In the last few weeks, my life has changed more than I could have ever imagined.

I have made amazing new friends that make me feel as if I have known my entire life. I have challenged myself to be the best that I can be, and found that my best is actually pretty darn good. I have visited places I have never been before, ran for student government, and had sleepovers with my mom. I have dressed up with school spirit for a football game for the first time in my life. I have learned how to prepare and eat microwaveable vegan food, as well as learned how to set my coffee machine on delay brew so that I have hot caffeine waiting for me each morning when I wake up. I have met incredible people from all over the West Coast (and the country) and begun to consider schools, careers, and opportunities for my future that I have never before imagined.

Oh, and did I mention I haven’t left Ashland?

In the last few weeks, Southern Oregon University has outlived my expectations immensely. When I finally made my decision and attended registration in July, I never imagined that SOU would be anything more than a jumping off point for my college experience. I took the opportunity to save money and attend a local university for granted- never realizing how incredibly lucky I actually was about to become.

Although I must give myself partial credit for my successes here at SOU these last few weeks, the rest of the recognition must go to the school itself. I would not have been able to find so many interesting programs, classes, and opportunities if I wasn’t an interested and active participant, but I also, obviously, wouldn’t have been able to find them if they weren’t so abundant and readily available. So far I have begun campaigning for student senate, attended luncheons and internship interviews, formed helpful study groups and learned about endless foreign college exchange and internship opportunities.

There are in fact so many interesting things to do here that I actually do not have enough time in the day to find out about and attend them all.

One of my absolute favorite things about SOU however, is the opportunity to meet anyone and everyone that you want. There are no rules about who you can be friends with and endless opportunities to make new acquaintances. I have made friends in my residence halls, friends at work in the two campus coffee shops, friends through other friends, and friends in my classes.

But I have also become friends with people in more out of the ordinary situations. There are the friends I have made who have the same name as me (I currently have eight guy friends at SOU named Alex by my count). There are the friends whose daily coffee drinks I have memorized. Then, there are the friends within the SOU faculty, who treat me, amazingly enough, like an equal adult.

When I officially signed up for SOU, I thought that I was putting my real life on hold until another bigger, grander, more glamorous opportunity came along.

But in reality, I was just about to start actually living it.