SENIOR COLUMN: Be IntentionalBy Anne Matthews | 04/29/2017 6:31pm
August 21, 2013, marked the first day of my collegiate career. Though that day might seem uneventful to the rest of the world, it was not for me. I remember that day vividly. An overwhelming mix of emotions of excitement, anticipation and fear consumed me all at once. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What will these next four years hold? I remember walking through the Quad on the way to my first class. I had a chill come over me, and I shed a few tears as I stood in awe of the beauty of our campus. I looked up at Denny Chimes and made a commitment to myself that I would honor and uphold the legacy and path that my great-great grandfather blazed for me four generations before when he left his small, rural Alabama town (just like I had a few days before) to attend the University in the 1880’s.
During the first couple of weeks, adjusting to college was hard for me. Let me set the scene for you: Greenville, Alabama, (Population 8,135). University of Alabama Student Body (Population 37,655). When I left my small hometown of Greenville, Alabama, I did not know what to expect. I went to a small high school, and I had never had more than 24 students in class with me at the same time. On my first day of class, I walked into a lecture hall with more than 350 other students for Psychology 101. Wow. 350 students! That was almost the size of my high school! After couple of weeks into the semester, I had my first college test in Psychology 101. I had done well academically in high school, and I was excited to see my hard work pay off in college. I studied several days for my first test, and was really interested in the Psychology test material. I left the test feeling pretty confident, but a few days later, I called home in tears. I had just seen my first test grade posted on Blackboard – a 30. No, not a 30/30 or even a 30/50… I scored a 30/100. I was devastated to say the least. My parents tried not to be upset with me on the phone, but I could hear the hesitancy in their voices…”Now sweetie, are you sure you studied for the test? Do you think Alabama is the right school for you? Do you think your high school prepared you? Maybe it is just too hard.” I met with my adviser, and she immediately asked probative questions such as, “Now, what was your high school GPA? Maybe you should change your major…” After a few days, I was finally able to meet with my professor to review my test. As she and I were going through the answers, I realized that I had answered all of the questions correctly. After frantically stressing for several days, we discovered the root of the issue – I had failed to put the test’s version number on top of my Scantron. Little did I know that there were different versions of the test – let alone the fact that I had to write the version number at the top. It never crossed my mind. To put you all at ease – I had actually made a 94 on the test and did not flunk out of college.
I am sharing this story to show that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. As a freshman I never realized the impact that this University would have on shaping my life and molding me into the person I am today. I have to be truthful. Most of the lessons I have learned in college, I learned outside of the classroom. I have received a top-notch education from some of the most outstanding professors in the nation, but mostly, I have learned from all of you. It is amazing how true the statement rings, “When one door closes, another one opens.” I spent the majority of my freshman year disappointed. I felt like every door was slamming in my face. How was I supposed to leave my mark on this campus when I could not even get one foot in the door? I truly believe that God has plan for my life and everything He does is for my betterment, and trusting that enabled me to see that everything happens for a reason. During my sophomore year, the door to the Blackburn Institute opened for me. I have been involved in many organizations on campus, but I have learned the most from my time in Blackburn. Blackburn brings students together from all walks of life and viewpoints to grow and learn from one another.
The best advice I could offer to an incoming student is to “put yourself out there.” Learn and grow from the people around you. This campus is filled with students from all 50 states and over 77 countries. Take advantage of that. Go meet with your professors during their office hours, sit with someone you do not know at lunch in the Ferg cafeteria, and say hey to the person who sits next to you in class. You never know what will happen or what opportunity might stem from that. Looking back on my time at UA, I regret the chances I didn’t take more than the ones I did.
This University has unlimited opportunity. There are hundreds of student organizations on this campus, and you always have “no” in your pocket – so take a leap and put yourself out there. The best lesson I have learned in college, though, is this: Do what makes you happy and surround yourself with people who will help you grow and become a better person. Hold those people tight. Through my experiences with Capstone Men and Women, I have found some of my best friends. I have found people who have similar values as me who bring me joy each and every day. Find those people, and be intentional with your friendships and always prioritize making time for them.
These four years have taught me two things – Time is so precious and fleeting. The only day you are promised is today so why not make it the greatest day of your life. Tell the people that you love how much they mean to you, and smile at every person you pass. You never know how much a couple of words or one small gesture can mean to someone. Last but not least, always remember to put your version number on the top of your Scantron!
Anne Matthews is a senior from Greenville, Alabama, majoring in business management with a specialization in human resource strategy.