When I was younger I used to pretend that everything about my life was a fairy tale. Even the most mundane aspects of my life would feel as if they were something magical. The bus to school was not just some vessel for my little body to be brought to some government mandated program, but rather a gateway to some fantastic world where all of my intellectual fantasies materialized. Whenever I reflect on my old outlook, it always seems more fitting that school itself is what led to my life becoming a living breathing fairy tale.
All my life, I have grown up traveling. In my mind and through the pages of books, I have traveled to a multitude of exotic places such as the amazon and even the moon. I have fallen in love countless times and immersed myself in many cultures. And yet, I had never had the opportunity to go further than the page of a book until I attended Gannon University.
Last year was my first year as a college student and suddenly, my life felt as though it was truly becoming a reality. For the first time in my life, the longest dream that I had ever harbored — going to France — became a reality. My family had never really had much money. Growing up, I was always familiar with the ebb and flow of groceries. I understood the concept of paycheck to paycheck better than I understood most of life’s hard realities. But when I discovered that I could study at a French University for the summer, and that a substantial portion of the cost could be covered by my loans, I was ecstatic. I immediately started asking family for donations, applying for scholarships and extending my loans. To my disbelief, all of that hard work and determination payed off in the trip of a lifetime.
To say that studying in Lille changed my life would be an understatement. I had never realized how similar and diverse people can really be. Immersing myself in another culture and overcoming the struggle of speaking a second language taught me a lot about how I, myself, deal with new situations. It also gave me a lot of understanding regarding our own international students at Gannon University. But most of all, studying in Lille gave me a hunger to know more of the world. The entire duration of my stay, I kept on thinking, “If this is only one corner of the world, then there must be even more to know!” To think of the things that I could do, the people that I could help, the cultures that I could relate to and understand if I can push myself even further outside of my own comfort zone – life really is a fairy tale, but the magic doesn’t lie in dreams or childhood fantasies, It lies within people. The magic of this world lies in relationships and building bridges.
So with my new outlook, I signed up to study abroad once more in Germany. I was hesitant at first since I was not sure that I would be able to afford it. I had already been accepted into three other travel experiences this year including the Leadership X Hawaii group and the Haiti ABST. My wallet nearly screamed in agony, but to my relief, I found that Gannon is a very supportive community when it comes to trying to make any possibility a reality. By increasing my loans, getting a second job and fundraising, I have come to realize that these dreams can come true.
That is the sort of place that Gannon is. Gannon is the sort of school where you can feel supported. It is a community centered around self-empowerment. For me, Gannon has become this epic world where I have realized that the greatest protagonist can often be myself and the most amazing fairy tale is always yet to be written. So I encourage each of you to realize your own fairy tale, whether it be learning a new skill or traveling the world, embrace who you are and make your next chapter even better.