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Small handwriting sample of Ashley's First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page

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21 November 2005

“The only thing constant in the world is change.”
—India Arie

“I’m tryin’ to make a dollar out of what makes cents [sense].”
—The ever so talented Mos Def

Coping with Change

School has undoubtedly been a true rollercoaster ride with all of the highs, lows and unexpected turns, and I can honestly say that I’ve changed. Remember when your classmates signed your high school yearbook and the most popular phrase everyone used was “Don’t change for anyone”? Well, ever since I’ve been going to school, making good grades and friends, joining a couple of fulfilling organizations, it’s almost as if I had to change—for the better.

When old friends reunite with you and say things like, “You’ve changed,” don’t automatically assume that something is wrong with you and that change is bad. Change is not bad; if it were good we would all still have the mentality of children. Growing up is a process that I’m undergoing and it’s making me appreciate life. I’ve kept a clean room, which my folks would say is very odd, I haven’t attended any parties and I’ve even joined a choir.

One thing I’ve been doing that has really opened my eyes is tutoring off campus at a library east of the UT campus. I look forward to every single Monday afternoon to see one of my students in the third grade. The reason why this has had such a great effect on me is because there are many young people out here who want and need positive influences in their lives. When I get to see a child smile or become excited when they get a homework problem right, it just makes me feel like I’m serving a purpose. It makes me feel grateful about my education and the path that I’ve chosen.

At times UT can seen so impersonal because of its student size and population. It can also seem to put more dents in wallets than a shopping cart smashing into the side of a vehicle. However, the opportunities here are endless and when a person puts in volunteer time the people who are touched really look up to you.

There is one particular experience that I had to go through recently that made me realize that attending UT is a blessing even when it may seem to be so trying.

One day I went to go tutor. Usually someone goes with me, but that day I was traveling alone. I was kind of worried about this because it gets dark so fast but as soon as I approached library the thought was quickly erased from my mind. As soon as the session was up and I bid farewell to my student, I stood on a lonely, cold and dark bus stop. I was by no means scared, just anxiously waiting for a bus that can have you waiting 30-45 minutes if you are not on time. Luckily, I wasn’t late and it came on time. Then I saw something that would later serve some significance in my story.

As soon as I got on the bus I sat directly in the front but eventually gave that seat up for an elderly man in a wheelchair. He seemed to have a peace within himself that kind of calmed me and he then was let off at the next stop. When my stop approached and I got off, I didn’t see my bus right away, but I knew that since I was on time, my bus to get back to school would be on time.

Then something just crazy happened. My bus and another bus approached at the same time. I got up to get ready for my bus when it just drove off for no apparent reason. Do you know how crazy that is? I just felt like something was so wrong with that picture. I was not about to wait an additional 30-45 minutes for a city bus so I decided to walk 11 blocks all the way back to the UT campus. That was one of the most frustrating feelings ever! I called my mom because I wanted to vent and because I wanted to be occupied on the phone while walking dark streets.

Once I got back to campus and walked toward my room, something just hit me. I remembered that elderly man in the wheelchair on the first bus and I thought about the peace he had within himself. I think God was showing me how much I need to appreciate the things that I have. I appreciate my life, my ability to walk, all of my material possessions, and not to mention my education.

So what was the point of the story and how does it connect with UT? That’s easy. The point of the story is that anywhere you go you may experience some kind of trial that will test your mental and physical strength, but it must not discourage you. The last few of my entries have implicitly stated this idea because I think as a first-year student, or as a student in general, experiencing some kind of hard time or change is one of the reasons why our motivation gets shot down, but I will say those times that make you stronger.

Finals are approaching and the chance to start on the right path is coming very quickly. However, I have to get over this semester first and deal with the kinks of being a student. I will say this, school is not hard. For those people who are afraid that the academics in college are impossible, that is one of the myths—which I harbored also—that is definitely not true.

School is manageable; time just has to be managed wisely. Getting an A is not impossible. You just have to chose an effective studying method, talk to a professor and not neglect your books for studying for partying all the time.

I will admit, though, that I’m kind of getting used to the whole college experience thing. I wake up about 9 a.m. each day, devour as much Cap’n Crunch as I can, thank God for enabling me to see another day and then I’m off. I think that is how you master college. Establish a routine, stick with it and learn to cope with change.

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