mood. Then there was the faculty that largely kept me here. 

I had professors that encouraged me to give back to the community. I had professors continue to push me to grow and yet still believe in me, even when I was giving up on myself or burnt out or struggling with mental health. I am thankful to the professors and advisors especially who have helped me along my college career. The feedback and belief helped me. Many of them are the reasons I didn’t transfer when times got tough and my Western experience wasn’t the best. I’m thankful I was able to form relationships with many of the professors in my departments, and Western’s faculty-student ratio helped a lot. It allowed me to turn to them so they could better help me and push me forward. 

There’s a lot I wish I did, some I wish I didn’t do. One thing I’m glad I did is put myself out there and get involved. I wish I had done more earlier, but I finally got involved my senior year. Running the paper and being in clubs gave me new experiences and kept things meaningful. Western has a lot to offer. There are fun events and incredibly moving arts that are usually free or cheap for students. Going to these can be a great break from class, a good way to get out and refresh yourself, and maybe a good way to meet new people. 

It was a lot at times, but at times it was worth it. I think it can be worth it for others, too. I would really encourage people to get involved and explore the area around us. There are tons of river outlets, parkway exits, great food trucks, and surprising stores. Just leave the areas better than you found them, and obviously be careful. Water-related deaths and injuries, as well as other recreation injuries, can be serious. 

I don’t know what’s next in my journey, but I’m glad this has been part of it for the past four years. There have been some ups and downs, but something kept pulling me back. This part has been mostly enjoyable. I think that an enjoyable life is the key. Here’s to seeking and grabbing enjoyment. Here’s to trying to find enjoyment wherever you are.  

Thank you to the friends I made who helped me stay sane. Thank you to the happenings that kept me engaged. Thank you to the professors who pushed me to advance. 

Have fun, be involved, be safe, and take care of yourself. Thanks for some enjoyable memories. So long, Cats.