It’s “See you later,” not “Goodbye.”

We have a socialist system of candles in the basement. It works because there are two of us, and we both contribute.

During the cold winter months, my roommate and I decided there was nothing better than coming back to our room lit up with a strand of Christmas lights, striking match to light an apple cinnamon candle, and curling up under a blanket while watching a movie. Sometimes the movie had to be postponed due to homework, but hey, homework was a little more tolerable in our cozy environment full of shared candles.

It wasn’t always cozy. The first day we moved in, we were a little concerned. This house was older than I remembered. Was the basement really a good idea? But as we unpacked and as the days rolled by, the room transformed from four walls in the basement of an old house into our own little sanctuary.

While the clothes, pictures, trinkets, kitchen supplies, and food definitely helped the transformation, they faded into the background. What really made the Little Big House home were the nine other women who shared this prime location with me.

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Enjoying some post-grad quad chilling after everyone else had left.

From all of our adventures gone slightly wrong (stalling out while driving up Carter Mountain or getting lost on the way to Reddish Knob), to snowed-in karaoke nights and hundreds of quotable moments, from shared meals to two-hour long conversations, and from competitive games of Clue to hiking trips and workout buddies, these women have made my college experience memorable and have been a central component of my education.

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We got just a little snow this year.

Yes, I did learn a lot in the classroom. I thoroughly enjoyed most of my classes and was fortunate to learn from incredible professors. Thanks to their instruction and the opportunities to work as a tutor in the writing center and serve as an editor for the James Madison Undergraduate Research Journal, my ability to write and edit has improved. It was finally inside Harrison Hall that I understood the importance of critical thinking and how to pick apart the logic to evaluate an argument’s effectiveness. It was there that I practiced stringing sentences together and choosing words to fit the context and the purpose of the document.

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My classes gave me head knowledge and challenged my thought process, but it was everyday life and interactions with my friends and others that shaped who I have become today.

Conversations with my friends, helping others with their writing, volunteering in a local middle school, and traveling to Europe opened my eyes to the vastness of the world and the variety of perspectives that people have. I’ve learned to ask questions, seeking to understand and compiling a wealth of knowledge and many different worldviews. I’ve gotten to meet people from many different backgrounds and been exposed to the unique way God has made each of us.

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We had quite the adventure hiking Devil’s Marbleyard in April.

Of course, gathering all this information has just set the stage of the learning process. Enter my housemates, family and other close friends. These people have listened, answered questions, and provided feedback as I’ve talked through what I’ve heard, seen, experienced and began to assimilate it into my own worldview.

I’m still working on that. And I have a feeling my worldview will undergo many alterations as I learn and see more of the world, but as my friends have so graciously taught me, it’s perfectly normal to have opinions, and the more research and experience behind them, the better. It’s part of that self-confidence thing and knowing who you are.

While I’m still sorting many things in my life out, I do know that I want to value people. Like the LBH came alive because of the people inside it, my time at JMU has been meaningful because of those I’ve interacted with. So whether valuing people means investing in friendships old or new, smiling at each customer I help, or taking time to hear someone else’s story, I want to treat each human being with the dignity and compassion he or she deserves. I don’t do this perfectly by any means, but I know Someone who does, and I trust that He’ll help me get there one day.

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Because smiling at the camera gets boring sometimes.

As this particular journey comes to an end and a new one begins, I want to thank everyone who has been involved in my life thus far. You’ve influenced me in countless ways; you’ve encouraged, inspired, loved and comforted me, and I can’t thank y’all enough for being there.

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” —James Madison

 

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