Hi, I’m Michaela. I am a 5th-year senior from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I study Music Therapy and American Sign Language. When COVID-19 first hit in early 2020, my school experience had completely changed. Being so far along in my degree, going online proved to be difficult. All my classes at the time were experienced-based, and with Zoom not being able to handle music being played together by multiple people, a lot of my learning had to be based on recordings of others. Not only did closures and stay at home mandates change my educational experience, but it also changed my living environment. I live alone in an apartment in the city, but my mom was very worried about my exposure to the virus in the city. So, I packed up and went home for what was going to be for the month of April. May rolls around and everything is still pretty closed, so I continue to stay with my family. I haven’t lived at home for more than a week since my freshman year in 2016, so this change was definitely a big one. June rolls along and I’m still at home; what was supposed to be one chilly April has now turned into 3 months and it was getting too warm for the clothes I packed. The end of June comes and finally, I get an email from my jobs in Philadelphia that they were going to open again. So I pack up and move back to my apartment in the city. Everything was very different, and a lot of things are still closed (even now in September). Then, Temple announces that classes would be hybrid, but all of my classes fell into the online-only part of the plan. I spent most of July figuring out ways to make my online experience this fall a bit better than sitting in my small apartment all alone. I looked into living in remote areas, living with family down south, even moving to Arizona a whole year early just so I could maximize happiness this semester. Then came A Place Beyond.
Why A Place Beyond? From instructors here, my professors at school, and my friends and family, this question comes up often. When I stumbled upon APB via an Instagram ad in August, I had a lot of thoughts. These thoughts ranged from “wow this is exactly what I need to do” to “is this even real?”. But, I figured there was no harm in applying. My goal after finishing my Internship in May 2021 is to move to Tucson, Arizona to go to grad school and hopefully land a good job. APB being in Prescott, Arizona, just felt so right for this point in my life. I love the mountains, and I love Arizona, so being in the Arizona mountains was practically a no brainer. Prior to coming out to the APB campus, getting to talk to the instructors was really nice. A bunch of us here in the first cohort were a bit worried about this program being real, but having real people to chat to and email with was really nice. The instructor staff is so friendly and knowledgeable about so many things, it creates a space filled with endless knowledge. Leading up to my arrival on September 9th, communication with the staff was open and always available, which was super helpful in logistics, but also provided a sense of security as I was moving across the country on a 2 weeks notice. I chose APB not only just because of all these things, but also because being able to have a sense of community again was something I was really longing for.
Fast forward, I have been here along with 34 other students for just shy of 3 weeks! It didn’t take that long to validate my decision to be here though. Driving up to campus after flying into Pheonix was such a surreal moment, and so were the days after. The sense of community we created just after a few days was amazing, and it has just become better since. As a community, we tested for COVID on our 4th day, and thankfully all tested negative! That morning was one for the books. I can’t recall the last time I hugged another person before that day, and let me tell you all, it was amazing. Now, that we have formed a bubble, there are so many things we can do. Movie nights, bouldering, game nights, dance parties, frisbee games, lake trips, the opportunities are endless. If I had any doubt about enjoying my semester here, I definitely don’t have any anymore. I spent my time writing this in so many different, yet amazing places on campus. At the lake, in my hammock surrounded by beautiful Ponderosa Pines, in my cabin, in a friend’s cabin, at a picnic table in the sunshine, and more places you may just have to see for yourself. If you want to join us here, I highly suggest it, you won’t regret it.