The summer before my senior year, I decided I wanted to tour Florida State University. I never really thought about going to FSU, being four hours from home, but all the talk from my peers moving hours and hours away encouraged me to search for colleges beyond Orlando. My family decided to make a quick trip to Pensacola. On the way back we would stop to tour FSU.
As soon as we got to the welcoming center, I fell in love. The school was gorgeous. With its brick buildings, rolling hills and the green trees, it almost looked like Harvard. When we began our tour, we learned all about the history behind FSU. I began to think I belonged here by the time we ended our tour and headed back home.
A couple months later in December, I got into the Tri-State band music festival, which took place at the FSU music building. After three straight days of rehearsing from morning to night, as well as attending the winter concert for the FSU music department one of the nights, I knew that playing trumpet at FSU was my purpose. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in or what careers to possibly look at.
But I knew I wanted to attend FSU as a music major.
February came around and I headed back to Tallahassee to audition for the music school. It was a nerve-wracking audition, but I had a great time and I finally came to the conclusion that music therapy was the way to go. A month later, I received an email from FSU music school during band rehearsal. I got in. I wanted to jump off of my seat with excitement. Once rehearsal ended, I eagerly told my band director and he reassured me I would do great at FSU.
When I got home, my family showed immense pride for me getting accepted. As a first-generation student, it was their joy to see me have an opportunity to succeed in school. With that said, my family showered me with FSU apparel and merchandise. It was insane! My mom couldn’t wait to take me shopping for dorm decorations and supplies. We bought lights, frames, plates, utensils and anything you can think of, really.
I felt ready, but then graduation came along.
It was the last time I saw my friends before we all went our separate ways, and that’s when it hit me. Four hours: That’s a long drive. Do I really want to move four hours away from my family, my friends and my city? I began to doubt whether moving to FSU was the right choice. Was I ready for this big change? I know I had peers moving states away, but I didn’t know if I could deal with not having my family every day.
I voiced my concerns, and everyone from my family and friends to teachers told me it was normal to feel anxious about moving somewhere new, especially without knowing anyone. Along with these thoughts, I began to question whether I really wanted to choose music for my career. I knew of the truly unsustainable life as a musician, and I absolutely did not want to teach music.
I decided I should stay in Orlando until I had even somewhat of an idea of what I wanted to do. I enrolled in my nearest community college, and I found something priceless. Since I had a large number of college credits from high school, I only needed to do one year of community college to receive my AA. Since the bulk of my credits also qualified as general education, I only had to take electives. I took all the classes that sounded interesting for me and that led me to find what I wanted to major in: English.
I finally knew what I wanted to do.
One day, one of my English professors told me he attended the University of Florida for his bachelor’s degree in English literature. He highly recommended the program and insisted I apply. I researched the school and found that UF offers amazing programs, English as one of the many. Two and a half weeks after I turned in my application, I received an email with the excited first line: “Congratulations!!! Your application to the University of Florida has been approved!” I felt ecstatic, and I knew this time around I was ready.
In August of this year, I packed my clothes and room decorations and headed towards Gainesville in search of new opportunities and experience. If there’s anything I learned from this past year, it’s that it’s okay to doubt yourself. You don’t need to know what to do. In a society where we feel pressured to determine our careers at 18, it can be a troubling experience for some.
Some people, like me, need more time to figure out what they want to do and where they want to go and what they want to study. Community college was a stepping stone for me. It allowed me to grow both as a student and a person. Moving away from my family and into a new city didn’t seem as nerve-wracking as it did last May. Everyone grows at their own pace. With so many diverse options available to students at every campus, you just need to find where you feel safe and accepted. And you will absolutely love your college experience. Go Gators!