Graduation is just two short weeks away and as I reflect on my time here at West Chester University, it is truly bittersweet. I am excited to move on to new things, but it will be hard to say goodbye to the relationships I have built here and the experiences I have had.

It’s funny because I never planned to come to WCU when applying to universities. Originally, I planned to stay at home and commute nearby. I was only going to be 17 and was nervous to leave home, but when January of my senior year of high school rolled around, I had my doubts. That’s when a friend told me she was going to be attending WCU.

After doing more research on WCU online I immediately applied and received my acceptance just two weeks later. I never officially toured the school, but when I finally set foot on campus I instantly knew this was where I wanted to be. Eventually I would come to realize that deciding to attend WCU would be the best decision I ever made.

It didn’t always start out that way though. I roomed with a friend from high school. I was too nervous to be placed with a random roommate. We got along well the first year and I was glad to have her to fall back on. On the other hand, I was so comfortable in my own little space that I did not venture out to get involved in anything on campus.

Sophomore year was different. My roommate and I wanted to venture out and make new friends, so we applied to live in a four-person room in Allegheny Hall. Let’s just say that did not go as planned. Some people are just not meant to live together, but that’s part of the learning experience of these years. I am glad I had my roommate to get me through that, and if it wasn’t for that experience I would not have pushed myself to be more involved.

In a chance encounter I met Resident Director Justin Brown and he encouraged me to join the Residence Hall Association (RHA). I became the Assistant to the Assistant Program’s coordinator (that one is a long story) and RHA was able to give me the stepping stones to my next great adventure in school: becoming a Resident Assistant (RA).

Junior year my roommate of two years decided to live off campus with her boyfriend and I had nowhere to go. That is what pushed me to apply to the RA position. Coming into college I never thought I would have the courage to take on such a task. Somehow, I was lucky enough to be offered the position and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. I have grown as a leader and as a person. I have proven to myself that I can take on situations I never thought I could handle.

Helping fellow students grow and learn has been so rewarding. I never thought I would be able to sit down and help someone talk through their roommate conflicts, deal with a domestic violence situation or console someone I didn’t know as they cried in my room—the list could go on forever. The RAs that I have worked with have impacted me in an unforgettable way. I have had the privilege of working with three amazing floor partners: Greg Nelson, Enrique Mentado-Sosa and Rob Clark, all of whom have given me the ability to see the world in new ways.

Spring of my junior year is when everything changed for me. That was the semester I found my place on WCU’s campus. That place was in Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity. Phi Sigma Pi gave me the ability to take on new leadership roles that I didn’t have access to as just an RA. I have met some of the best people in my life through that organization and I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am.

Looking back is a funny thing. As I reflect on my time here at WCU, I don’t think about the exams I stayed up late studying for or the Spanish class I struggled to get an A in. I think about the people and the relationships I have built since I have been here: those are what are most important. I am walking away from some of the best experiences I have ever had because of the people I was surrounded with. Although it will be hard to leave, WCU and the people here have forever impacted me.

Kaitlin Brinker is a fourth-year communication studies major with a minor in  journalism. ✉

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