Photo courtesy of Malaena Caldwell
When college decision day rolled around May 1st, 2018- when I was a senior in high school- my mother held me while I cried in a fetal position as I accepted my attendance to Oakland University later that Fall.
At this time in my life, I was very unsure of myself and of my future- but I was positive OU was not going provide me the greatness I so desperately desired and wanted to achieve. When I applied to college, Oakland University was my last choice. I didn’t want to be anywhere close to home; I had only applied to appease my mother. Growing up in Macomb, I was afraid of living and dying within the same confines I’d always known. I thought my intelligence automatically awarded me greatness far away from here, and when I didn’t achieve it, when I realized my family couldn’t afford it, I conceded.
When you are labelled as ‘smart’ from a young age, there’s an expectation to do something ‘practical’ or ‘influential’ with your life. The irony is how much this expectation limits futures rather than expands them. I declared myself as a biochemistry major initially, knowing from the get-go that’s never what I wanted. What I wanted at the time, was people to undoubtedly think I was smart- and the most conventional way to do that, is to choose a conventionally challenging major.
I didn’t even make it past new student convocation. When I entered the chemistry lab to watch ‘what I’ll be learning with my major’, I held back tears long enough to run out of there as soon as it was over straight towards the FYAC center where I begged to be un-enrolled out of my current courses immediately. As the advisor tried to comfort me explaining this is not the first time something like this has happened, I worried if the value of my intelligence disappeared with my STEM classes.
There, I found myself in French class again- completing the language requirement for the Honors College. I had started taking French when I was in the 8th grade and continued taking it up until I graduated high school. It was a much-needed reset. I didn’t realize how much I loved learning French until I was no longer taking it.
This was the beginning of many introductions to such amazing faculty. The French department faculty welcomed me with loving arms, they showed me that learning can and should be fun, and most importantly they showed me that the perception of intelligence is not the only way to determine self-worth.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the faculty. I declare myself in front of you a proud, and very happy, double major in French Language & Literature and Creative Writing with a Specialty in Literary Nonfiction. The faculty here realized my path in life long before I understood it myself, and without them I am not sure if I ever would have. I have really come to love OU and it is solely really because of the faculty.
Without my French professors encouraging me to add it on as a major, I would have never thought to study abroad.
Without my professors encouraging me to study abroad, I never would have.
Without my study abroad, I wouldn’t have my job.
Without my study abroad being disrupted by COVID, I would never written about what happed to me.
Without writing about it, I would have taken my professors advice to take writing seriously.
Without taking their advice, I would have never realized my true passion is writing.
Without realizing my passion, I wouldn’t be writing this.
Entering my senior year, I often think about how timid and nervous I was as a freshman, so unsure of myself and my future. I don’t feel like that anymore. I’m scared -especially studying things most people don’t view as practical- and still incredibly hard on myself- that I don’t think will ever go away- but studying French and writing has allowed me to develop my self-assurance exponentially- and it’s because my teachers believed in me when I didn’t. They did not have to take the time out to help me, but they did. I not only think of all my teachers as professors, but also as my mentors. Whether you ace or fail a class, you need the faculty because they help you push yourself to be the person you are meant to be- for that is the best part of their job and the reason why they all really do this. They do not get paid extra to meet with you in office hours, or develop their Moodle, or even grade papers. The faculty could pack up their stuff and go home as soon as the time hits like we all do, but they don’t. They stay because they care. They do it because the best part of their job is watching us leave their classroom to go be successful somewhere else. I am not only a more knowledgeable student because of all the individualized time I am able to receive, but I am a better, more conscientious person.
The faculty here are the reason why I have grown so much during my time here at OU, and they’re the reason why this school operates. The fact that administrations continuously fail to recognize that is humiliating for any academic institution. I am forever indebted to the OU faculty and the amount of personal growth they have inspired in me. I do not know what the future holds, but I know if I ever need anything I can contact my OU professors because their job never really stops when they clock out. Expressions of gratitude are not enough; they deserve what they are asking for.