I never wanted to call this place home.
When I was in the first grade my mother signed my brother and me up for a basketball camp held at New England College. I spent the next 11 years of my life continuing to attend camps, watching the men’s and women’s teams play, and working on my shot whenever my dad could take me to the gym. I had already set goals for life after high school, and NEC was nowhere in sight.
I’ve wanted to work in the sports industry for as long as I can remember. Sports hold a very special place in my heart and have directly contributed to the person I am today. I’m a firm believer in the saying, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” and that is why I need to somehow be connected to sports. My logical thinking as a 6th grader was, if I attend the University of Connecticut, a school with phenomenal athletics, I will only be roughly 40 minutes from ESPN.
UConn or bust.
My mind never wandered about where I would attend college. UCONN was in my heart. I loved everything about their women’s basketball team, I loved the campus, the facilities, I couldn’t get enough. Despite my mother’s attempts to dissuade me from wanting to choose such a large school, she would drive me down to visit once or twice a year. Not only did I fall more in love with the place, but I somehow managed to meet someone famous every single time, like Head Coach Geno Auriemma, current Detroit Piston Andre Drummond, and current Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart. I even found a street bearing my middle name; I was sold. Though my parents had me apply to NEC and UNH as backup plans, in case I somehow, someway decided UCONN wasn’t for me.
Throughout my four years of high school basketball, I never really had a strong desire to play in college. I was so focused on getting to ESPN through UCONN, I never entertained the thought or other potential schools. It wasn’t until the last few weeks of my senior season that I realized the joy of being on a team and representing my school was coming to an end. After we lost to the undefeated first seed in the first round of playoffs, by only a small margin, I had this undeniable feeling that I was not ready to stop playing the sport that had been a part of my life for the last 12 years.
The decision to live on campus my freshman year was an easy one; at that time, I didn’t fully understand the concept of student debt. However, I knew I wanted the true college experience even though I was so close to home. I realized that in order to make new friends other than my teammates and the ones I knew from home, I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I used to be quiet and reserved in social and public settings. I was never one to be bold and strike up a conversation with a stranger or dare to get to know someone better. I often would take the approach of letting things come to me instead.
As I started getting to know people down the hall, next door, and even acquaintances I had met at orientation, I was feeling more and more confident in my abilities. Instead of shying away from people I didn’t know in a new social setting, I tried finding things we had in common. That self-realization was the first step to meeting some of my lifelong friends, but also enhancing my experience here.
After one month of being in class with Professor Homestead, I joined the student newspaper, The NewEnglander. When I accepted the position of Sports Editor, I initially only thought about how it would benefit me later on in life on my resume. It never occurred to me how great it would feel to see people sharing my articles, and how much more connected to the school I would be. I have this wonderful platform to share my experiences, my thoughts and my passions and the ability to help others share theirs.
Being a Peer Leader is something I always wanted to be a part of, but just never thought I had the time. After having a great experience in my own Bridges to Learning class, I decided to apply, not knowing what to expect. Out of all the clubs and programs I joined during my first year, there is not one I am more thankful for than Peer Leaders. Branching out and meeting new friends was the first small step I took towards growing as a person, but over the last three years in this program I have taken leaps and bounds from where I was in high school.
Allie Birchmeier, Megan Hotaling, Amanda Moak, and Sarah Jenness are the main reasons why this program has been so meaningful to so many people for so many years. The ways in which my life has changed for the better are indescribable. I continue to grow as a person, as a leader, and have seen a rise in my self-confidence.
For me it was the Peer Leader program that showed me the support I never thought I needed; for others it may be a different organization on this campus that provides them with their own life changing experience. I never realized how much this experience would mean to me; I became best friends with people I sat next to in class and never spoke with, it opened my eyes to different perspectives on life, and it introduced me to some of the most important people in my life.
Not wanting my basketball career to come to an end is the main reason I came to this school, and that same feeling is creeping up again. I’ve been a part of some great teams here, from being runners-up my freshman season to winning the conference championship my junior year. While injuries have plagued me, I am grateful for all of the knowledge and experience I have gained. My coaches and teammates have all impacted my life in different meaningful ways, and I thank basketball for allowing me to be a part of this program.
Heading into my senior year, I’ve added a few more things to my plate, but I am excited to start my journey of “lasts.” I never could have imagined the genuinely meaningful experiences I would have at a place that I never wanted to attend, and I’ve enjoyed sharing the knowledge I’ve gained with those who have more time left here than I do.
When graduating seniors started telling me to soak up and enjoy every moment of my time here, I for the most part brushed it off: How fast could four years fly by? Now being that sappy senior, I wish I had another year of eligibility, another year to be a Peer Leader, and another year to lead the NewEnglander. Make the most out of your four years here, before you know it you’ll be wishing you could stay another four more.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me through these last three years. And, thank you to NEC for becoming a home, 20 minutes away from my own.