She Flies With Her Own Wings

By: Christina Ferrari

Seven weeks ago I arrived onto a campus I knew next to nothing about. I had picked it because it had the prettiest pictures online, out of my possible internship sites it was the greatest distance from home, and because a woman who worked there and I had a total of three conversations— once when I wasan undergrad searching for a career path, and twice as a panicked grad student anxious about her said career path. The last time we spoke she told me about an internship opportunityshe had involving theme communities and first-year students.

Little did she know, the week before that conversation I had an “aha!” moment. I realized amidst the craziness of NASPA that pursuing a career in residence life would give me the student interaction I craved and working with LLCs and theme communities would allow me an opportunity to tie my background together into a tidy little student development package that would play to my strengths. Problem was, I had next to no experience in residence life, working with first-years, or anything LLCs.

After numerous Pro/Con charts and running through worst-case scenarios with my roommates, parents, partner, friends, mentors, and anyone else with two ears and enough patience to listen to me, I bought my plane ticket and held my breath hoping this risk would pay off. I was bound for Oregon State University. When the shuttle bus took me through campus, I remember my eyes and mouth were open wide. “This. Is. Beautiful.” I thought to myself in awe. Everywhere I looked there were giant trees, enormous flowers, and scenery that seemed straight out of a paintingSoon after arriving to the campus, I learned that the beauty here wasn’t just in the buildings or landscaping. It was in the people too.

For almost the past two months, I have had the incredible privilege to work with some of the most passionate and committed student affairs professionals I’ve ever met.  They are paving the way for their university to engage first-year students and bridge the learning in the classroom with living on-campus. Their charge is challenging and the timing is far from ideal, but they are committed to doing their best and I only hope the meetings I’ve been a part of and the documents I’ve created can aid them in this process. From the student leaders to the senior student affairs officers, I have been inspired in more ways than I ever thought possible in just a couple of weeks. I’ve learned that patience, persistence, and positivity are vital when it comes to campus-wide changes and that it’s impossible to please everyone at the same time. I’ve been to three area institutions of various types and sizes, each with a beauty all their own. It has truly been an honor to learn from the professionals I have encountered in my brief time in Oregon.

Perhaps the most powerful lesson I’ve learned here can be summed up in this great state’s motto (which I just Googledby the way). It really sums up my experience perfectly: Alis volatpropriis is Latin for “She flies with her own wings”. In a state that prides itself on independence and innovation,  at an institution that showed me in a matter of weeks what those terms really mean, I discovered for myself that I can-- and must-- fly with my own wings. It proved to me that I can be thousands of miles from anyone I know and be just fine. I can take a leap of faith and I won’t plummet to the ground. If I leave the nest, if I hop out of my comfort zone, I have what it takes to soar.

My analogies of birds and flying might be a little corny, but after all-- I was a Creative Writing major and I’ve learned to own my cheesiness. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to come to OSU and I know that the lessons I’ve learned about move-out, being on-call, conduct processes, FYE committees, university politics, and being an independent adult will stay with me long after I return home. I want to thank everyone who has helped me these past two months to uncover these lessons, especially a woman who fearlessly spreads her own wings and aims for new heights every day, a woman who took a chance on this anxious and apprehensive grad student looking for a summer adventure. Ann Marie Klotz, thank you for taking a leap of faith, for bringing me to OSU, and helping me learn to fly with my own wings. 

Student Affairs - the First Years

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