I went to college to dig a ditch

The realization of a college freshman.

I’m eager. I’m ready. I’m excited to be on my own… Or am I? Do I really want to do this? Am I ready to commit to the unknown?

These thoughts ran through my head as I sat quietly in front of a desktop computer back in May, contemplating how to best sell myself to The University of Georgia’s Freshman College Summer Experience. With each keystroke, my decision darted back and forth, going from one side of my conscience full of certainty, then quickly back to the shadows engulfed in doubt. Would I decide to finish the application and move out, or wait till I had the comfort of friends in the fall?

Me, digging the ditch at Habitat.

Needless to say, I’ve been living in the Classic city for 3 weeks now, and I have loved every moment. The experiences I have had are unmatched, and the memories unforgettable. I have no regrets and cannot wait to see what is yet to come, but this summer has been full of life changing moments worth reflecting upon and I’d like to take a second and do just that.

I admit, I’m a pretty outgoing guy, I can talk to people and make new friends fairly easily, but I promise you that doesn't make moving into a dorm with 300 strangers from god knows where any easier. To some people even the thought of this would be gut-wrenching, but I bit the bullet, and it has thus far been the best thing I have decided to do in order to better my future. The Freshman College Summer Experience at UGA has allowed me to meet so many people, and really has set me outside of my comfort zone. I’m grateful for that. If I were still back in Perry, GA, the small town in the mid-state where I grew up, my academic growth would be minimal and my involvement in anything besides work and Netflix would be nonexistent. Instead I have found myself participating in a rigorous academic schedule and a community service project with Habitat for Humanity every Thursday, which brings me to the ditch.

The ditch was my assignment at Habitat. A long pit of bright red Georgia clay filled with young scholars from all over the state, being constructed to keep water from flooding into the future home right next door. Along with a few classmates, every Thursday I was handed a shovel, a pick axe, and a rake and was told to dig. While this wasn’t the easiest job, it wasn't too bad and we didn't complain because we knew that we were making a difference. With every swing of the axe and every shovel of dirt, I thought about the people that were going to live in those colorful little houses and was glad that I was a part of making their lives better. Even though my work was only a small portion of what was happening, there is something special in giving back and under the sweat and dirt you could see on everybody’s else's that they felt the same way.

It has been a week since our last trip to the habitat houses, but it stays with me. Being the 18-year-old dude that I am, I failed to use gloves during my pickaxe experience and every time I look down I’m reminded of the ditch by a blister on my right thumb. The annoying little sore is proof of the job well done and the effort we all found ourselves pouring into whatever our share of work was.

In the beginning, I was skeptical of this so called “service learning” and I really didn’t know how that it would benefit my education. Now I understand. There are a lot of people that walk this earth, acting as a bottomless pit, sucking in all the resources their community, friends, and family pour into them without taking one moment to return the favor and give back. FCSE has given us the opportunity to wake up and see how good it feels to do somebody a favor and I’m thankful for that.

Group photo of my class at the Habitat build site.

I hope that I am able to be a part of more projects like the one at the Habitat house, and as a student I will strive to be a citizen that makes a mark on the community. I look forward to the years to come here in Athens and the experiences that I will be a part of. The 300 strangers have become friends and the classic city is my home. I have come a long way since typed on that keyboard back in May, all thanks to friends, a ditch, and FCSE, I’m a better person.