The Third Year’s the Charm.

A late but worthy post that got lost in my files debriefing my junior year at UNC.

It has taken me a very long time to write this – I’m not sure if it’s because I’m in denial of entering my senior year in the fall (possible) or the fact that I’ve just been lazy (probable) – well, maybe a little combination of both.

People tend to say that the third time’s the charm. I’m not really sure what exactly that’s supposed to signify necessarily, but it just works for some people. Maybe if you’re dating, that third date will be the charm (…can you really tell if someone’s “the one” by the third date? I have no idea) or if you’re taking the GRE (which I still need to register for) the third time you take it might be your magically highest score. I don’t really know, but people say that phrase and they like it.

In my approach to my third year at UNC, I figured I would take that mentality as well – the third year’s the charm. My third year in high school was a really great year for me I would say, so why shouldn’t my third year in college be the same? My friends and I deemed junior year “our year” – our year to kick butt and take names and be all that we wanted to be and more.

Well, I’d have to say that junior year definitely was my year.

I got back to school in early August so that I could train and prepare myself to be an office assistant for Connor Community. I was really excited about having an on campus job where I got paid minimum wage to sit at a desk and do homework (how would that not excite a college student?); however, little did I know what I was really getting into.

The first night of training was a welcome dinner with all of the staff – all of the office assistants and resident advisors were in attendance and so were our bosses. I only knew one person in the room with me and though at first it was slightly intimidating, I quickly relished in the idea of having new friends.

I love new friends.

Meeting people is one of my favorite things about college and about life in general – there are just so many people to meet everywhere you go! It’s incredible. The staff was fun and diverse and filled with people that I would be getting closer with as the weeks progressed. Before I knew it, I had gone through training and was put to work at the desk in the Connor Office. Minus some technical difficulties, things ran pretty smoothly.

So to be honest, I wasn’t sure how I would like working in an office setting. I am a huge fan of The Office on NBC (Steve Carell I miss you, please come back?) and I have always sworn to myself that I would never work a desk job like one in an office. Fortunately, my experience was so great that I decided to come back again for my senior year. Get money, get paid, right? Well, that’s part of it. The best part about working at the desk is (if you know me, you guessed it!) meeting new people. I interacted with so many residents on a daily basis that (this might sound creepy but I swear I was just doing my job) I knew some of the people by the end of first semester – now, when I say I knew these people, I mean they walked in and I knew they had locked themselves out of their rooms and they didn’t have to tell me their name or room number anymore (see, not creepy, just being a good Housing Department employee).

I worked with some really awesome people this past year and wouldn’t change those experiences for anything. I definitely made some close friends while working the desk and for that I am grateful (shout out of thanks to UNC’s Department of Housing and Residential Education).

What made working in the Connor Community Office even better though was the fact that I actually lived in the Connor Community. I had a new roommate who was pretty much a stranger to me (a mutual friend got us to room together – huge thanks extended to her!) and things could not have worked out any better for our living situation. She was an awesome roommate and things were never awkward and I truly could not have asked for a more perfect person to live with last year.

Despite the fact that I still lived on campus, this was the first year that I was living in a dorm that was hall style living as opposed to suite style living. Basically the layout of Winston Dorm (loved it so much I’m going back for more next year) is the first and third floor are boys’ halls, and the second and fourth floor are girls’ halls (second floor represent). I thought living on a floor full of girls was going to be insane and dramatic and crazy, but to my utmost pleasant surprise I experienced none of that (for those girls who did happen to experience that, I am very sorry and maybe we can alleviate that next year if you’re staying in Winston). The neighboring rooms surrounding mine were filled with wonderful people. I had two very close friends on one side and then countless new friends everywhere else scattered about the hall.

Can I just say it is so incredibly helpful living on a hall full of girls when you are trying to find something cute to wear out?

It was really awesome bonding with all the girls on the hall – luckily, a good number of them will be back next year so that the W-2 legacy can live on.

The fall semester of this past year was when I got my first real taste of what I like to call “teacher life” (hashtag normally necessary but will be waived throughout this piece of writing for proper technical purposes). I was placed in a local elementary school and was set to observe a classroom once a week.

Mrs. Feix’s third grade class at Morris Grove Elementary was totally where the party was.

Third grade is a really fantastic year in elementary school if you asked me. See, third graders still like learning and their teacher. Third graders are also still cute and smaller than I am which is always a plus. The biggest thing about third grade though is that these kids are starting to become independent. End of Grade Tests are given and kids are pushed to learn material so they can pass a test (I promise you that I am biting my tongue so I won’t go off on a rant about that right now).

Anyway, Mrs. Feix and her third graders were so welcoming when I came into their classroom for the first time in August. Mrs. Feix was an amazing first cooperating teacher who was so willing to assist my educational journey in any way possible, and for that I am beyond thankful.

Not only did I get to know a class full of third graders and Mrs. Feix, but I also got to know another girl in my class. This girl and I were very different personality-wise; I was loud and outgoing, and she was more quiet and reserved. Despite our differences, an absolutely beautiful friendship started to form.

There was a lot of bonding going on with quite a few people in my School of Education cohort. Not only was I getting to know the girl I was student teaching with, but I was also getting to know a girl who was in my Spanish class also focusing on Spanish Language for an Elementary Education degree.

…then there was also the epic bonding session every Monday evening in EDUC 401, but that’s a completely torturous event that is best left un-remembered.

I really feel like this year was the year my education spark truly clicked. I was devouring journal articles about education like it was nobody’s business and all I ever wanted to talk about was education (if you don’t believe me, just look at my blog from fall of 2010).

My passion and love for kids didn’t stop in the classroom – for the third year I was involved with UNC Dance Marathon, benefiting the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. I was especially excited for this year because I was more than just a committee member, but rather I was a sub-chair. I had more responsibility and a sub-committee of my own to run for the Outreach Committee. Now, what sub-committee would be better suited for a future elementary school teacher than the Elementary School Outreach Sub-Committee? Answer: there isn’t anything better.

I jumped at the chance to reach out to elementary schools in the Chapel Hill area and the hard work of my sub-committee paid off as the fall semester progressed. We began contacting after school programs at the local schools and were finding great success. We held two mini-marathons at two schools in Chapel Hill and both were successful in collecting books for the Children’s Hospital (I literally had an SUV trunk full of books for like three months)!

Also as the fall semester progressed, so my birthday came. This, my friends, was no ordinary birthday. This year, I turned that magical age of twenty-one. Yes, the legal drinking age was mine (not that it really mattered that much to me in the first place). I spent the evening in flannel, eating ice cream, and going to The Varity Theater to take in a Hitchcock flick. This birthday was so awesome that it inspired one of my best poems of my intermediate poetry writing career, “Retro-American Living.”

A couple weeks after my birthday, news came about that one of my old teachers was in town for the weekend with his fiancée. He offered to take me out for a drink for my birthday since his fiancée had some other plans one night while they were in town, so naturally, I took him up on that. We made our way to PT’s (may it rest in peace) and I got my first buzz ever. The place was filled with people (but not so filled I felt like having a panic attack), the music was excellent since it was 90s night, and the drinks were killer. Shooting the breeze with my senior year APUSH teacher and high school quiz bowl coach was easily one of the most fun nights I had all year. I tell people about this and I get one of two reactions: (a) that’s so weird, or (b) that’s AWESOME. Well people, let me tell you right now, it was AWESOME.

The fall has always been my favorite season, and I definitely enjoy it as it turns into winter as well. I can’t forget sitting in a Union study room by myself reviewing education material when all of a sudden the lightest snow started falling. Soft flakes swirled all around the window and as I checked my Twitter, discovered that UNC beat Kentucky in basketball. Talk about a good day, right? Not long after that, I got a text message from a friend asking me to go to this fraternity cocktail with a friend of his as a favor since I was “just the girl to go with said friend.”

So in less than 24 hours, I needed to get myself cocktail ready.

Not only didn’t I really know the guy I was going with, but I also didn’t know what to wear or what to expect. I don’t really like not knowing minor details such as those, but I was doing my best to roll with the punches. I borrowed a dress from a girl on my floor and got the approval of my friends before walking outside to hop in the car.

Fortunately for me, the guy was a fantastic date and I had an absolutely lovely time. Who has a bad time when there’s live jazz music playing and your date teaches you how to swing dance? I mean, seriously? This guy probably could have proposed right then and there in the middle of our dancing and I would have said yes.

Note to guy if you’re reading this: sorry you missed your chance, I still love you.

So I thought that things were going to really take off with that guy, but they didn’t move too quickly. Despite this, I met another guy while at this cocktail who seemed pretty cool and also pretty interested. He was fun to talk to and seemed like a person I’d like to get to know, so I naturally baked him cookies (because that’s what I do, I bake for people I like). It took a couple weeks for him to catch my hints, but winter break came around and this guy drove over an hour to Concord to take me out on a date. I’ve never had anyone do something like that for me before, so I figured he kind of liked me, which is always exciting.

Needless to say we went on a few more dates during the course of winter break and by the time we got back to UNC in January, we were basically a couple. We made it Facebook official (because it isn’t really official until it’s on Facebook) and our friends were ecstatic.

This was my second boyfriend ever in my life and the way things were going were very different than my first go ‘round. I hadn’t known this guy for very long and things were emotionally moving kind of fast. I figured maybe this way of dating would be new and exciting and just completely revolutionary, but to my dismay things didn’t work out. I ended up breaking things off, which was also a first, and there was nothing that could have been harder for me. The relationship was great while it lasted, but things were definitely changing in my life and I realized I needed time to figure some things out on my own.

The spring semester progressed and I decided to audition for a show. Yes, I sucked it up and auditioned for Broadway Melodies. This delightful little Pauper bit includes student-written satirical productions that are quite comical. I was cast in “Mean Girls: The Musical” as Janis Ian. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie Mean Girls, Janis is a gothic misfit with a very pessimistic attitude.

Basically, I was playing my own personal antithesis, and I dare say that I loved it.

That’s why I love acting and performing in stage like that – it’s such an escape and you can be whoever you want to be. It’s liberating.

Digressing.

The show’s run was successful and I made so many new friends and grew so many old relationships (common theme of new friends and friendship in general is still prevalent, which rocks). My dad even got to come, which was stellar. He usually doesn’t get to come to things like that, but he made it this year, which made me beyond happy.

In the middle of all of this even still, I had this little thing called UNC Dance Marathon to do.

I worked really hard as a sub-chair this past year and took pride in the successes of my sub-committee and committee. We did some big things and turned Outreach around to the point that it wasn’t even recognizable from when I was on the committee my first year. This year really meant something to me on this committee. I was completely hooked. The final video was playing, recapping the year’s Marathon fundraising events, and through my tears of pride and joy for my committee and this organization, the total was revealed.

$436,709.61.

Every year it’s more money, and every year I am more dedicated to this cause. The pain and exhaustion continue to pale in comparison of the hard work and dedication of the doctors and the unshaken love of the families in the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

While I was trying to balance play practice with office assistant life while recovering from Dance Marathon, I also had to manage student teaching twice a week in a kindergarten classroom at FPG Elementary.

Y’all. Kindergarten is a completely different ballgame.

Not only was I in a kindergarten classroom, but it was a dual language immersion classroom where the teacher taught these children in Spanish. The class was comprised of half native English speakers and half native Spanish speakers. I had never seen anything like it. The girl from my cohort who I was student teaching with this semester shared a passion for Spanish-speaking children and being crafty, and we got along beautifully and were able to have some really rich conversations about what we were seeing in our classroom. I was really enjoying my time in the classroom until I realized that I needed to teach my lessons for my education classes in Spanish.

I had never taught in Spanish before and I was absolutely terrified. My first lesson with the kids, I was clutching my lesson plan outline so tightly that it was a crumpled mess by the end of my mini-lesson. It’s incredibly humbling to have your Spanish corrected by a five-year-old.

As my time in the classroom went on, I became more and more confident with my teaching abilities in another language. My second lesson was much stronger and I felt much more relaxed with the kids. I practiced my read aloud for them probably a hundred and one times the night before in a room in the Union by myself. I’m pretty sure multiple people saw me reading a Spanish children’s book aloud in a study room to no one (yes, I was showing the pictures to my pretend class – I had to make sure I had all aspects of the read aloud down!). No shame.

Now by the time the run of the show and spring break were over, I had confirmation that I would be studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain for two months over the summer.

I HAD CONFIRMATION THAT I WAS GOING TO STUDY ABROAD. IN SPAIN. WITH MY FRIENDS.

I was the happiest person on I-95 EVER. Heading back to North Carolina from Florida with my mom, I wouldn’t shut up about packing up and leaving for Spain right around Mother’s Day. Even though this made me beam with sheer joy, I don’t think my mom was initially too thrilled that I was leaving for across the Atlantic in two months’ time.

Post-spring break I was ready to take care of business. I was making flight plans with my friends and trying to figure out what I needed to bring with me – I think I was too excited about studying abroad to remember that I had to pack up my dorm room first.

The day I moved out of Winston 220 was also the same day that I was on schedule to sing for the UNC baseball game against Maryland for senior night (no pressure). My parents came and we shoved stuff in bags, cleaned like crazy, and made our way to The Bosh.

Clouds were rolling in and they called a rain delay. After a whirlwind of packing, the last thing I wanted to do was wait on this rain to pass (or even worse, have the game get canceled). A small group of my friends from Winston showed up (so much W-2 love) and waited with me for about 45 minutes until the rain delay was canceled.

This was it. I could successfully cross off “sing National Anthem at a UNC event” off of my bucket list.

I made my way down the third base line and could feel my heart beating a million miles a minute. It was that perfect adrenaline rush I used to get before every basketball game in high school. I stretched and danced it out before getting to home plate, and I was ready to roll.

Best. National Anthem. Ever. This was by far my strongest performance of my National Anthem career, which started in middle school. I felt like I not only did the nation proud by that, but also my school. I take immense pride in my school and my nation, and that moment was truly a highlight of the year and a fantastic way to end my junior year at UNC.

I was only able to spend a few days in Concord before catching my flight from Raleigh-Durham to Chicago to Madrid to Sevilla. What a mind-blowingly awesome summer that was documented almost daily in blog form. I traveled to so many places and saw so many wonderful things that I was truly changed for the better forever.

This year was mine. I held down a job, managed hours upon hours of education classes and assignments, befriended many, turned 21 with class, and had some of the most memorable moments I could have imagined having here in Chapel Hill.

I owned it. Here’s to hoping that a successful junior year will be the perfect segue into my final year at UNC.

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