Goodnight Spotlight: Jovana Vidacak

High Point native Jovana Vidacak ’18 is just going with the flow.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jovana Vidacak ’18: I am a current senior at NC State majoring in environmental science with a concentration in global environmental policy and economics, and minoring in parks, recreation and tourism management. I am from High Point and am a first-generation college student born to first-generation immigrants from Serbia. I graduated from high school a year earlier and, although I have sometimes looked back and wondered if I made the right choice, I now know that NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program was the right choice for me. I have an older sister and younger brother who, along with my parents and dog Taz, make up my supportive and loving family. I have a deep passion for traveling and exploring new places on my own. I am also extremely passionate about music, and those who know me well know that I am always either singing, humming, or listening to something on repeat. My heart is happiest when I am surrounded by kids who love to laugh and play, especially babies, for I feel that their love is the most selfless kind there is. My hobbies include a variety of random and somewhat odd activities, such as going for walks and/or runs, cleaning, sleeping, watching Friends, and cooking. My biggest motivation in life is to be the best possible version of myself; not to be competitive with others, but to be competitive with myself.

If you had to summarize your personality in one sentence, what would it say?

An odd and quirky yet good-hearted and well-intentioned, overthinking perfectionist go-getter.

How would you describe your life as an NC State student?

My life as an NC State student has been interesting, to say the least. I have definitely enjoyed my time here thus far. I have taken classes that have broadened my perspective on so many things, participated in such memorable trips in places I never would have imagined to go, and most importantly met people that have changed my life in inexplicable ways; special shout out to my roommates who I love dearly. However, I have also definitely struggled both academically and emotionally during my time at State. I was faced with challenges I had never experienced before in some of my courses, and had some moments where I got so frustrated with trying so hard and not seeing immediate results that I wanted to give up. I had a hard time figuring out how to balance my social, academic, and professional pursuits, and learned the hard way why time management is such a crucial life skill. Additionally, I went through a lot of things personally that I never would have expected. I’ve changed in ways I didn’t even know were possible. They are right when they say that college is where you find yourself, but they forget to mention that you lose yourself first. Nevertheless, my time at State has been rewarding and fulfilling when I look at the grand scheme of things. When I look back at the past three years, I appreciate both the good and the bad and know it has altogether made me a stronger and better person.

Is there a particular accomplishment you’ve made at NC State that fills you with pride?

An accomplishment at NC State that fills me with pride is, quite honestly, passing Physics 205 and 206: Physics for Scientists & Engineers 1, and more so passing with an A+. Though this may seem like a silly or ordinary accomplishment to some, it is extremely important to me for I came into college absolutely dreading physics. My high school AP Physics experience was not the best in terms of my inability to comprehend and tendency to over-complicate the basic principles of physics, which left me terrified of a difficult time in a college course. My fear caused me to really dedicate myself to the course, and I ironically ended up both acing the course and actually loving physics! I even passed Physics 2 with an A as well! Crazy, I know.

By being engaged students within our and other broader communities, we are actively taking part in making a change and spreading our purpose.

What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?

Participating in the Krispy Kreme Challenge. I have yet to do so, so senior year it is!

Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program.

My time in the Goodnight Scholars Program has been so many things; rewarding, enriching, challenging, moving, special, etc. I honestly never knew it was even possible to get this much out of a program as I have from the Goodnight Scholars. My time in the Goodnight community has included a very large amount of professional and personal development thanks to the many workshops, retreats, training sessions, and social events that are not just offered, but also encouraged to be taken advantage of. I am currently serving my second year as a Goodnight Mentor and first as a Goodnight Ambassador, and it has been such a pleasure to see first-hand and participate in the genuine efforts of all personnel involved in this Program. I have traveled to Trinidad and Tobago with members of my Goodnight family and experienced an unforgettable country with even more unforgettable deep and connecting moments with my peers, all while promoting conservation efforts and participating in service projects related to environmental affairs there. I was also able to take summer classes for two summers and study abroad to Australia my third through the generous assistance of this Program. I cannot begin to explain what a feeling rushes over me at times when I remind myself how fortunate I am to be in this Program and to have been given opportunities through it that have changed my life, and that I might not otherwise have had. Each year at the Goodnight Graduation Gala, where the whole community celebrates the year and the graduating class, I lose myself at dinner when I look around and marvel at all the brilliant and courageous minds around me and all that we are doing and aspire to do. You are definitely challenged in the best way possible to be the absolute best that you can be as a Goodnight Scholar, and you are provided with all the resources and support needed to achieve that.

Any unforgettable moments from your time in the Goodnight Scholars community thus far?

If I had to pick just one of my unforgettable memories in the Goodnight Scholars Program thus far, it would have to be the very first evening of the 2017 Trinidad and Tobago Alternative Service Break trip. That night’s activity involved all of us standing outside in a circle, in absolute darkness, with nothing but the sounds of the rainforest surrounding us. One of the trip leaders read off certain experiences or circumstances related to current societal issues, trends, areas of disagreement, etc. If anything said applied to you or someone you knew, you were to step forward. The depth of the topics and the gut-stirring sensation of merely hearing and sensing how many people came forward for certain things affected me in ways I cannot explain. Though no one spoke a word nor were any faces seen, I felt like I had gotten to know people and at least the group itself on a different level. It was only our first reflection, but we had all already experienced so much in terms of the country and merely while traveling together to get there. I remember walking back to the research house in which we were staying afterward, and feeling that the whole experience was surreal. I already knew by that first night that I was going to get really close to those people throughout the trip, and I did.

What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?

To me, being a Goodnight Scholar means being an engaged, willing, and grounded individual who takes both pride and humility in their title and uses its benefits in the most constructive way possible. One of our biggest mantras in the Goodnight community is to pay it forward, meaning that we recognize and appreciate all that we have been given and do our parts in utilizing our knowledge and opportunities to further share our wealth and experiences. By being engaged students within our and other broader communities, we are actively taking part in making a change and spreading our purpose. By being willing, we are demonstrating our desire to be engaged and putting ideas about efforts into practice. We are showing that we care and are here to do something about it. By being grounded, we are always rooted in our principles and do not lose sight of recognizing that we should appreciate, not manipulate, our privileges as Goodnight Scholars. We walk around campus and wherever else we may go proud to be Goodnight Scholars, sharing our name and purpose, but we are not cocky nor do we feel superior to others.

Where do you picture yourself after graduation?

I have been getting asked this question a lot lately due to it being senior year and, as bad as it may sound, I am still not sure at all. Though I love my major as well as my minor, I have yet to find any specific field or career that I feel most passionate about within them. Due to personal health experiences, I have developed an interest in the effects of pollutants and toxic substances on humans and, more specifically, female health. Thus I have considered furthering my education in a field such as toxicity or even something more medicine related. However, I know for sure that as of right now, I do not wish to go right into grad school after graduating. For me personally, I feel that it is best that I take some time off from school and get some work experience that will allow me to better narrow down and secure my interests. I am hoping to gain some experience in the global sphere in order to broaden my professional insight as well as to enhance personal development. I guess I picture myself with a job that allows me to use and further develop the skills and knowledge I acquire in college, in order to mature as a professional and be best capable of initiating real change in 21st century environmental affairs. Also, ideally that job would locate me in very close proximity to a beach!

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program