EEEEEEEEEEEEEE! YAY! This is what I was screaming (while jumping up and down and running around the house) when my diploma came in the mail a couple weeks ago. It designates that I graduated with my bachelors in science in fall of 2011. I started my degree TEN years a go in 2001. College life has been a much longer road than I thought it would be, but I would not take back any of the experiences I have gone through. Even my many failures influenced me to be a stronger person.
I graduated from Ramstein American high school 11 years a go this June. Can’t believe its been that long. The following semester I was enrolled full-time at UMUC Europe, taking morning and evening classes on the military base. I was very fortunate to have a part time job at Faith Baptist School, which did not intervene with my school work at all. I did this for three years until my family was transferred back to the USA to Laughlin AFB, Texas in the summer of 2004. If I had stayed in America with my family, I am sure I would have been done with school in four to five years at the most, but I chose another path. After only months in America, I returned to Germany on my own. I was able to get a sponsoring job (or two) on the military base at Ramstein. I was forced to slow down my school work to a class or two a semester. I do not regret this though. It was an amazing time. I made many close friendships with members of the U.S . military. I traveled as much as I could and went on many mission trips.
In 2006, I realized that my major of criminal justice might not be my chosen path after having trouble with my criminal administration class for the second time (my first failures. Received a D both times). I did not want to change my major in my “senior year” so I decided to take a break from my studies. I quit my job with the military and traveled to Northern Germany for a “semester abroad” in theological school at Calvary Chapel Bibelschule in Siegen. It was probably one of the best times of my life. I went to school with people from all over the world. Classes were taught in both German and English. I went on many service trips on the weekends. I took 21 credit hours in one semester. It was invigorating. I also was required to take part in a service week trip. I went to Berlin with about a dozen other students. That was perhaps my most favorite place in all my travels. I loved the people there and all the history: the places and the faces. 🙂 All too soon, my semester came to an end and I decided to come back to America to finish school.
I am so grateful my parents did not mind taking their 23 year old daughter back in so I could finish school. I started taking classes online with UMUC in criminal justice again that spring of 2007. That summer I decided to go to College Park, MD to experience college life face to face. It was a grueling summer semester. I took a double load as I took a full load of classes at both University of Maryland University College and University of Maryland, College Park. I enjoyed touring DC that summer a lot and going to many campus events. Dorm life at a secular college was a little too wild for this sweet shy girl, but thankfully the smaller summer residence allowed me to have a room to myself.
Perhaps the best part of my time in the DC area was the week before school and the week after. I had to take a bypass test for a criminal justice class. I stayed in a guest house run by Mennonites. It was truly an uplifting and refreshing time, even as I studied. People from all over the world (mostly other students) stayed there and we had discussions with tea and coffee every night. If you are ever in the area and get a chance to stay at the International Guest House on Kennedy Street, I definitely recommend it. My time there ended my summer at UMD. Unfortunately, I saw my first failure in school that summer as I failed college algebra. A long battle with math started for me that summer. I reluctantly returned back to my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. With just a dozen credit hours left, I began to consider law school. I visited some great schools. I looked at nearly 100 and visited Regents University in Virginia and Liberty University School of Law. It became clear while visiting Liberty and sitting through law classes that law was not the path for me.
I started working in security to see if law enforcement might be the path for me. I have been doing this now for four years. I still do not know any better whether law enforcement would be a good path for me, but it has been good experience. I worked at Charleston Southern University as security so I became involved in campus ministries, while still attending school myself online. That semester in 2008, I took intensives beginning math and intermediate algebra at Trident Technical College only to receive another failure. 😦 I only needed algebra and two other classes to graduate so I decided to enroll as a dual student in the Masters in Human Services program at Liberty University. I will always treasure my year at Liberty even though my finances no longer allow me to go face to face. I took graduate classes in counseling, youth ministry, human services, and yet again classes in undergraduate math. In contrast to my time at UMD, I loved my time in the dorms at Liberty. I was happy to have another friend who was in my graduate program, around my age, from Honduras. I was very involved with international students and on student leadership. I went on month long trips in the summer as youth counselor to Costa Rica and Chicago with the student-led organization Xtreme Impact. Perhaps though I had a little too much fun. Once again, I failed College Algebra both semesters! With the same professor at that. This is embarrassing to admit that I have failed so much, but I hope it also shows that I have the patience to persevere through all obstacles. So in 2009, I returned home without my bachelors degree. I was working so many hours in security that I was forced to take time off from school for about a year.
Spring of 2011, I found myself in intermediate algebra for the second time. After failing college algebra a total of four times, it became clear to me that I needed to start at the previous class. Finally I had a teacher that I could understand. She sometimes taught using childish method such as having us sing the math formulas, but finally I began to enjoy algebra a little. This professor at Trident Technical College really cared. She did not mind spending extra time with me when I had issues with a problem. I got a C in the class that semester, but that was all I needed to move on. I wanted to graduate. In May, I took a CLEP test in Algebra, but unfortunately I did not pass by ONE point. Still, it gave me hope that success was nearer. I saved everything I could and decided to take the summer off while I took college Algebra. I was sure if I was just a student I could finally focus on math and pass. I also took a music theory class that summer at Trident to raise my GPA a little. The music class was much harder than I thought, but it was very enjoyable. With no distractions from work, I really began to enjoy my last math class. My teacher was not the greatest math teacher, but in order to make up for it, I was willing spend hours with my book, watching videos on youtube and listening to help cds. Thanks to my previous professor, the math was not so bad. Much to my surprise, I even made a 100% on my midterm for that last Algebra class. I was jumping for joy over that. I have not had a 100% in math since elementary school. Yet, there it was. I overcame one of my biggest obstacles in life. College Algebra. I passed the class just points from a B (my final was not as good as my midterm). Finally, I was graduated. Since it was a transient class from a community college here, I did not receive my approval fro graduation until December. It was a painful wait, but finally the letter approving my graduation came. I was so happy that day came. I would have graduated three years a go if not for Algebra. I failed algebra a total of five times (counting my CLEP test. This does not count the time I failed beginning algebra and intermediate algebra),which could be very humiliating. I am not afraid of any failure in the future though, because I know what it means to fail and get back up.
During my last semester a co-worker who knew I collected fortune cookie slips left a slip on my notebook, which said : “Fall down seven times, stand up eighth time”. I have stood up that eighth time. I am ready for whatever God has next for me. In addition to returning to my graduate program at Liberty University online, I have applied for jobs in any and every sector and field since December. I have had very few responses, but I am just going to keep trying. I am going to continue standing up. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know its a good road. My Lord has promised me thus: :For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I still like I am playing the waiting game a little as I spend hours every week job searching, but I will just serve where I am at while I waiting