I remember my first trip to the Wilmington area as a younger child embarking on a family vacation to Wrightsville Beach. My older sister was starting high school and talked my parents into touring the UNCW campus. The beautiful campus and scenery left quite the impression on my sister; three years later I was back in Wilmington with my sister for her freshman orientation. It was 2006 and I was 13 years old with no idea that I would be graduating from this very same school nine years later.
It was never in my plans to go here. I lived, ate, and breathed football since I was 5 years old- there was no way I was going to UNCW! But I was wrong. While all of my high school classmates were beginning to tour campuses seeking their next step on the educational ladder, I was taking official visits, sending out highlight tapes, and talking with a plethora of college football coaches seeking the next step on my athletic journey. I took the SAT and got a score good enough to merit full athletic scholarships from the schools interested in me. My parents, always pushing me, signed me up for an SAT class to help improve my score “just in case something happens”. I took the class as a joke, received the same score on the SAT, and turned my back on academic progress because I thought I had my next four years lined up. Well, as always, my parents were right- something happened.
I fractured my left wrist and tore every ligament my senior year under the Friday night lights against our rival. I never told the coaches the severity of my injury so that I could continue to play and wore a ‘club’ on my wrist for my final five games. Once the season was over, it was time to handle my injury and proceed to rehabilitation so I could be well prepared for my first collegiate season. Unfortunately, after dozens of doctor and surgeon visits, I found out that there was only one surgery to possibly correct my wrist which involved a major tendon. Unfortunately again, 75% of people in the world have that tendon, and I fell into the 25% of people that do not. I felt as if the rug had just been pulled under my feet.
With teary eyes, telling every coach interested in me that I would never be medically cleared to play football, I had no answer to what I was going to do next. It was already late into my senior year and every school that I applied to was on the basis of playing football, except one. In the whirlwind of college recruiting, I never realized that I had actually applied to UNCW months prior as a potential backup plan, something I can thank my advisor and parents for making me do. I did not have much to go by; I chose UNCW as my backup because my sister went here and because there was no football team. I knew if I was not going to be playing football, I did not want to be around it.
After four and a half years at this school, I have come to embrace the phrase: “Everything happens for a reason.” I started my journey at UNCW as a lost individual seeking my place in a new environment. I didn’t know what it was like to not be on a nutrition plan, to not have to work out every day, to not study film. I had to learn what it was like to embrace the identity as a student and not as an athlete; and to put it lightly, I struggled. I skipped class all the time; I gained weight; I turned my back on things that used to bring me joy; I flushed a healthy relationship down the drain.
I found myself in a “mid-college crisis” halfway through my junior year. My whole life I had dreams of being a lawyer. However, my choice of being a political science major was driving me to the brink of insanity and I struggled to grasp many concepts. How was I struggling academically? My dad had me doing long division before my first day of kindergarten; I was the Accelerated Reader winner every year in grammar school; I was the spelling bee winner every year in middle school; I excelled taking all Honors and AP classes in high school; I was grounded if I ever made anything lower than an A my whole life (yes, I have a strict dad); I could not fathom how my GPA was under a 3.0!
I sought a change in my educational experience and wanted to take classes that I both enjoyed and challenged me academically to strive for greatness. The Communication Studies department enabled me to do this. The reason I began to take my studies serious and the reason that I am now preparing to begin graduate school in the Fall of 2016 is because I switched to being a communication studies major. The competitiveness I learned from the gridiron transitioned to competitiveness in the classroom. I wanted to excel in COM 200 and have the best possible RP1 and RP2; I wanted to have the best conspiracy theory paper in Rhetorical Theory; I wanted to have the best group in Advertising; I strived for the best GPA possible; I stopped being another college student trying to make it through a class and grasped the initiative to learn. I could not be more thankful for my time here at UNCW and as a student within the Communication Studies department. I appreciate every teacher within the department that I have taken a class with, how they pushed me to educate myself while showing me the guidelines to do it, and the abundance of post-grad opportunities this major offers, although I am seeking a Master of Business Administration degree. College was truly a learning opportunity for life. I’ve embraced the city of Wilmington, love all of the close friends I have made, and am so excited for the next step in my life. I don’t know where I’ll be in four and a half years, but I will always cherish my four and a half years here.
Stay Classy Seahawks