Four years ago, I walked into college with two goals: to write and to graduate.

While at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, I wrote. I wrote a lot. I probably spent more time writing than sleeping. And now, I’m graduating.

But it’s the things I didn’t have in mind four years ago that have made this college experience the wildest ride and an incredible journey.

I was shy when I started school, probably not the best trait for a young, aspiring journalist to have but I made do. I really didn’t have intentions of speaking more than necessary or sticking around campus beyond classes.

I’m not entirely sure when that mentality changed or what caused the change, but somehow it shifted.

Some of the volunteers who worked on Catalina Island as part of a UM-Dearborn Alternative Spring Break trip in 2015.

What followed would be adventures, ups, downs and opportunities that never seemed possible just a few years ago.

I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life until I was in my first journalism class my sophomore year. I remember thinking that I needed to change my major because I wasn’t made for what I planned on doing. I looked at different career fields and tried to figure out what would work for me as I continued to get frustrated by how poorly I was doing in that class.

Through all my frustrations, the professor encouraged my goals while being hard on me to make sure I was learning (thanks, Elrick), something that sticks out to me when I think back on my college experience, among other reminders that I was on the right path and had what it took to pursue my passion.

I have rewritten this piece a few times because I haven’t been able to sum up just how important the past 4 ½ years have been.

In my classes, I was pushed to challenge myself as I grew as a writer and photographer, but those classes are only a fraction of the story.

College took me across the country to volunteer and around the world to study. I’ve been in photo pits shooting my favorite bands and on the sidelines of the Big House. I’ve met amazing people, and I’ve had the chance to tell their stories.

Oh, and I couldn’t write something about college without mentioning that one time I took a swim in the Chancellor’s Pond during Homecoming week freshman year — I am the proud recipient of the “Titanic” award.

But most importantly, I’ve met people who have changed my life and my perspective, and they continue to encourage and inspire me.

Friends, professors and mentors I’ve met over the course of my time in school, along with my family, have been the backbone of my success and sanity.

I tended to over-pack my schedule while convincing myself that I could handle everything. When I realized I had scheduled myself into constant stress, the people around me were always there, and I’m thankful for that.

I could write pages and pages about the people who made the stressful situations, moments and days not only bearable, but actually enjoyable.

When I was a freshman, I was planning on doing two years at UM-Dearborn and transferring to Ann Arbor. I wanted to move away and have the college experience at a big university.

Now, after changing my mind, I am grateful for how small Dearborn is and how much I was able to connect with my professors and classmates.

As my undergrad schooling comes to an end, I’m excited to be done so I can continue to follow my passions more freely, but a sadness has started to set in as graduation approaches.

For someone who didn’t want to hang around campus once classes ended, I sure spent a lot of my time there. Whether it was working on projects in the JASS studio until well into the night or up in the Michigan Journal office making the newspaper, it was a second home and I’m already missing it.

College, no matter how exhausting or expensive, was quite the experience, and I think I’m ready for the “real world” (or something like that).