Chapter 2: Growing Upwards
The first word I think of when I remember second year is enrichment. As my focus became narrower, my findings became richer. I explored my passions, my curiosities. It was like looking through a kaleidoscope or venturing into Oz. You find so many colors and facets that you didn’t know existed, but it seems just right that you had found them.
Many of my defining experiences came from expanding upon different interests that I found freshman year. Time and time again, I heard of incredible opportunities—from listservs, advisors and friends—and took advantage of as many as I could, whether it was attending/presenting at a conference or finding new shadowing possibilities. From applying to be an ambassador for suicide prevention to joining the OSU Sexual Violence Committee, I also sought to take a more active role in the issues and activities that I believed in.
Academically speaking, I was taken aback by the rigor of the course load that I had. Although a period of transition from high school to first year definitely existed, the gap I spanned was infinitely smaller than the chasm from first to second year. I started getting into my major classes, like Neuroscience 3000 and into harder sciences, such as Organic Chemistry. It was no longer sufficient to take notes, attend lecture and do the homework. After struggling initially for a foothold, by second semester, the ground had settled beneath me. I attended office hours for the first time; I changed my note-taking style; I joined more study groups. My new study habits will definitely continue through my college career, until another transition gives me the opportunity to evolve it once more.
Research entered my life sophomore year in a big way. I began going into lab 10hrs/week to learn more about stress and immunology. qPCR, immunohistochemistry, cryostat. My everyday life filled with techniques that once only existed in textbooks. But, neuroscience wasn’t the only research that captivated me. While fulfilling a GE requirement, folklore research entered the picture. As we learned more about different communities, traditions and customs, researching that field became interesting. Always interested in different identities, I decided to focus my end-of-semester project on examining the intersectionality of the Black/African-American and LGBTQ+ communities. I enjoyed the class, and research, enough to enroll in an upper-level English class, focusing on fairy tales and reality. The class cemented my love for the discipline and I switched from an English minor to a Folklore minor. I continued the research project that I began in that class, studying the form and effect of music in fairy tale adaptations, into the summer and began to seriously contemplate undertaking an honors undergraduate thesis.
In a more subtle way than research, volunteering also began defining my sophomore year. It started with weekly shifts at the James Cancer Hospital as a Restful Nights volunteer. Every Friday and Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit the patients and make them more comfortable through hand massages, handing out amenities or just conversing with them. Seeing the impact, firsthand, that a few words and a few hours could have, I unknowingly started directing my time towards service. I organized a campus-wide blanket-making drive for a local homeless shelter, planned and attended a service learning trip to New Orleans. Yet, my largest project, and achievement to date, has establishing the Kindness on the Carts Service Initiative.
As a Restful Nights volunteer, I saw the impact of the donations on the cart. While eye masks and ear plugs made the patients more comfortable, a card or decoration lifted their spirits. I began incorporating projects into my Random Acts of Kindness position, making cheerful pick-me-ups for the patients. Sometimes they were notes or cards; other times it was decorations for their rooms to brighten their environment. I loved doing it, and I loved that the patients’ smiles. Every time someone told me that their pick-me-up brightened their day, a little light sparked inside me. I started the Kindness on the Carts Service Initiative and eventually was awarded an Honors and Scholars Enrichment Grant in order to expand my plans. To date, KindCarts has created over 200 donations and volunteered for over 120 hours. Our projects have been able to diversify, allowing us to offer everything from simple cards and handmade bookmarks to mini Hope Gardens and stress-relief DIY kits.
If first year was a sprout, second year was a shoot. Everything—my academics, my social life, my organizations—grew upward, strengthening what was already there and starting to sprout new leaves and new buds. As I stretch and reach out, I can’t wait to see where I go and what new connections I’ll make.