be a name, not a number

linkedin mc mag

If you’re anything like I was, and spent your high school years imagining venturing into the college lifestyle at a big university – NC State, UNC, or that other school we don’t speak of – then you can probably relate to the reservations I once had about choosing to go to a small, D3 school. I said before that I turned my nose up to the thought of an all girls school, which is absolutely true, but I was also turned off by the thought of going to a school with barely 2,000 students. I mean some of the high schools where I lived had more students than that. Why would you ever want to go somewhere so small? Well, just like every other lesson I learned at Meredith, you just have to experience it…

I was always very active in my classes growing up. Remember, I said I went to a small elementary and middle school, so there was no need to be shy when you were in class with the same group of 10-20 kids every day. When I went to my first class my freshman year at MC, I realized that’s how things were there too. My freshman psychology class was maybe 50 people, but aside from that, my classes were made up of 15-20 girls at the most, and then there were some that didn’t even have 10 girls in them. Those were the best! Actually, one of my favorite classes I ever took was Dr. Little’s Methods of Healthful Living course where we only had 6 girls. It was so much fun to come to class and have the opportunity to really participate and get to know each other. Because of this small number, we were able to build relationships and help each other become better learners. We would feed off of each other and motivate each other, plus we got to go outside and play like elementary school children, which gave us the opportunity to see that we all shared the love of the same thing – teaching. Or maybe we just loved getting to embrace our little kid side, but either way, it was the best! Just like in that class, in my other classes I was able to make some awesome friends and we were all resources for each other. I’ll never forget sneaking into SMB after hours and having late night study/cram sessions trying to prepare for Dr. Aubrecht’s Neuropsychology exams. We may have all been stressing out worse than we had ever stressed before, because let’s face it, that was the hardest class of my MC career, but at least we were in it together. It’s such a comforting feeling to know that you have a support system of classmates behind you that’s going to be there in times of struggle and excitement. That kind of system comes from a small school.

Then there’s the professors. I always heard my friends that went to State talking about how their classes were made up of hundreds of people and they could just not show up one day and no one would ever notice. If you skipped a class at Meredith without informing a classmate or your professor of your valid reasoning, you best believe either there was an email in your inbox by the time class was over, or they were questioning you at the next class meeting. Now some might say that’s rather obnoxious and annoying, maybe even a little unnecessary. I mean we’re all grown adults, we can make our own decisions and be responsible for them. Wrong. Let’s face it, we only thought we were responsible adults. We didn’t know anything yet. What you don’t think about when you’re getting ready to just skip class cause you don’t want to be there is that that’s not how the real world works. When you’re off and in the real world, you can’t just skip work because you don’t feel like going. That’s never going to work out for you…if it does, let me know how you figured it out, ha! It’s the little annoying things like this that actually add up to big things. It shows how much your professors truly care. Something I always tell people that was one of my favorite parts of Meredith, is that you’re a name not a number. Your professors know you. They care about you. They’re going to do everything they can to help you succeed both inside and outside the classroom. They are even going to be right there on the sidelines cheering you on at your sporting event, or in the audience of your performance. If you’re lucky, they’ll even show up to class dressed in crazy costumes. Take one of Dr. O’Dekirk’s classes and you’ll definitely get that experience. The professors you’ll encounter at Meredith are some of the best. They’re a support system like no other. They go out of their way to push you to success and make your experience at Meredith better than the college expereince you once imagined. It’s something you may not appreciate as much while you’re there, but looking back you’ll be trying to find words to express your appreciation and gratitude, but realize there are no words that can accurately describe just how thankful you are for them.

Then there’s the unexplainable things that I feel like only happen at a small school – like the nights spent hanging out, laughing around a bonfire in the courtyard with your big sis/lil sis class, or the tradition of painting the tunnel to the president’s house to depict the best four years of your life, or the apartment parties in the one and only on-campus apartment building that go from 4 girls socializing to the whole hall dancing the night away. It’s the little moments that you spend with your classmates that become memories you cherish forever. And when I say classmates, I really mean the entire class because at a small school like Meredith, you magically get to know everyone in your class over the four years. On any given day you can’t possibly walk from one building to another without running into multiple friends laughing and carrying on about last nights adventures. Or even if it’s just a wave across the courtyard, somehow you’re going to see someone you know everywhere you look. Some people are frightened by the thought of that, and being that small town girl that no one really knew, I was one of those people. It’s crazy to look back now and think about how that simple aspect of being a part of a small school completely changed me. I became someone people knew of even if they didn’t really know me. I mean I guess it could be because once upon a time my face ended up on the Meredith magazine and on other various advertisements around campus, but I like to think it’s because I was shaped into an outgoing, outspoken, person who wasn’t afraid to speak up or reach out to someone. In fact, I owe a lot of the qualities that make me who I am today to my years at Meredith, and those are qualities that came from being a name, not a number.

I could go on and on and on to tell you about the funny stories that happened in class, or in the dining hall, or even during various on-campus events, but my words could never be enough. I could never really persuade you that a small school is the best choice you’ll ever make…or maybe I could, I don’t know. But if you really want to know why a small school will give you the best four years of your life, you’ll just have to experience it.

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Lost in a postcard

italygroup italysara

That’s the phrase I often use to describe the best summer of my life….the summer I decided to study abroad in Sansepolcro, Italy! If you want to know about a Meredith opportunity that “you just have to experience”, this is it! It will change your life, forever. While the study abroad office somehow has the ability to make just about any destination you want a study abroad opportunity, there’s really no need for that. Sansepolcro is the only place you really need to go. I mean yes, you’ll venture to other places while you’re there, but Sansepolcro is the place that’s going to grab on to you and steal a piece of your heart forever!

Most people might try to tell you about this program in more of a sales pitch style. It might sound something like “Right in the heart of Tuscany, where every view is worth more than a 1,000 words, where the food is incredible and the authentic Italian life will completely consume you, the Meredith summer in Italy program is the program for you.” While every bit of that sales pitch statement is true, what they didn’t explain to you is the experience itself, and that is the part that changes your life.

It was the summer of 2012, and I could hardly wait to get on the plane for the adventure of a lifetime. Little did I know, the adventure that awaited me would make for the best summer of my life. Once we were on the plane, I was so excited, there was zero chance of me sleeping – and keep in mind that is one long, overnight flight. After every movie, I anxiously checked the flight tracker on the tv screen to see where we were…I’m pretty sure every time I looked it was a plane emblem with a blue background for the water. You’d think I would eventually give up and quit looking. Nope. After flying over the water for what seemed like forever, we were finally approaching Rome! Rome…I could hardly believe it. Somewhere I had only ever read about and heard about growing up in the Catholic Church, now I was about to actually be there.  When we landed and gathered our giant suitcases, because obviously we had to pack our entire closets for six weeks away from home, we made our way to the bus for the final stretch of our trip. After what again seemed like hours, we turned into this tiny little town with cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings lined with flags, and an open courtyard filled with tiny shops and restaurants. We had arrived in Sansepolcro, and the adventure was about to begin!

When we got off the bus, we were greeted by a tall, beautiful, Italian woman who immediately hugged our professor began conversing with him Italian – obviously we had no clue what she was saying. I watched with curiosity, wondering who this woman was and was everyone here like her. I would soon find out that no, everyone was not like her. She was special. She was the essence of the Meredith program in Italy. She was our mom away from home, our go to for gossiping, our advice giver, our translator, our tour guide, you name it, she was it! And little did I know, she would quickly become one of my favorite people that I was able to share my Meredith experience with. Sara (yes, we even have the same name), you will never know how much you meant to us during our summer with you, but especially how much you meant and still mean to me! I am so thankful that Italy and Meredith brought you and your sweet family into my life! I can’t imagine living the study abroad experience without you!

After settling in and barely unpacking our bags, we took off out the back doors of the Palazzo Alberti and ventured down the street to the main piazza. I’ll give you one guess as to what we were on the hunt for…yep, you know it: Gelato! I mean who goes to Italy and doesn’t take advantage of every opportunity to indulge in gelato. And I’m here to tell you, yes I probably tried every flavor ever made during my short six weeks, and there is nothing that delicious in the world of American ice cream. After dessert, we made our way down to a little restaurant just below the palazzo that would eventually become our favorite place to eat! We befriended Giacamo and the owner of the restaurant, and even though they probably laughed at us and our struggling Italian speech when we weren’t around, they welcomed us in regularly and even surprised us with occasional drinks and treats at dinner. That night we continued to wander around the streets of Sansepolcro just taking in the exciting atmosphere. The streets at night were buzzing with people. The bars were nothing like those you see in America. People are sitting outside just casually sipping, savoring and socializing – in fact, we were fascinated by that. People would buy one glass of wine, or one beer and make it last for hours, because socializing and being with each other was far more important than drinking. That’s one thing the Italians taught us for sure, the importance of truly being with people and embracing that time together.

The next morning, we sleepily stumbled down to class. As if trying to pay attention while living in the most beautiful city in Italy wasn’t hard enough, we were suddenly distracted by the delicious scent coming from the kitchen. Margharita, the palazzo chef, was busy upstairs preparing our lunch. It was 9:30am, and she was already cooking lunch. We learned very quickly that this was a sign that it was going to be a good day! Honestly though, every day was a good day when Margharita was cooking! The table in the dining room stretched from the windows all the way to the stairs, and it was lined with food every day when we would run upstairs at 1:00. A four course meal every day. What more could you ask for! While the first few lunches we all tried to be polite and share the food equally, by the end of the trip, we were fighting for every serving. And if there was something we didn’t particularly like, or even if it was our favorite dish, you could always count on John Rose (sitting at the head of the table) saying “Are you going to eat that??” in his adorable accent! Oh John Rose. Yes, yes we’re always going to eat anything Margharita cooked!

Now, keep in mind we were there actually taking classes, so school did take up a good portion of the trip, but it’s far more fun to talk about the travel experiences. There are a few fun stories from in the classroom though. Like the time the girls taking the “Chemistry in Art” course had all reached the point of tears from frustration, so a few of us in the other class snuck out of the palazzo and went to the closest bakery, only to return bearing soda and pastries for everyone – because in Italy, that makes everything better! That and gelato! Or the time that we enlightened our Italian professor that she looked like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City which landed her the nickname the Italian Carrie. Or the nights that were spent downstairs in the classrooms, rigging the projectors to play The Bachelor so we wouldn’t be missing out on John Rose’s favorite tv show! Both inside and outside of the classroom, it’s an understatement to say that we made amazing memories together, day after day. The girls in our group quickly became more like family than friends. If you remember from my post last week, two of my best friends are girls that I spent that summer in Italy with, and I am so thankful for that!

The best memories though, happened on our travel breaks. From Florence, to Sorrento and Capri, to Rome, to Venice and Verona, and not to mention days spent in the tiny adjoining Tuscan towns, we packed as much of the Italian experience as we could into our six weeks! I think it’s safe to say that our journey to Sorrento and Capri was my favorite though. It was our first time venturing off on our own for a weekend, and we were thrilled! We checked in to Hostel 7, dropped our bags in our rooms, and then went downstairs to the bar where we met a group of guys who were backpacking across Italy. They told us all about their boat tour and day at Capri, and we knew we had to do that too! We laughed and carried on for hours with them, and even ventured out on a walk so they could show us where the local beach was. On the way back from that walk, Eliza and I somehow got lost. I mean the joke of the whole trip was that if I was ever around, all would be okay because I was the navigator – or “mama duck” as they liked to call me. But on that night, we got so lost, and we didn’t care! We found ourselves in a little park, and Miles (one of the boys we met) turned on “Call Me Maybe” and we danced the night away! From that night on, “Call Me Maybe” became our theme song. I mean if you think about it, it’s totally appropriate – “hey I just met you, and this is crazy” – that is how we all felt about the friends we made on our trip. It was completely and totally crazy how we met and how close we had all become. The next day, we had our own private boat tour that took us through all of the grottos and to the island of Capri. Eliza and I took full advantage of this adventure. We jumped in every grotto, swam through waterfalls and into secret caves, and even dodged being stung by jellyfish as we did flips off the boat into the water. That night, we met back up with the guys and sang and danced on the rooftop of the hostel. We had the time of our lives and we owed it all to study abroad.

There are so many more stories I could tell you, memories I could share, but it would take an entire blog to accurately portray our study abroad experience. Lucky for you guys, I actually kept a blog throughout the whole trip! Now, try not to judge my spelling and grammatical errors – remember I was out living it up, and blogging wasn’t my priority – but if you want to read about our other trips, feel free to check out my study abroad blog: http://italysummer2012.blogspot.it/ 

Throughout the entire six weeks, the scenery, the food, the lemonchello, everything was simply amazing, and no words can ever accurately describe the experience. That’s where the phrase “lost in a postcard” came from. We were hiking in my favorite little town – Anghiari – that literally looks like something you see in a fairytale, when we came upon a field of poppies that overlooked the Tuscan valley below. We sat there in awe of the beauty before us, and that’s when someone said “Isn’t it amazing here. Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in a postcard.” Those words couldn’t have been more true. Everywhere you looked you were surrounded by beauty – beautiful scenery, beautiful people, beautiful everything! We tried to take it all in, every last moment, but like I said, Sansepolcro and the Italy study abroad experience, changes you. It steals your heart and changes your life.

Saying goodbye to Sansepolcro, to Sara, to the Italian life was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I cried more tears that day than I had in a long time. When I first ventured off on the trip, I was worried I would get home sick, but at the very thought of leaving, I was actually becoming Sansepolcro sick. I knew that this had been the best summer of my life and I would never be able to recreate it. I was leaving a piece of my heart in that incredible Tuscan town, and going home. Life would never be the same.

Now if you’re reading this with thoughts of taking advantage of the study abroad experience during your years at Meredith, do it! Don’t think twice, don’t try to debate going anywhere else – go to Sansepolcro. Take on the adventure of a lifetime. I promise it will be the best thing you do, the best decision you make, during your years at Meredith. If you’re reading this and you’ve shared this same, or a very similar experience, with me by choosing to study abroad in Italy, then you know there are no words that can describe or explain the magic of Sansepolcro…you just have to experience it!

a series of left turns…

softballfam  softballjump

If you know me, then you know that a huge part of my life, and especially my time at Meredith, was spent on the ball field. I grew up loving the game. The dirt was my home. I was that girl that walked around with scraped knees and terrible tan lines all summer. One time, my dermatologist even told me I was obviously spending too much time sitting by the pool with my legs in the water because the line across my legs was far too apparent…clearly he didn’t know how I spent my summer days or that softball socks went all the way up to your knees! If you asked me when I was a 10 if I wanted to play softball in college, I would have without a doubt told you yes, and firmly believed that I would. Remember, that was back when all I ever wanted was to rock the Carolina blue. Little did I know that my dream of playing one day on the big field would actually become a reality…just sporting a different color uniform. While playing at Carolina was once my goal, let’s be honest for a minute. I was never meant for D1 softball. I was never that girl – the star of the team, the one with the best batting average, the one who people knew. Remember, I’m that girl that no one really knew. I’m also that girl who is a firm believer in that everything in life happens for a reason. I know there’s a reason I found myself lacing up my cleats for Meredith, and I’m about to tell you that reason. This is for all of you girls out there with big dreams of playing college ball, hoping to one day end up at a D1 school, but living in the reality that D1 isn’t for you. Let me open your eyes to what actually playing in college is like. Let me reassure you that your dreams can still come true, and far exceed any expectations you ever had. After all, just like on the ball field, life is a series of left turns – left turns that will lead you right to where you’re meant to be.

The first year. To be completely honest with you, it’s going to be hard to talk about the first year of softball at Meredith with you. A lot happened that year. We were a class of 19 incoming freshman, making the total roster 26. If you don’t know much about softball, just keep in mind you can only play 9 girls on the field at one time. That’s a lot of girls and a lot of talent. Some even say we were the most talented group to ever come into Meredith. There was so much potential for us to take the program places. It’s sad to think that all that potential went out the window because of coaching issues, but the reality of it is, it happened and we can’t change it. It’s just another left turn.

Freshman year was the most challenging year for me as an athlete. In all my years of playing, the thought of quitting had never crossed my mind, until then. I was miserable. I hated my coach. I hated how he treated us. I hated what he had done to my love of the game. I was ready to throw it all away. But then, thanks to the encouragement of our upper class-men teammates, that group of 19 freshmen took a chance and stood up for our love of the game. After the longest few weeks of the season, our actions paid off. Now, I probably shouldn’t write about what all happened, but I will say that I learned a valuable lesson from this left turn. Don’t be afraid to speak up and stand up for what you love. Don’t let something or someone take from you what you’ve spent your whole life working for. This was probably the first experience where Meredith College taught me that my voice mattered. I wasn’t a number, but a name – a name with an opinion, a value, a meaning. While it’s so easy to look back and gripe about how awful that first year was, it’s more important to look at how the actions of 19 freshman ended up shaping the future of Meredith softball for the better.

Sophomore year we welcomed our new coach with open arms. I think it’s safe to say she didn’t know what she was walking in to, or how much she would actually be appreciated it, but I 100% mean it when I say that she is the best thing that has ever happened to Meredith Softball. While only a few of those 19 freshman returned to the field that year, we had what mattered most – a coach who believed in us and appreciated us. A coach who loved the game and who knew how to embrace the talent that she had and use it to create something, something Meredith hadn’t had before – a team that would go on to break records.

Sophomore year was also the year that I became someone people began to know around campus – all because of softball. One afternoon, as I was leaving my last class of the day, I quickly checked my email, only to see a message from the advisor of our Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) asking me to stop by her office and talk with her about a leadership opportunity. My mind was spinning with curiosity, so obviously I walked myself right over to her office. Little did I know, she was about to tell me that I had been picked as one of two athletes that the college would send as a representative for the NCAA Leadership Conference in Orlando, FL. How could I ever say no to an opportunity like this! A few weeks later, one of the girls on the tennis team, Puja (who would eventually become one of my favorite friends at Meredith), the athletic director, and I, took off on a flight to Orlando for what would become the turning point in my Meredith years.

It’s an understatement to say that the NCAA Leadership Conference changed me. There I was, in a room full of athletes from all across the country, from D1 schools to D3 schools, hundreds of athletes, all together, representing their institutions. At first, I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by the experience. I was just a little D3 softball player, but then I realized, everyone here was actually the same. I learned that I was actually very compassionate about leadership and that without much effort at all, I was actually good at coming up with ideas to bring unity to the athletes and building each other’s leadership abilities. I left that conference, a whole new person, ready to take my ideas and my excitement back to Meredith – ready to make a change in our athletic program.

After returning to Meredith, I took on the role of president of SAAC. I was so excited to get things rolling, and with the help of the other girls who just needed a little motivation, a little reminder that their ideas mattered and were exactly what our program needed, we started what would grow to become an annual leadership day for Meredith College athletics. We started community service projects, fundraisers for the athletic department, and our very own athletic traditions. Who would have thought those simple ideas I had stored in my mind would become a successful reality.

That year also brought more success than ever for the MC Softball team. We went on to break almost every record in Meredith Softball history. Our pitcher, and one of my best friends, Arielle Stout, broke the USA South Conference strike out record…I like to think I helped with that since I was her catcher (I think that means I hold the record for the most put outs or assists, or at least I’m going to tell myself I do). We finished at 2nd place in our conference, something else that Meredith had never done before. We hit the double-digit mark in homeruns. We beat Christopher Newport – which was unheard of! And to top it all off, Coach Kim was named USA South Coach of the Year! Needless to say, that was a HUGE year for Meredith Softball, and a year that none of us will ever forget.

Looking back, that’s the year that taught me what it meant to be a D3 athlete and how different my life would have been had I not chosen the life of a Meredith Avenging Angel. It may not sound as exciting or as important to say you play for a D3 school in comparison to a big name D1 school like Carolina or NC State, but in the grand scheme of things, for every girl who is dreaming of playing in college, this is where you go to make a name for yourself, to become that athlete that everyone on campus knows. You see, at a big school, you may see the field two or three times during a season. At a D3 school, odds are, you’re going to play on that field every game. You’re going to get that chance to prove yourself, and you’re going to do it. While I always wanted to play at the big schools, I sure didn’t want to sit the bench. If I had somehow miraculously ended up at UNC, odds are I would have rarely had a chance to play, but because I chose Meredith, because I chose a school where girls are there because they love the game, not because someone is dangling scholarship money over their head, I got the chance to play every day, and share that with people who loved it as much as I did. It wasn’t the big league dream I once had…it was more.

Being an athlete at Meredith is something that can very easily change your life. In a life full of left turns, it can teach you to embrace the challenge, to look at the positive, and to push yourself to succeed. From your coaches to your teammates to your athletic director to your trainer, being a Meredith athlete introduces you to a whole group of people that will forever be your support system. The athletic group is its own family inside the Meredith community. It’s a family that will support you and push you, guide you and lead you, to succeed. It’s a family that you’ll look back on and thank God they helped make you the person you are today.

So here’s my advice to all you girls out there struggling through the series of left turns that life is throwing your way- embrace them! It’s the left turns in life that lead us to the right places. Open your mind and your heart to an experience like the Meredith experience. Don’t let the reality of life stop you from chancing your dreams. For all you know, a school like Meredith may be the place that’s perfect for you, but if you don’t embrace the opportunity, take the time to think what being an athlete at a small school can do for you, you just might miss out on what could be the best experience of your life…take a deep breath and tell yourself “you just have to experience it!”

Cornhuskin’

Corn corn3

Now let me start by saying, don’t go getting your hopes up that I’m about to reveal the biggest mystery of Meredith College. What fun would that be? I mean the inspiration behind the name of my blog – You Just Have to Experience It – comes from the response every Meredith girl will give you when you ask the question “What is Cornhuskin?” It’s like an unspoken oath that every MCG takes -we vow to never give up the secret, no matter who wants to know. And truth be told, there really is no way to explain exactly what Cornhuskin’ is, but what I can do is try to paint a picture of the excitement for you.

You see, corn season starts just weeks after the semester starts. The excitement is buzzing around campus 24/7. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year. Just imagine your high school’s spirit week, then times that by 20 and you’re pretty close to what Cornhuskin’ feels like. In addition to the crisp fall weather, everywhere you turn, you see signs corn season. Signs with corny phrases, scarecrows, balloons, crazy outfits, camouflage, overalls, you name it, you’ll see it. There’s even a MC t-shirt for every day of the week. If there’s ever a time to sport that ridiculous outfit you’ve been saving, corn week is the time.

This is also the time when sleep deprivation sets in – it’s probably the first time you’ll pull an all-nighter, but don’t worry it won’t be the last. You’ll quickly learn that corn is life, and life is corn. You develop a whole new appreciation for that rolling out of bed five minutes before class thing I mentioned a few posts back. You lose all motivation to make yourself look presentable for class, or for life in general. You embrace the corniness that’s surrounding you and rock those overalls like never before. You’re loud, obnoxious, and more motivated than ever to get through class and homework so you can rush to corn practice. Odds vs. Evens – there’s another blog coming about this – but the rival has just begun. Corn week breaks out a whole new competitive side of you. You find yourself practicing your dance moves in your sleep – what little sleep you get. You’re sitting in class, humming along to the songs you heard on repeat all night at practice. There’s zero focus whatsoever in the classroom. Corn has officially taken over.

After weeks and weeks of practicing, nights spent planning for the biggest day of the year, hours and hours of brainstorming costumes, clever posters, and corny props, it’s time to kick off the best day of the year. You’re all lined up with your class, pumping each other up, taking tons of pictures, getting rowdy and ready. There are tractors, fire trucks, convertibles and sometimes even the Lilly Pullitzer Jeep. Dr. Allen has already made her way around to visit with each class and is now sitting on the back of a convertible, ready to throw candy and get the party started. Balloon arches wave over way and every color of the rainbow is somewhere to be seen. My personal favorite part was a tradition I shared with my favorite corn-loving friend Liz! Each year we made a ridiculous hat to sport during the big parade. We went out of our way to stand out with our crazy hats, drawing the attention from everyone in the crowd. But like I said, if there’s ever a time to step out and be bold, embrace your corniness, this is it. Get obnoxious. Go crazy. It’s more fun that way! Even the parents proudly sport the Cornhuskin’ gear. You’ll never see more “Meredith College Dad”, “Meredith College Mom”, “Even Mom”, “Odd Dad”, t-shirts in one place at one time. Basically, Corn is contagious. It’s everywhere.

As silly as it sounds, and believe me when I first experienced it I thought I had lost my mind, but Cornhuskin’ is when you find your place in your class, where you make the friends that will forever understand and embrace your corniness, where you lose all shame and become an that outgoing oddball. Cornhuskin’ is where you really fall in love with Meredith. There’s something about this crazy, unexplainable time of year that makes the Meredith experience unlike any other. Something about the roar of the crowds of parents as you parade by, the excitement of your friends as you dance the night away together, the unity that comes from spending night after endless night with the best of friends, that makes Cornhuskin’ the most exciting, most talked about yet most mysterious tradition at Meredith College. You see, we may not have boys, we may not have football, we may not have homecoming, but we have something else that no other college can claim. We have something you just have to experience!

True friends are hard to find…

italygirls  friendspic

….harder to leave, and impossible to forget. These are the friends you hold on to for the rest of your life, and these friendships are the ones that start at Meredith. No matter where life takes you, your Meredith girls are by your side every step of the way. From holding your hand through the worst heartbreaks, to standing by your side as you say “I do”, to being the fun loving aunts to your children, your Meredith girls are the girls that you’ll share life’s biggest moments and hardest challenges with. As I sat here in my apartment, with one of my favorite friends from Meredith, trying to think of what fun topic to blog about next, it hit me that one of the most important and influential things that I took away from my Meredith years was my friendships. Thinking back, there were so many ups and downs, so many nights spent in tears and in laughter, so many memories shared with the girls that I’m so thankful to still have as my closest friends. Whether it was through sports, or class, or the infamous Cornhuskin, Meredith College brought the truest of friends into my life, and for that I am so thankful.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. We were finishing up softball practice when I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. As I walked over to pack up my bag, I glanced down at my phone only to see I had missed a phone call from my mom. Knowing that my Sittie (which means grandma in Arabic) was in failing health, I took a deep breath before returning her call. When I heard my dad’s voice on the other end of the line, I sat down right there on the field and cried. I knew it what was coming. All I wanted was to somehow magically transport myself home. I wanted my mom. I wanted my family. My Sittie was gone and I wasn’t there. But then I looked up and saw my friends sitting beside me. Here we were, all out of breath and exhausted from our intense abs workout, just wanting to go shower and relax, and my friends sat right there with me while I cried. I cried until I was all out of tears, and not a single girl left. Like I said, through the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, your Meredith friends are right by your side.

Fast forward two years and the adventure of a lifetime took place – study abroad. Now I’ll save the good stuff for a whole post dedicated to study abroad, because let’s face it, that in and of itself is life changing. But the friends that study abroad brought into my life are the friends that to this day I spend the majority of my time with. In fact, two of my very closest friends are girls that I survived Italy with. Just picture Monica, Phoebe and Rachel from the infamous tv show, Friends, and that’s us. There’s never a dull moment when we’re together, and I am more thankful for them than they will ever know. Life would be so boring without the laughter we’ve shared day after day.

From sharing a room for six weeks, to listening to each other’s awful monotone singing, to curling up in bed morning the loss of our hair straighteners, to perfecting the freezing temperature of our Italian diet coke, I was so lucky to build a friendship with my “roomie 4 lyfe”, Allison. We may not agree on sports teams – yeah she pulls for the wrong color blue – but through our experiences at Meredith, we’ve been through so much together, and our friendship is one that I know will last forever.

Now, the girl who I’m so lucky to call my co-teacher and one of my best friends, is in fact the same girl who was in my advising group my first year of being a student advisor. It wasn’t until we shared the experience of studying abroad together that we grew so close. Actually, if you ask her, she’ll tell you she didn’t like me at first because I was her advisor and I was going to make her participate in all things Meredith. It’s funny to look back now and laugh about how the times have changed. Now, she’s my go to whenever I need words of wisdom, or even a reality check! She’s the one who keeps me sane in the middle of all the chaos in our classroom. We’ve spent nights laughing until we cried reminiscing on our time together at Meredith. Eliza, I don’t know what I’d do without you.

These are just a few of the friendships that come to mind, and I’d be lying if I said when I think back on becoming friends with these girls, I get tears in my eyes thinking how lucky I am that Meredith College brought such strong friendships into my life. Maybe it’s because we’ve reached a time where friends are going their separate ways, or maybe it’s because life’s challenges seem to be getting harder and harder by the day, but as I sat here, I couldn’t help think how grateful I am that Meredith taught me to appreciate the friendships in life, and what it means to be a true friend. People come and go all throughout life, but there’s something that makes a Meredith friendship everlasting…special…unique. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe that’s because you just have to experience it.

Boy Hours

neighbors

If you’re anything like I was, then one of the first misconceptions that comes to mind when thinking about an all girls school is boys. I mean why on earth would you want to spend your days with just girls? This is the first time you’re out on your own, no parents to tell you what to do, no curfew to follow, no one to stop you from staying out at a party all night. This is your shot to get out there and meet people….meet boys. You’ve probably heard stories on more than one occasion about how someone met their husband in their freshman college English class, or at the first home football game, or by going to an on campus mixer. You’ve also probably told yourself, that’s going to be me one day. But how can you meet Mr. Right if you’re at a school full of girls, and not only that, a school with “boy hours”.

Boy hours? What in the world? Is that a joke? Well, the good girl side of me says, yes, they’re real. The actual me, the 24 year old, looking back on those first two years spent in the dorms, says, nope, not real. I mean yes, they are an actual thing.“During Open House hours, male guests may enter through any residence hall door when accompanied by a Meredith student. During non-Open House hours, male guests must enter only through the first floor parlor doors. Males are not allowed on campus after closing hours (1:00 a.m. Sunday – Thursday; 2:00a.m. Friday and Saturday) except to accompany students to their residence halls. Then the male guest must immediately leave campus.” I mean when you read that, admit it, you laughed. I know I did. And trust me, boys laugh at it too, harder than you did, but the truth is, they’re the rules, and that’s the way it goes. And yes, these rules are upheld to the best of every RA’s abilities. They aren’t rules to be messed with…at least that’s what I’m supposed to say here. 🙂

What I’m not supposed say is way more entertaining though. Anyone can sit here and say, “I followed the rules. I didn’t sneak boys in,” to cover themselves from what would happen if someone found out, but let’s be honest, we all know it happens. Inside, every MCG is a little rebellious…okay a lot rebellious. If you’re reading this and you went to Meredith, or go there now, you know its true. There were many nights that boys were allowed up to the rooms during boy hours and somehow they “accidentally forgot to leave” when hours were over. I mean we’re all real people here. I won’t lie to you, I had guy friends come and stay with me. Sorry mom! Some of my best friends growing up were guys, and I wasn’t about to let some silly rules stop me from hanging out with them. I also want to add that it is way more fun to watch a guy do the “walk of shame” trying to leave Meredith without being seen by anyone. I mean usually it’s the girl trying to escape, but something about a boy trying to sneak out of an all girls dorm room on an all girls campus, it’s just so much funnier.

I could go on and elaborate on this whole sneaking boys in thing, but instead, I want to point out some things I learned along the way, and some things I’ve learned looking back. When I was there, in the moment, of course I didn’t want some silly “boy hours” to stop me from being with my friends. But do these hours really stop you from meeting and hanging out with boys? Are they really all that bad? In all honesty, no. In fact, after I had my fair share of laughing about the concept of “boy hours” and breaking the rules, I realized there are so many positive things that come from this crazy concept.

Lets start with the basics: you don’t have to dress to impress. I mean don’t get me wrong, every MCG loves to get dolled up and rock the latest fashions, but when it’s time to roll out of bed at 7:50 for your 8:00 am class, “ain’t nobody got time for that”. I would need quite a few extra sets of hands and toes to count the number of times I rolled right out of bed, put on my leggings, a big t-shirt, and slipped on my flip flops before strolling to class. With no boys around, you can look your worst, and no one cares. Then, there’s the intimidation factor. Let’s be honest, no girl wants to speak up in class and risk embarrassing herself by getting the answer wrong in front of that cute boy she’s crushing on. Well, at Meredith, you don’t have to be afraid of that. You learn to speak up and speak your mind. You learn that your voice matters and that what you have to say is important. There’s a sense of importance that becomes fostered in you. You’re motivated and empowered. You become the strong woman helping to make your place in this world.

I’ve also found that because I was afraid to push my luck one too many times and sneak boys in, I started going out more. Maybe those crazy boy hours were actually invented to help you get out there and make friends. I mean you can’t sit in your dorm room all day and expect prince charming to just come knocking at your door. You’ve got to get out there. Go to that frat party down the street…just remember, everyone makes the mistake of thinking that’s cool their freshman year. Go out downtown with your friends on weekends, or on a Wednesday night for Rum Runners College Night. You’re in one of the biggest cities in the state. Get out and have fun. Boy hours might prevent you (or try to) from bringing boys in, but it makes you go out. When you step back and think about it, this is just another way Meredith is helping to shape and mold you into the person you’re meant to be. So laugh all you want, because believe me, the concept of “boy hours” still to this day makes me laugh, but trust me, you’ll see…you just have to experience it!

Move In Day

MC Move In

 

To try to sum up the “Move In Day” experience in a few short words is nearly impossible. There are so many words that come to mind thinking back on my “Move In Day” back in August of 2009. If I tried to describe it all to you, you would probably think I was a crazy person. But if you know me, then you know that I am. In fact, I’m that crazy person that participated in “Move In Day” every year I was at Meredith.

Picture this: it’s 8:00am, and lets face it, you got up, got yourself all beautified and ready to have your very first Meredith experience. You probably woke up way earlier than you wanted, showered, fixed your hair, dolled yourself up with make-up, because as everyone knows, you only get one shot at a first impression, and your first impression at Meredith needs to be perfect. You’re all excited, driving up to the front gates, in a line of cars that’s being directed to wait in the random field next to the soccer field. You’re probably lost in the thoughts racing through your mind and the anticipation of the big day…your first day in college. Suddenly, you hear a ridiculous assortment of noises coming from line of traffic. You look up, only to see girls decked out in their Meredith College gear, banging on pots and pans, blowing whistles, screaming at the top of their lungs, waving all sorts of signs at you. Cars are honking and the screams of excitement only grow louder. Everywhere you turn, people are cheering for you! Balloon arches line the main drag into campus. Its like nothing you’ve ever seen before…consider this a foreshadowing of the next for years of your life. The Meredith experience is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

It’s finally your turn to park and unload the mounds of unnecessary things you brought with you as you start the next chapter in your life. I mean let’s face it, you never know what the day is going to have in store, so you better have every outfit you ever owned available in your closet, regardless of the fact that it’s the smallest closet you’ll probably ever have. As you’re making the trip back up the stairs to your dorm room, arms full of décor and accessories, you’re greeted by a woman who looks to be about your mom’s age, sporting her white Ked’s tennis shoes and Meredith College polo. She introduces herself by saying “Hi there. I’m Jo. Can I help you carry something to your room?” Without thinking twice you let her pick up that Vera Bradley suitcase, jam packed with every pair of shoes you own, probably weighing way too much. It’s not until after she helps you lug your things up three flights of stairs, and then continues to carry on conversations with you and your family, that you realize Jo is in fact Dr. Allen, president of Meredith College. I mean why would you ever think that the president of the college you’re now attending would be willing to dedicate her Saturday to helping hundreds of girls unpack their lives and organize every piece of home they could bring into their tiny dorm room? Well, that’s the way we do things at Mere-Co. Dr. Allen is no ordinary president. She’s indeed that person that makes herself visible at every event possible. In fact, she’s probably the only college president that can look at you as you cross the stage for graduation and congratulate you by name before the announcer has the chance to say your name. From day one- Move In Day – she goes out of her way to get to know her MCGs.

And lets not forget that hesitation you had about going to an all girls school because you wouldn’t have a chance to meet prince charming? Well need not worry, because just after you encounter Jo Allen for the first time, you’re approached by a group of guys rockin’ t-shirts that read “NCSU ❤ MC”. That’s right, NC State boys. They’re everywhere. Trust me, you’ll learn.

Chapel Hill girls are pretty, Duke girls are smart, but it takes a Meredith girl to win a fella’s heart. UNCW girls are tan, Wake Forest girls got flow, but when you want the best looking girl… Meredith College is where you go. NC State girls are wild, Peace girls are fun, but a Meredith gal is always the best one! Girls will be girls, north, south, east, and west, but MC girls is infinitely rate the best. To any man who reads this and truly wants to know… if you have a Meredith Angel you should never let her go!”

“Move In Day”, is truly the perfect kick off to the best four years you could ever imagine. But amidst all the excitement in the hustle and bustle of “Move In Day”, don’t forget, it’s okay to be sad. While “Move In Day” was so much more than I ever thought it would be, I was so sad to say goodbye to my parents. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen my dad cry. And while sometimes I pretend I’m not, I’ll always be my daddy’s girl. As I hugged my parents one last time and watched them walk away, tears filled my eyes. Was I really ready to take on the life of being a grown up college student? I mean who was going to remind me to vacuum my bathroom daily…oh don’t worry, that’s what cell phones were invented for. My mother would surely call to tell me tell me, more often than I would like, ha! But really, was I ready to live on my own? I had spent the last 18 years of my life with my parents. As much as I wanted that long awaited freedom, was I really ready for it? I guess only time would tell, but in that moment, watching my parents drive away, I thought to myself “This is it. This is the start of the next chapter of my life. This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

It wasn’t until a week or so later that the honeymoon phase was over. The excitement of “Move In Day”, the President’s Dinner, and the Honor Code Ceremony, the first traditions in my Meredith Career, were over. That’s when it hit me. Had I made the right choice? I was just a small town girl, diving into life in the big city, surrounded by strangers, and not a sole knew who I was. After days of secretly crying, questioning myself, stressed out about homework, thinking there’s no way I’ll ever survive this, I realized, this is my fresh start. No one knows me. No one knows my past. Do I even know me? Maybe this is where I’m supposed to find myself. Maybe this is my chance to figure out who I am, and realize that it’s okay to be different, because let’s face it, we’re all different. That’s the first lesson that Meredith taught me. Accept who you are and know that this is your chance to become who you’ve always wanted to be. This place is your home for the next four years, so go ahead and make the best of it, because in the blink of an eye, you’ll be reminiscing back on “Move In Day” wishing you could do it all over again. So for now, sit back and enjoy the ride, because if you thought “Move In Day” was crazy, you have no idea what lies ahead…the fun is just beginning. You just have to experience it!