Alabama is not just OK

Since the fifth grade, I had attended a small private school in Birmingham that cultivated and groomed students to go off to the Ivy Leagues. Many students never even considered any school in the state of Alabama, and if they applied to The University of Alabama, it was the back up to the back up. So, the expectation for me was to follow suit. Consequently, The University of Alabama was never the college I planned to attend – my skepticism being completely unfounded.

I vividly remember the moment that I came to terms with the fact that this would be the place where I would spend the “best four years of my life.” I can still recall the day I finally convinced myself to tell my college counselor that I would be attending Alabama. Her pitying response being: “Well … that’s OK.”

Yes, this campus has its shortcomings, just as any does; however, people continue to underestimate the opportunity and potential that runs ubiquitous across this campus. Alabama is a place where people can scrape by and still come out holding a diploma, and it’s a place where people can truly soar. It’s a place where people can choose an unchallenging course load, and it’s a place where people can opt for unbelievable rigor. This dichotomy fuels the misconception that Alabama is “just OK,” and it’s what I believed for a long time.

Today, after four years spent on this campus, I know full and well that IT IS OK. In fact, it’s more than OK. The University of Alabama is exceptional. I realized this my first day on campus, and I’ve continued to realize it more and more every day since. Alabama is where I was meant to be, and I can confidently say there is nowhere else I would have rather spent my college career.

During my time here, I have discovered that the opportunities presented to UA students are boundless. My personal experience here has been incomparable, and it’s been shaped by a myriad of events: joining a sorority, serving as a Culverhouse Ambassador for the business school, mentoring second to fifth graders through an arts exploration program, shadowing professionals, serving as Student Chair of the Blackburn Institute, interning with a notable company, participating in the Business Honors Program, attending Alabama football games and, of course, taking Dr. Lonnie Strickland for GBA 490.

The summer after my freshman year I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and by sophomore year I had sprawled myself out across campus to get involved with multiple organizations. By junior and senior year, I had developed meaningful relationships with many of my advisors and professors – something I didn’t expect to be able to do so easily at such a large institution. Alabama is not “just OK.” The University of Alabama is unparalleled and gives rise to outstanding individuals.

The University of Alabama may not have been what I thought I wanted, but it ended up being so much more. My narrow-minded high school misconceptions were wildly proved wrong, and my expectations were far exceeded. While at Alabama, this is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned: Never let others’ perceptions determine your decisions or individual opinions. It is here where I learned to understand for myself, think for myself and listen to myself. I owe this growth all to The University of Alabama – the school I’m proud to call home and proud to call mine.

Genie Smith was the student chair of the Blackburn Institute.

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