The “dream school.” From our earliest thoughts of college, we envision that perfect school, that place where we meet the right people and embark on a journey to “find ourselves.” Television, the movies, and media project images of students visiting colleges, falling in love with their school at first sight, and eagerly awaiting their future full-ride acceptance letters. This image we see shapes college to be this monumental, binding decision. College is an important part of life in shows like Gossip Girl and Legally Blonde, but for me, choosing a college was not the generic “as seen on TV” experience. I visited six colleges, and while the tours were fun and some were appealing, I never found that so-called “dream school.” In fact, what I realized more than anything was that I had no idea what I was looking for. Which led to my unexpected turn to Arcadia after another stop along the way.
After graduating high school, I thought my passion was theater. My future seemed certain. I’d applied to 11 colleges and was accepted to 10, eventually choosing my second choice, which had given me the greatest amount of financial aid. I absolutely adored my school, even though it was not my “dream school.” I loved the professors in the theater department and ended up meeting some of the most accepting people of my life. Still, I never thought I would survive off of theater alone. Although my parents have been completely supportive, I also heard other voices in my life tell me “you’re not good enough” and “acting will get you nowhere.” Whether I acknowledged it or not, I subconsciously believed the negativity. So I pursued a double major in Theater and Communications with a minor in Philosophy. And I realized I was pursuing a back-up plan. I spent most of my time in arts administration with my theater’s box office and as the department photo archivist, even though I really wanted to act. Never in a million years did I envision myself transferring to another university.
But in March, I experienced an abrupt awakening. A friend and fellow resident assistant died unexpectedly, the first on-campus death in over 15 years. I was torn apart. My life, as well as that of many others, was put on hold. The shock of losing my friend made already difficult issues harder to resolve, like challenges with my study abroad program. One night, I had an epiphany; I could name over 10 college-age students who had passed away within the last two years and here I was, pursuing my back-up plan. It was time to transform my life and take hold of my future. So began my road to Arcadia.
When I transferred, my objective was not to completely start over. My college journey had already begun and to start over would essentially be throwing away all I had accomplished as an actor, a student, and as a human being. Growing up, I had never been the new kid; I had always lived in the same house next to the same neighbors with the same friends my entire life. Now that I am one of the few “new kids,” it definitely feels strange. I often have weekends roll around where all I can think about are my friends from my other liberal arts college and wonder what they have been doing. Even though transferring colleges brought me closer to home, I felt distant and wrong for being somewhere new. Granted, my friends and previous faculty have been immensely supportive of my decision to transfer; that seems to be why leaving them is difficult.
But coming to Arcadia has given me many opportunities I never previously saw feasible. Being next door to Philly has created a bridge to a world of arts and culture that I simply did not have access to before. I have been able to attend Improv shows, meet up with friends from home, attend casting calls at other nearby colleges, and really get a grasp on the direction I want my future to go in. I no longer need to drive one hour to the nearest city or worry about making connections in the theater world; Arcadia’s location and incredible theater department have eased this stress.
Despite the challenges that I know will arise, I do not regret for a moment my decision to transfer. I went to college to learn as much as I possibly could about the things I love. Now I feel like a plant that has been transplanted. Though I loved my small pot and there was nothing wrong with it, I needed more room to grow. My new pot might feel big and a bit overwhelming, but I can’t wait to bloom – on my terms.