College had its highs and lows

By Christine Valentine |

I am graduating this December. After almost 20 years of homework and tests, it will all be over. Just like that. Just over four years in college and I will be walking away from campus for the last time on Dec. 11, 2010.

Honestly, I never imagined this day would actually come. Especially when you take into consideration what a terrible student I was as a college freshman. I mean, I was a good student. I didn’t talk in class and I paid attention, or at least pretended to. But, I never studied. I would come home and take a nap or waste time watching TV or playing Peggle.

As I think about my time at college, so many memories instantly flood my mind. It seems like almost every day I learned something new. I’m still learning. Here it is my last semester and I finally found the path behind Wiley Hall.

Throughout my college career, though, I’ve had many highs and lows. Two of my most important memories were my lowest point and eventually my highest point. The lowest was on Dec. 21st, 2007. It was a Saturday and I was just about to leave my home for work. My mom pointed out that I had received some mail from Flagler College. My parents must have noticed my paler than usual expression because they began pressing me if I knew what the letter might be about. I didn’t answer, but knew it probably wasn’t great news.

I had gone into my room and sat on the side of my bed. I knew I wanted to be alone when I read this. So, I swallowed some courage and began to read the letter.

“You are dismissed from the College for unsatisfactory academic performance.” Those were the only words I read. Those were the only words I needed to read. I sat there for about 20 seconds. I remember just feeling ashamed. I was holding tangible proof that I had failed at life. I was not surprised because I knew what my grades were, but I was still ashamed that I had let this happen. But, I could not let the news get to me because I had to be at work in 10 minutes. I walked out of my room and my parents waited for me in the kitchen looking completely anxious and concerned.

“What did it say?” my mom asked.

“We’ll talk about it when I get home from work,” I said through a quivering lip. I realize now what a ridiculous request that was. I was going in for an 8-hour shift. If I had attempted to hold that in, I probably would’ve started balling at the 5th customer who asked me where the bathroom was.

I walked into the garage and closed the door and stood there while my mom found the letter and read it. Knowing she was reading it caused me to lose all control of emotion and I began sobbing. My mom marched into the garage and hugged me. My parents and I sat at the kitchen table and I continued to express my devastation. I was only 20 minutes late for work.  

A few days later, I was still crying, but I signed up for community college. I think about my first semester at community and there really isn’t a particular moment when everything clicked and I saw the right path to take. Instead, the entire semester I was pretty grateful for getting another chance. I was also relieved that I wasn’t at Flagler anymore.

The year before I was kicked out of Flagler was a very dark time for me. Well, dark time isn’t right either. It was a nothingness time for me. I was just going through the motions. I guess I was so overwhelmed by all of the change in my life: graduating high school, falling in love, starting college, breaking up with my first love and even losing my best friend caused me to shut down. I would often find myself walking through the halls of Flagler filled with other students and I would still feel completely alone.

I felt so different at the community college, so much better. Being at a different school was the change I needed. My attitude about school changed almost overnight. I started talking to other students and asking the teachers for help after class. I even started to become interested in my classes. My parents noticed that I started talking about my classes all of the time and even recited entire class lectures to them.

I also think having a short term goal is what improved my mind-set. I enrolled into community planning to get my two-year degree. Then depending on how that went, I would decide whether or not I wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree. The answer became crystal clear to me during the summer of 2008. I took humanities during the summer semester. I fell in love with all of the pictures of the amazing statues and architecture and hearing all of the history behind them. Getting an education had never been that fun for me before. I was hooked. After only four semesters, I had received my AA.

I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree. I wrote a letter to Flagler College asking to be readmitted. The letter was required, but I was glad I did it. For the first time, I took the time to really look at my previous semesters at Flagler and what caused my behavior. My best friend from high school went to Flagler with me and since I continued living with my parents, it was as if nothing had really changed for me. Mentally, I was still in high school.

I was accepted back into Flagler and I felt wonderful. Then it was time for my first week of classes. I was nervous, but I kept telling myself that the administration believed I belonged here otherwise they wouldn’t have let me back in. As much as receiving that letter signed by all of the Deans hurt me, today I believe it was a gift. I found a love for education. Before I knew it my first semester back at Flagler was over. It was a little rough — I wound up with 2 C’s, but I also got one B and an A.

At the end of my second semester I received another letter signed by the deans. I had a moment of hesitation before I opened it, but I did and it was a letter congratulating me for making the Dean’s List. A part of me always knew I would come back to Flagler, but if you had told me I would make the Dean’s List I would have rolled my eyes and laughed at you.

Now I am leaving an entire chapter of my life behind and preparing for what’s next. I am terrified, but honestly, I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be.

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