By Emily Wickel
Enriched by her RACC experience, a Raven graduate considers her challenges after RACC—and urges current students to invest in their RACC community.
In the three and a half years I spent as a student at Reading Area Community
College, I came to think of it as my second home. RACC had always been full of friendly faces and happy memories for me.
I feel my time at RACC helped me to grow into a new woman, a married mother who was actively working to achieve her own life, who was (is) interested in pursuing her own dreams. I spent many long and sleepless nights feverishly writing, editing and completing numerous papers. As an education student, I spent hours writing lesson plans—eager to share them with young minds. I worked long and hard to achieve my Associate’s degree, and on May 8, 2015, my dream finally came true. I was beyond excited as the day I had been waiting for finally arrived; yet, as with every other day, it passed, and time moved forward. Only one question remained: Now what? As I write this, a month has passed since graduation. I await the official document stating that I have obtained my degree. I thought I would feel so much happier, as I have finally accomplished a life-long goal. Yet, I feel as if I have fallen into a bit of a depression, a slump.
I miss school. I miss the people. I miss the activity.
Life as I had come to know it, balancing home and school, being not only a successful student but one who was involved on campus, has changed. My life of constant doing and achieving has been replaced by uncertainty. In the days and weeks since graduation, people have asked me how it feels to have graduated. They remark that I must be so relieved, so excited. Honestly, there is a void in my life and I am not certain which way to turn.
I had spent so much of my time wrapped up and focused on the present—on my classes and day to day activities—that I failed to consider what would happen when my time at Reading Area Community College was complete.
In my second year at RACC, I became a Raven Ambassador and absolutely fell in love with the position. Being an ambassador put me at the very heart of the school, at the hub of the action. As a caregiver at heart, reaching out and helping people appealed to me. I strived to calm nerves and answer questions; I showed new students how to use their email and where to register for classes. I gave tours and met many beautiful people. When I first started taking classes at RACC, I walked around alone with my head down–being an Ambassador helped me to blossom as a person. I felt as if I had a purpose and a chance to give back to the school that was giving me so much.
Now, I wonder if the opportunity to help others will present itself again.
Throughout my years in school, I was required to complete numerous hours observing and assisting in early childhood classrooms. Preschool classrooms are always buzzing with activity and filled with children with vibrant personalities. I knew I was part of something spectacular! Not only was I learning new skills, but I knew I was also touching lives and making a difference. My nights were spent putting together portfolios, assembling scenery for puppet shows, and teaching my right-brained self to do arts and crafts. At the time, I felt exhausted and often frustrated, but I enjoyed every frantic moment. The early childhood classroom is exactly where I want and need to be. I had a great passion to teach, along with a tremendous desire to achieve.
Graduation has proven me successful, but what comes next?
Now, I carry a sense of guilt, disappointment and failure despite my successes. Once again I am a full time mother and housewife. I apply for employment with hopes held high and fingers crossed; the phone has yet to ring. I wonder if many (if any) other college graduates feel the same as I am currently feeling. Am I really capable and competent? Do high grades and involvement mean anything? When will I get my dream job? Is anyone else feeling frustrated or unsure? I ask myself if all of my hard work and effort really means anything. The answer: of course it does.
In reflection, I have come to the realization that my two children, now nine and eleven, have been with me throughout my time at RACC. They have laughed with me and they have cried with me. They even gave a shout when my name was called as I crossed the stage at graduation. Along with being their mother, I am also their role model. I feel it is my responsibility to show my children the value of hard work and education; that dreams really do come true. My daughter is currently wrapping up her last few days of elementary school and will begin a new journey called middle school in fall. Like her mother, she is anxious. She feels sad and is worried about what her future may hold. I cannot help but feel our journeys are parallel in that both of us are walking down a path that is ending and must choose a new path. As scary as this may be for the both of us, I know where one path ends another begins. As the days go by, I will see that life as I have known it is not over, I am merely changing directions. I don’t have to “let go.” Certainly, the life I find myself missing has prepared me to live it in a new context, to continue moving forward, to see where the road leads.
Students of RACC, I offer you some humble advice: do not wish away your time here, but cherish it. Fight that desire to rush to your car immediately after classes. Take the time to speak to your professors and take them up on their offer to help. Ask a classmate to form a study group or to go for a cup of coffee. Visit the student union building and get involved on campus. Write for the school newspaper. Don’t be afraid. Resist the urge to walk around with your head down, avoiding eye contact. I shudder to think where I would be or how I would feel right now if I did not pick up my head and become a part of the campus community. Make memories and make the most of your education and opportunities given to you.
As much as I did not want it to, time has passed and time has changed my life. I feel empty and sad right now because I miss the school I had come to love so much. Reading Area Community College has changed my life- not simply because of the educational opportunities given to me, but because of all of the life lessons I have learned in the process. I feel empty because I was so busy and involved and now I sit here, still busy—but not nearly as much. There may be a lull in the action at the moment, but I am positive I will move past the sadness—ever forward to a new beginning and new challenges.
Reading Area Community College taught me more than what textbooks could ever offer, and I will strive to put the lessons into practice in my life after RACC. I am positive that I have the strength and ability to move forward and achieve new and exciting things. I will be involved and busy once again. There is a time and a season for everything, and for me, it is time to move ever onward.
Thank you, Reading Area Community College, for everything.