By SAMANTHA COHEN, Guest Columnist

Samantha Cohen  is a Guest Columnist  for The Michigan Journal. Samantha’s views do not necessarily reflect those of The Journal.

College is a time of discovery, change and growth. Over the past five years I’ve spent at UM-Dearborn I’ve grown in ways I never imagined. The young, shy, awkward, naïve and unconfident girl I was in high school and entered university as is a distant memory. The experiences I’ve had have turned me into the confident, strong, secure and aware 24-year-old I am today.

The most impactful memories at this school started in 2012. I had just broken off my friendship with Stephanie, my best friend of almost ten years when she began attaching herself to her boyfriend. I spent the first few months in my comfortable and heartbroken shell, only forming acquaintances, spending a lot of time alone, and focusing primarily on school. I felt alone, abandoned and misunderstood. Eventually, I ventured into the world of student organizations and joined the anthropology club (the Association of Student Anthropologists), opening me up to world of fascinating possibilities.

In 2013, I became part of the international student organization (Globe). I felt a kinship with these unique people of different cultures, a sense of belonging and comfort I solely found previously with my Sicilian/Jewish family. I forged friendships with people who challenged me and forced me to look outside the box no matter how stubborn or difficult I acted. Even when I fell in love with a dear friend and drove our friends crazy with our turbulent friendship, a select number of individuals stuck by and pushed through the obstacles thrown at them. These amazing beings have become family to me, the siblings I never had. Despite the love and dedication they gave me, I still felt a part of me missing.

In the summer of 2014, I reconnected with Stephanie, the soul sister I left behind. We both had gone through events that forced us to realize we understood each other better than anyone else. She, along with the others, helped me to find myself again. I’m incredibly grateful they were able to weather my journey.

Although I still find myself cringing at the mistakes I made, the hurt I’ve caused, the stupid stuff I did, I also find myself smiling at the painful memories. Your past is an aspect of yourself meant to shape you, not to be ashamed of. So don’t be afraid of transformation, heartbreak and trying something new. Branch out of your comfort zone, become part of student engagement, travel and speak your mind, because the choices you make could be the keys to a wonderful future!