Hi there, that's me. In my undergrad graduation get-up. While my photographer-sister took this picture, I had my phone in my left hand; I was on hold with AAA because my car's driver's-side rim had just been bent and the tire flattened. It was also the Friday before Mothers' Day, and I was trying to take graduation pictures and drive home to surprise my mother all in the same six-hour period. I didn't get home that day, but that was okay; I got home a few days later after my tire was fixed, and my plans started rolling again (along with my car).
The flat-tire-things-keep-rolling plot line of that story is very similar to what seems to have been the natural rhythm of life. I grew up in a small town, thought that I would to go to a college in another small town (and wanted to -- spoiler, I didn't get in), and ended up at a university with a student body 5 times the size of my hometown.
I initially studied biology and chemistry because it took grit and tears to understand and apply, and the fascinations of how we are chemicals and matter that somehow work together to create life fascinated me. I also found the opportunity and prestige of an R-1 university appealing in a world that said the humanities are dying away. At the same time, I loved language, people, and connection in a university that was, at the beginning, overwhelming. While the natural sciences highlighted the nature of reactions and bonds, my growing knowledge of French and francophone culture revealed layer upon layer of how individuals bond and react. Pursuing a specialization in language and literature demonstrated not only how the world and life works, but how we are more than matter: we have souls that long for connection and are made to connect. If you are religious, this idea is nothing new, and although it was certainly not new to me either, speaking the language of another part of the world opened up avenues to experience the world of others and change what seemed as "another's" into "shared."
Half-way through my sophomore year, I switched gears from STEM to the humanities with special focuses in French language and francophone culture and international studies with the goal of being NC State's first accelerated MA candidate at 19 years-old. The professors of NC State's Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures offered dedicated advisers and real field-based expertise on how to make the administrative groundwork of an accelerated program pave the way for countless opportunities and spaces for creativity and success. If you've ever had any experience with academic advising, you know many sessions are either a hit or miss: I am forever thankful for advisors and professors who cared enough about their programs and students enough to schedule joint advising meetings to verify that my double-major accelerated program goals would be an investment with a great return.
Now, a year into grad school, I've found that going at the more challenging, accelerated pace does eventually pay off. It allowed me to capitalize on not yet being burned out from full undergraduate career while my tabula rasa-ness of elevated professional scholarship still possessed its curiosity and motivation of a young student often stamped out by four years of university life and stress. It also put me in the often scary, yet paramount, position of forming relationships with my professors and advisers. Individuals who were previously just entities who lectured the seminars I enrolled in and graded my thoughts and papers have become valuable mentors and voices of wisdom in my academic pursuits and personal progress as a scholar and thinker with specific interests and hopes for the academy.
What felt like many twists and turns over two years now seems like a straight shot into this past May (as you may guess, things always kept on rolling). I completed all program requirements (including completing 36 credit hours, professional development workshops); TA'd and taught over 100 students; wrote a 109-page thesis on John Calvin's correspondence with three French queens between 1515 and 1564; and committed another year at NC State to study the most relevant and applicable ways individuals can teach and learn English as a Second Language, all before my 22nd birthday.
When I am not studying, writing, or teaching, I'm can be found spending time with my family in Chapel Hill, NC and Black Mountain, NC (scrabble may or may not be our family sport); running around whatever city I'm in (sometimes because I'm late for a meeting with friends or because I'm out for a jog, it really depends on the day); making music with my music group, Chordination A Capella; watercoloring on my back porch; investing in my community through my church or campus ministry; exploring one of the amazing museums or local coffee shops in Raleigh; crying over a Netflix French sit-com or rom-com; or going on an impromptu adventure (which is usually just another amalgamation of flat-tire-things-keep-rolling moments).