The freedom of college, endless nights of partying and finding the perfect college sweetheart all sounds good until you realize that college doesn’t guarantee any of that. With one year of these unmet expectations behind me, I considered leaving the University of Florida and going back home to Michigan with the rest of my family. I struggled trying to find my place and identity at UF, and in my personal life, a sense of belonging.
I didn’t feel like I found my place until someone encouraged me to seek an organization.
Oh, how this sounded so cliché.
Would this really work? I thought. Am I wasting my time when I know I have a whole support system in Michigan? Trying to overcome my fear of rejection and ignoring my negative thoughts, I decided to put my writing skills to good use. That summer, I took a step of faith and applied to an organization called the Black Student Union to serve as editor for the Black Student Assembly committee.
After a few weeks, I opened my laptop and saw the response I was waiting for right before me. My eyes began to widen as I read, “It is my pleasure to congratulate you on becoming Editor for this year’s Black Student Assembly.” Wow. I vowed that if this experience did not change my perception of college as a whole, that going back to Michigan would be the answer.
Time passed and I felt my heart shifting as we prepared for the upcoming BSA show. I fell in love with the idea of scriptwriting and being in control of selecting individuals to partake in the show. This made me feel—well—important, something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Here, I started to feel welcome, while others around me had no idea what their presence meant to me.
The night before the BSA show, I started to feel nervous. Why, you may ask? To be quite honest, I don’t know the answer myself because suddenly—lights, camera, action—it was showtime. The show began. The first act was a success, I started to gain the confidence I needed. I felt at ease when I peeked from behind the curtain out into the audience. All the new faces I saw had a smile on them. I smiled back.
The time came for the big reveal of who was behind creating the show. I walked on stage with the rest of my committee and nervously waited for my turn to introduce myself on the microphone. I wish this was over already, I thought. I gave myself a quick pep talk, forcing myself prepare for applause that I knew was coming from my friends.
“Hello, my name is Ashayla Blak….”; right then and there I heard the audience cheering me on. I smiled and continued on with my introduction. How could these people cheer for me as if they knew me? Yeah, maybe they sensed my nervousness or some may have even supernaturally overheard my thoughts beforehand. Whatever the case was, I was thrilled to see that this new group of people made me feel like I belonged.
Even though this story ends in applause, that hardly means it has ended perfectly. I’m still searching for the showstopper of my college career, but I am confident in saying that I found a family here at the University of Florida. Michigan crosses my mind every now and then, but I like to think I found my safe haven in UF. Or like I like to say it—here comes another cliché—my home away from home.