15 days. That is all that is left of my VISTA year (including weekends). Where has the time gone? In some ways it seems just like yesterday that I attended PSO (Pre-Service Orientation) in Lombard, Illinois before officially starting as a VISTA (volunteer in service to America). I have spent the last 11+ months volunteering/working as an Iowa Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA in the Office of Service-Learning and Campus Engagement at Coe College (long title, I know). It's hard to believe I have just a few weeks left.
So much has changed in the last 11 months--personally, professionally, academically, etc. I came into this position knowing that I had not fully completed my education. I think I have known from a young age that I would be going to grad school. I just didn't know what degree I would be pursuing. Philosophy? Religion? Student Affairs? Seminary? I think it is quite possible that I considered all of those and several others during my time here at Coe. Choosing what field to get a master's degree in was no small feat for me. I have diverse interests. I had a hard enough time picking a major as an undergrad. In fact, I couldn't pick just one. I picked two! :-)
Perhaps deep down I knew that I would go to seminary. It was one of those things I couldn't really ignore no matter how hard I tried. When I first started to seriously consider attending seminary, McCormick in Chicago wasn't very high on my list. As the hours of research continued and the more I learned about McCormick, the more I was drawn to it. An opportunity presented itself for me to visit the campus for their Inquiry into Ministry event back in February. Going to visit a school just a few days after a major blizzard is ridiculous. I DO NOT recommend it for anyone. In any case, I fell in love with school. I knew that it was the place for me. With less than a month until applications were do, I put my application together with as much care and precision as time would allow. Weeks later I got the joyous news that I had been accepted to McCormick. There was not a doubt in my mind that this was where I wanted to be.
So now here I am--just a few short weeks from completing my time as a VISTA and only a few short months from starting at McCormick. I am at that point where I am getting both excited and nervous to go to McCormick. I am excited for the school work side of life. The thing I am most nervous about is living in Chicago. I'm sure it will be great. I just have never lived somewhere that big. I suppose this follows the trend in my life to try bigger and better things. I am looking forward to seeing where life takes me as I begin this next chapter of my life.
I don't know that I can fully communicate all the things I have taken away from my time as a VISTA. I made some good friends. I learned valuable life lessons about handling difficult situations, people, and students. I gained a better understanding of the need to give back to the community. I narrowed down my area of interest for a career path. I came to know more about myself and the person I want to become. I think the most important thing I have gotten out of this whole experience is that you can accomplish great things (that you may not necessarily think you can do) if you just try. Don't question it--just DO. I did so many things during my time as a VISTA that I never thought I would do or do well. The best example of this is successfully co-presenting at the Iowa Campus Compact Mini-Conference and feeling great about the finished product. I never imagined that I would be told that people were inspired and were able to take something away from a presentation I gave. I HATE public speaking, but evidently, I'm not as bad at it as I originally thought I was. So lesson learned. Give yourself a chance to succeed before saying it is something you can't do. (Thanks for pushing me to do this, Mandi. I don't think I ever would have if it weren't for you!)
Thanks to all of you who have supported me and been with me on this journey! I wouldn't be who I am today without your participation in my life. I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors. It has been a joy getting to know you and work with you.