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The AQ Difference

After four years of being at Aquinas, you’d think you would get a little tired of the term “the AQ difference.” But each day you are surrounded by the fruits of that difference. I have been given so many opportunities at Aquinas that I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

Freshmen year, I participated in an internship of sorts for my Intro to Community Leadership course that got me out in the community by helping teach kids literacy. It was the fall semester, and the first time I had really volunteered consistently with one organization. I worked with the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation developing an Education Program to motivate kids to get involved with school and eventually make it to college. It was a difficult internship because I was helping start the Education Program alongside the director. Therefore there wasn’t a lot of direction on how to do anything. I was frustrated numerous times, but my professor encouraged me every step of the way, seeing a potential in me I had yet to see for myself. Thanks to him, I completed the internship and furthered my desire to pursue Community Leadership. This professor has since retired, but I still maintain contact with him and see him regularly.

Sophomore year, I studied abroad in Ireland and expanded my world view drastically. I knew coming into Aquinas that I wanted to study abroad, in Ireland specifically, but I had no idea the impact it would have on me in the long run. The landscape, the culture, the people all hold a very special place in my heart. The people I met on that trip, both from Aquinas and the Tully Cross community, have become lifelong friends, and I can honestly say I would not be the same person I am today without them. It is nearly impossible to put into words the effect that studying abroad has had on my life. It sparks something inside of you, and the experiences you had there help that fire to burn brighter than you ever would have thought. It gives you a deep appreciation for everything that life has to offer, and it is an opportunity that should not be missed.

Junior year I went on a service learning trip to New Orleans. I worked at Saint Peter Claver Catholic School and met some of the greatest human beings I have ever had the privilege to know. Like my experience in Ireland, this Service Learning trip sparked something inside me that I can’t fully put into words. It was incredible to see the community that not only Saint Peter Claver has, but the entire city of New Orleans. I was told by numerous people—teachers and librarians at the school, tour guides and shopkeepers around the city, the man who housed us—that we were family now, that once we visited New Orleans once, we could call it home. New Orleans is a massive city, and to see an entire community have that same sentiment absolutely melted my heart. To see a city that was once completely devastated by Hurricane Katrina pick itself up and become a beautiful bustling cultural center again was life changing. It was incredible, and something I know I would not have experienced without the help of Aquinas.

Now, as a senior, I am anxiously anticipating all of the wonderful things that are going to happen to me with the help of the incredible faculty and staff here at AQ. I have already been given many opportunities for fostering the development of my interests and it’s only the first month of school. I have been lucky enough to expand upon my degree and add an Irish Studies Minor in addition to my double major in Community Leadership and English and my double minor in Writing and French. I have been given opportunities for furthering my work with the AQ Writing Center and developing new ideas and projects in order to reach more students and create better writers.

All of these things that I have done I know I would not have done at a larger school. Yes, it takes a fair amount of initiative to do these things, but with the relationships you form with faculty and staff really does make all the difference in the world. They will encourage you to do all the things you never thought you would be able to do, and they will help you take your craziest dreams and turn them into reality. That is the AQ Difference, and I am so lucky to have that in my life.

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