Can you really have too much fun? This year, Jeffrey has been on a mission to answer that very question.

This year has been a blast. I have learned and experienced so much throughout the year. I’ve had countless opportunities through Goodnight Scholars, MEP, and through the various organizations here at NC State to grow and pay it forward in whatever way I can whether it is through an investment in my own growth or through the service of others. In just this year alone, I have been able to research, participate in poster sessions, volunteer with great people at Habitat for Humanity, volunteer with Childs Rights and You with my classmates, go on an Alternative Service Break (ASB) trip to Alaska, apply for and get rejected from a co-op job, and meet amazing people in all of the aforementioned. Everyone I’ve talked to has also been taking advantage of everything that’s going on here at State or following their own pursuits. I’ve even met someone who’s written, and is now in the process of publishing, a book. You see it all here at State.

I’ll start this off by talking about the most amazing experience I’ve had thus far: Alternative Service Break: Alaska. At the start of Spring Break, The ASB Alaska team and I set off towards RDU Airport with no clue what the upcoming week would hold for us. Sure, we knew that we would be volunteering at the public school at Hoonah, Alaska, but beyond that we did not know much. As for the plane ride there, I stared out the window for most of the plane ride. We landed in Seattle and spent a day there waiting for the next flight. Since there was time to spare, we set off to see the sights, particularly the Space Needle and an outdoor art exhibit. The view from the Needle was breathtaking to say the least. I think I’m just a fan of high altitudes. Anyways, the next day we set off on another plane to Juneau. We arrived there at night, and I did not find the darkness all that impressive. In the morning, however, I was blown away by the scenery. Long story short, I found nearly everything on this trip to be absolutely beautiful, including Hoonah’s landfill (It was surrounded by luscious mountains and ice peaks. Don’t judge me).

Let’s get to the heart of our trip: the people. The people that I’ve met at Hoonah are some of the most compassionate and caring people I’ve met. They welcomed us and took us in almost as if we were one of their own. They have an amazing community of people that are inclusive and diverse. However, that is not to say that everything is perfect there. The school has issues of its own, namely funding and the unrequited need for specialized educators for students with learning disabilities. The school environment was alien to anything that I’ve encountered in the sense that the school was not nearly as strict as the schools I’ve attended before which is not necessarily a negative thing. They did everything they could with what they had and genuinely cared about the kids, adapting to their needs and constantly looking for ways to interest them in continuing their education. I had the pleasure of being able to work with one student in a course on sea navigation and learn quite a lot myself. If by some coincidence, one of them were to read this, I would like to say that you guys are awesome and to keep it up! There are colleges with your names on them and an infinite number of ways to grow. Needless to say, this experience changed my perspective, and I will not forget it. I want to bring what I’ve learned there with me wherever I go and hopefully be able to pass it along through my choices and actions.

The only thing I can really express is my gratitude for being able to participate in everything that I’ve been a part of, even being rejected something I applied for. It’s a learning experience and it is one stone block on the path through the maze that constitutes my life’s past, present, and future. Though it’s not as if my own life will be measured through the progress I make in my own maze but in how I touch the lives of others. Will I leave writings on the walls of the maze, hinting at directions of where to go or will I not make an appearance at all forever leaving behind only the echoes of my own footsteps until they stop and the sound waves fade into oblivion? That’s too difficult and convoluted a question to answer. I have no idea where I’m going or if the direction I’m going in is right for me and that is fine. The only thing I can do in the meantime is to be grateful for what I’ve been able to do and what will come in the future no matter what direction my life takes. That’s it. I’ve watched way too many Ted Talks. I’m going to stop myself right there.

The fact of the matter is, we are all growing and changing. Every day is another experience that changes us and molds us slightly. My choices today affect what I do tomorrow, right? Change has been the predominant theme throughout the short time I have been here at NC State. First, we become accustomed to the new life here. Then, we adjust to the new academic load. Then we adjust to the new extracurricular and responsibilities load. We keep going and building ourselves up to new standards. It’s a race against ourselves for growth in every sense of the word, and we are all just getting started.