What IUPUI Means to Me

I still have two semesters to go, but I’ve already started to feel the emotions that come along with facing graduation. At this point, I barely remember what it felt like to graduate high school (I do not have the greatest memory), but the bittersweet ache of it is unforgettable. And it’s come around again as I enter yet another senior year. Right now, we’re about halfway through the summer before my final year of undergrad. I’ve completed a handful of internships and taken classes on public relations and advertising.

Throwback to my first day at IUPUI via Instagram.

I feel fairly prepared, career-wise, for graduation. Even though find a “real” job after college can feel scary at times, what I’m the most emotional about is leaving IUPUI.

As I’ve said before, moving to Indy was difficult for me at first. It was a huge change, not only to be living in a city but to be an hour and a half from my family. I know of lots of students who are hours and hours away from home to be here – I get that the distance I have grown accustomed to is still small compared to others. I have an intense amount of respect for international students, especially. Still, I was fortunate to grow up with all the close members of my family living within fifteen minutes of each other. To go from a short drive between my mom’s house to my grandma’s to my dad’s, to traveling 90 minutes to be able to see any of them took a great deal of adjusting. Freshman year was hard.

Things got better over time, as they tend to do. I got more used to the idea of being away from “home” and focused on making a second home here in Indianapolis. Even though I have lived in the same apartment since the summer of 2016, that’s not the home that’s really impacted me. It’s IUPUI’s campus.

My university is not without its issues. I’ve been known on more than one occasion to complain about a lack of parking, or lack of communication between students and administration. Sometimes when I get particularly grumpy, I express my grievances on Twitter in the hopes that they will be noticed by someone important. They usually aren’t. Make no mistake though – I love this place.

This sprawling campus, a full ten-minute walk from one end to the other at a mall speed-walker’s pace, has been the site of lots of personal discoveries and growth for me. I have spent many hours curled up on a campus couch or leaning over in a desk chair on a computer, taking for granted the fact that I have an entire campus where I feel comfortable. Even now, as I sit here pecking this out on my phone keyboard, I have my feet up on a sofa in the Social Work building. Physical space that you feel comfortable enough to call your own is important and a lot of people in Indianapolis do not have that. I am very privileged to have both an apartment and a college campus to call home. Having this space has allowed me to express opinions I would not have normally expressed, to share personal stories, and to do the work necessary for me to succeed in both my career and my classes.

I spent the first four weeks of summer vacation this year dividing my time between my downtown-based internships and my apartment. Even that short amount of time – one month – felt strange to me, because I wasn’t at IUPUI for any of it. When I came back a few weeks ago to start my third summer job, helping out in the Multicultural Center, it truly felt like a homecoming.

Part of that, I know, is the people on this campus. I’ve found community in the Social Justice Scholars program here, an opportunity that came to me in the spring of my freshman year when a woman named Amanda asked me some questions about my passions and core values. I was very, very bad at interviews then – I’m so grateful that Amanda saw the potential in me that I might not have even seen in myself. She and her colleagues welcomed me to the program.

Shout-out to this cohort, my fellow Social Justice Scholars, circa September 2016.

Prior to the start of my sophomore year, I was expected to spend three days on a retreat with everyone in the program, including 16 other students I’d never met before, at a camp several hours from home. I panicked. Sarah, then the program’s grad assistant, called me and told me very plainly that I couldn’t get the scholarship if I didn’t go to the retreat. At the time, I was hurt by her brashness. I didn’t realize, she’d intentionally made the decision to push me to make a decision that would either stunt or encourage my growth. I came and I met new people and I learned. Sarah and Amanda have continued to push me to continue growing ever since. They are two examples of strong women that I think freshman Marissa really needed to meet. I’m so grateful that I did. Probably the worst part of leaving here next May is going to be not having a reason to see those two every Friday like I have been for years now.

During my time here, I’ve connected with IUPUI staff members like Sarah and Amanda. I’ve also talked on personal levels with several professors. I’ve never once approached someone, either in person or via email, with a question and received no response. I’ve been very fortunate in that the majority of professors I have had genuinely wanted their students to do well. I’ve emailed professors out of the blue to ask for career advice or resume feedback or to be my reference. They’ve all offered up their responses with kindness.

The major that I chose has forced me to come out of my cocoon, as I mentioned before, but this campus was ultimately the launch pad where I first took flight. My experiences here, from being the Marketing Lead for the Weeks of Welcome committee to the Lead Scholar of Social Justice Education, have enabled me to pursue opportunities off campus.

In high school, I was never one to show “school spirit” – I never quite got what that was about. I’ll admit that I have never been to an IUPUI athletics event, so I still don’t have that quality in the traditional sense. However, I am certainly proud to call myself a Jaguar. It’s going to be really hard to leave this campus behind. For now, I am just grateful that I have two more semesters to take it all in and appreciate what I’ve found here – a home away from home.

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