KOA Perspective: How KOA Taught Me To Fly

My sophomore year in college, I transferred to the University of Maryland. After a tumultuous year in my personal life, I found myself most of the way through college without a substantive sense of direction. I know this is no unique experience. College students are constantly struggling with finding that passion and direction which justifies tuition, room, and board. I was no exception in this sense.

Where I was an exception, though, was that in my two years in college to this point, I had only made a handful of new friends and acquaintances. I had no network and not much time left in my college career. Socially anxious, I allowed myself to stick to the friends I have known for my whole life and avoid venturing out to find more. I neglected to join student groups of interest and I knew I was doing myself a disservice. I couldn’t take the uncertainty anymore, so I half-heartedly decided on a career path into government and politics. I was okay with this field.

Regardless of where my heart was, I stumbled upon some professional fraternities that related to my chosen path in the fall of 2018. One fraternity included hundreds of members and many politically elite alumni, and the other was Kappa Omega Alpha, a brand new public policy professional fraternity in its first semester at UMD. The novelty and small size of KOA won me over, enabling me to both be a bigger part of the fraternity and not feel so anxious about meeting so many people at once.

I rushed, was admitted, and was thrust into a tight-knit community of immensely successful, kind, and like-minded individuals that made me feel right at home. I wasn’t anxious, I wasn’t overwhelmed. I was comfortable and I was having fun. Talking to these people for even a short time showed me that public policy is what my new brothers all loved. Seeing this love and passion for this career path made me realize that I was absolutely not doing what I loved.

I couldn’t say what I was pursuing with a smile on my face and excitement in my voice like these people could. This realization was not daunting or dreary, it was exciting and motivating. I needed to find what I loved like these people had. I revisited different passions I had lost through the years and my new friends at KOA were always excited to hear about them and encouraged me when I pursued them.

When I was younger, my mother worked for American Airlines, which instilled within me a deep love of the aviation and travel industries. Although she passed away when I was twelve, I still am able to fly for free until I finish college. I began exercising this immense privilege and was encouraged heavily by my new friends to do so. It was during one of these trips that I realized that I truly love travel.

… But not in a normal way.

Joey Nardick stands on top of Kalepa Ridge in Kauai, Hawaii, in September 2018.

Of course I love traveling to new places. Who doesn’t? What I love is the process of traveling. I learned I love being on airplanes more than I love being wherever I’m going. I want to be a flight attendant. And I’d never be able to if it weren’t for KOA. Before I met these wonderful people I didn’t have half of the social skills necessary to work in that industry. Now I do, and I owe it all to my KOA family.

Of course I still enjoy talking politics with my new policy-minded friends, but they just as eagerly talk with me about anything else. My brothers, directly and indirectly, guided me what I want to do with my life and gave me the ability to do so.

I can say with confidence: they will do the same for you whether your passion is public policy or not.

Joey Nardick is a rising senior double majoring in government and politics and sociology, as well as an Alpha class brother of KOA.