If you told me 6 years ago where I would be today, I would not have believed you. High school was not a walk in the park for me. Life happened, personal challenges arose and I didn’t even end up walking at my graduation. Directly after graduation in 2007, I got a job at a local bank and enrolled in a few classes at Nash Community. The instructors were wonderful, but I struggled balancing my personal life and academics. I was straight out of high school and unsure what I wanted to major in —what I wanted to dedicate years of formal education to. Business, Art, English, Science? All of these subjects interested me but nothing left me wanting more. I knew something had to change and that I needed to search for an answer. It was that so called “opportunity paralysis” that pushed me to make a change. I decided to save my money, and to go exploring.
I cut back here and there, and slowly found ways to save. I’d seen it in the movies; I’d seen photographs of a beautiful and vast wilderness, surrounded by the Tasman Sea that they called New Zealand. Glaciers next to oceans, penguins on beaches, I had to see it to believe it. A working holiday visa was offered there that allowed me to travel for up to a year and work legally in the country when I needed money. So after working two jobs to save up, I bought a plane ticket and a backpack and was off. I explored wildly and challenged myself daily. I worked odd and end jobs; I worked at a sheep farm, a coffee shop, a vineyard, a dairy farm, a yoga retreat and a feijoa orchard to name a few.
After New Zealand, I flew to Indonesia and traveled across Bali and her surrounding islands. It was there that I began to meet wildlife and environmental conservationists that were making changes in Asia. I snorkeled world-renowned reefs and learned about how humans were affecting them. I met people who dedicated their lives to saving endangered sea turtles, rehabilitating birds from the brink of extinction and raising awareness in local communities to push for change globally. I then flew to Vietnam and during my travels learned about the consequences of mass deforestation and the importance of environmental education. It was then that I knew. I knew that I had to dedicate my life to this cause. I knew I had to become a conservation biologist. I had to learn everything there was to know about the vast world around me, which ironically meant… I had to return home.
My plane landed on North Carolina soil in 2012, and I was changed and renewed. In order to begin to make my dreams a reality, I had to further my education. The very next semester I enrolled as an Associate in Science, college transfer student at Nash Community College. My decision to enroll at Nash Community was a no-brainer. The small class size, instructor accessibility and solid academic programs I had encountered in my previous enrollment made me feel confident in my choice to start at Nash instead of a four-year university.
Now, in my last year at Nash, I have come so much farther than I would have expected. Since returning from my trip I have maintained a 4.0, served as an officer for Phi Theta Kappa, and was given the opportunity to serve as a Student Ambassador this year. Nash Community has pushed me to become a stronger woman by fostering my leadership skills and always encouraging me to think bigger and better. Thanks to the amazing Peer Assisted Learning program, PAL, I am tutoring in the very subject that made me want to pursue higher education, Environmental Biology. The unbelievable biology lab and biodiversity center at Nash Community’s S&T building has allowed me since my freshman year to process DNA, learn real world lab skills, and get hands on with animals I love. I have formed connections with instructors that have led me to pursue independent undergraduate research opportunities, attend and present at conferences in my field of study, and experience real field work in the North Carolina mountains.
I hope that my story can serve as an inspiration. Be easy on yourself. Be patient with the process of self-exploration. If my journey has taught me anything, it is that an inspired heart is a strong one. I began my journey at Nash Community just planning on obtaining my “Core 44” credits and transferring on, but the amazing opportunities that Nash offers have convinced me to graduate with the class of 2015. I can’t wait to put on that cap and gown for the first time and walk across Nash Community College’s stage!