Well, my days of undergrad are over. There’s no saying “see you next semester.” I’m done with my classes, done with my papers and I’ve taken my last final. Four years sure did fly by and it seems like yesterday I was visiting UofL for the first time. I was a sophomore in high school and my older sister was in her first semester at UofL. My mom and I were en route to Illinois for my fall break and stopped by to get in a quick, informal college visit and see how my sister was doing. I was too stubborn to consider in-state options and had my eyes set on big cities like Chicago and LA. I brushed off the visit thinking, “There is no way I will ever go here,” yet here I am, wishing I had four more years. Fast forward one year, and my mom and I drove up to Louisville to experience the kick off to Derby, Thunder Over Louisville. That year, Thunder was a lot like this year – the sun was out, the weather was warm, the city was vibrant. This was the first time I had the chance to see what Louisville could give me. I saw a breathtaking skyline, a beautiful waterfront, a city that had a lot of pride and while I didn’t know this at the time – a city with possibility. Little did I know how much more this city and this university would give me in four years.
My first official UofL visit came the fall of my senior year. I had come from a disappointing visit at the school 80 miles to the east and was very frustrated that I had not fallen in love with what all my other friends had. So here I was at UofL’s Accolade event trying to find what I wanted my college experience to be. If you’ve been to UofL, you know what I mean when I say it was one of those days. The weather was crisp the trees were just starting to change color and the Cardinal birds painted on the sidewalk were especially red. I knew UofL was where I needed to be. Even though I was only coming from an hour and a half away, there were a total of four people from my graduating class going with me to Louisville. Besides my sister, I didn’t really know anyone already at UofL. I packed up all my things, said goodbye to my friends, and drove to a city that I was scared I would get lost in. Over the past four years, I have spent every summer in Louisville and only been home a handful of times for a few days at a time. I think deep down my parents knew that when I left for Louisville, I wasn’t coming back.
UofL showed me people who really cared and wanted you to grow as an individual. I met people who were passionate about their work and wanted you to have the best college experience. I found myself. I found out what I loved, what I hated, what motivates me, what I was passionate about. UofL and everything it offered gave me showed me how to be a better friend, daughter and person to everyone I met. It’s a hard transition from your senior year of high school to freshman year, but in that short time, UofL gave me a glimpse of what I was looking for. Four years later, and I’ve found it. I found a place to call home. I gained a newfound superstition that a white squirrel spotting brought good luck. I woke up at 7 AM to tailgate a football game I wouldn’t be able to see the end of. I realized that Dairy Kastle can solve every bad thing that happened that day but if that’s closed, Iguanas can do almost as good of a job. I loved how involved the campus was with the Kentucky Derby Festival and that one of the richest traditions in the country was only two miles away. I learned about basketball really fast and got into Cardinal basketball and found the true meaning of what Louisville First, Cardinals Forever really meant. I found out that when it rains in Louisville, it floods. I stayed up way too late praying for a snow day and crossed my fingers for an early closing when there even the slightest chance for snow. I felt heartbroken when I on my way back from New Orleans after a loss to UK in the Final Four and then the happiest high running down Cardinal Boulevard when UofL won the 2013 National Championship. I’ll always be thankful for the wonderful staff that convinced me my life wasn’t falling to pieces, the professors who really did care that you were learning the material and the student organizations that helped me grow as a leader and learn responsibility and teamwork. I met the girls who will stand by me in my wedding. I found the sincerest friendships during those late nights in the library when I felt like my world was caving in and during those 2 AM runs to IHOP or Burger Boy. I felt the legacy and pride of being a Cardinal and know that no matter where life takes me, those memories will be with me forever.
Walking across that graduation stage will be bittersweet. It’s a relieving feeling being completely done but it’s also sad knowing that I won’t get to experience the same crazy adventures. Everything changes now. There’s a lot I don’t know about the future and I would be lying if I said I was 100% happy with the next path I’m taking. That’s what it all stems from, though: uncertainty. For so long, we’ve been trained to just continue with school and move through the ranks that it almost feels wrong to graduate and actually be done. How positive am I that I’m going to make it in the real world? To be honest, when I’m at my lowest, grad school seems like a better and better idea because it gives me more time to put off the inevitable. I’m sure every graduate would agree with me in saying that doubt creeps in and makes us question if we are ready. Are we ready to move away from our friends and family? Are we ready for the responsibility of being an adult? Are we ready to start the next chapter? It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking about how scary the future is, but then I think about how well UofL has prepared me and I remember that my fears and this uncertainty is all in my head. UofL has fully prepared me for my future. UofL has given me an indispensable network of professors and staff I can go back to. UofL has given me a chance to be a student leader. If it weren’t for UofL, I wouldn’t have pursued my dreams. I’m ready to use what UofL has taught me in the real world, to show everybody that I’m ready and UofL gave me this knowledge and confidence to succeed. Louisville really has given me plenty of possibilities.
I think back to when I wanted to leave for the big city. It’s hard to imagine what path my life would have taken because I know it would have been dramatically different from now. Even through all the good and the bad, I would tell 18 year old Josie to do the exact same thing. Every experience that I had in my four years here, had they not have happened, would not allow me to end up where I am now. Louisville became my home and I am forever grateful that I saw the possibilities that could happen if I came here. There are only a few words left to say: thank you for the memories, thank you for the support and thank you for letting me be part of Card Nation.
Office of Admissions Design Intern