Hi everyone, Jon here,
I bought my cap and gown yesterday. This makes it all seem so much more real. And as the end draws near I can’t help but think back on all that I’ve accomplished in five years at UConn.
Working at the Lodewick Visitors Center and seeing hundreds of perspective students going through the college search process I think back on when I stood in those same shoes. I was really lucky to have parents who entertained every college I wanted to visit. When I started looking at schools I wanted a big enough university to afford me lots of opportunities and I also knew that if my mother could surprise me for lunch I was too close to home. So naturally I picked UConn, six and a half hours away from my home in Hanover, PA.
Mom and Dad took the day off work and we schlepped ourselves up to CT to take a tour. During the tour, my mom was that stage-5 clinger mom monopolizing the tour guide with 50,000 questions, while my Dad and I heckled and pushed each other into the bushes in the back. As we were driving home, all of us loved the school and I pretty much knew this was the one.
I did my research and UConn had everything I wanted so I couldn’t wait to get started. However, once I got here the transition was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I hadn’t realized how bad the homesickness would be. But Mom and Pa were always supporting me with at funny greeting card, a phone call, or homemade cookies just when I needed them most. They entertained late night and early morning phone calls as I had mini life crises one after another. I truly couldn’t have survived the past 5 years without their belief in me and their constant support of everything I do.
In my time at UConn I discovered one of the keys to enjoying college is getting involved and I’ve been involved in a ton of student clubs and organizations. One of the first organizations I joined was the UConn Men’s Crew team. I have never rowed before but I wanted to give it a shot; so I did. I don’t really have the motivation go to the gym so joining a team that would make me exercise was essential otherwise the freshman 5 would be more like the freshman 45 for me. I have loved rowing and have made some incredible lifelong friends. In my first semester, during a day when I was particularly homesick, the senior captain Ryan Callas said to me, “Jon, you are on this team now and no matter what happens, we’ve got your back and you’ve got nothing to worry about. This team is a family.” It was the first time at UConn I truly felt like I belonged. And throughout the past for years I have indeed been enveloped into this family of UConn crew. I remember the races and competition, but more so I think back on the long car rides, freezing cold practices, and great personalities. I will always carry those memories with me and I look forward to coming back as an alumni and seeing how the team has grown.
Inside the classroom I have been graced with a ton of professors who saw potential and pushed me to see it in myself and achieve. The Neag School of education stresses forming relationships with your professors and I have been lucky to have many great mentors. But hands down the one place that I have learned the most is in my student teaching placement. Seniors in the Neag School of Education spend a semester teaching in a CT school district. I taught Kindergarten in Hartford and I have learned so much! My cooperating teacher Jessica Paole was and still is an awesome resource for me. She has taught me so much about pedagogy and good teaching practice. My students have been awesome and sure there are times when they are frustrating, but Jess is always there to give me some words of encouragement, or to crack a joke just to get my mind off of it. After teaching for a semester in Hartford, I feel like I can tackle anything! Then this past year during my Master’s term I was fortunate enough to study and teach in London for a semester. My London advisor, David Moss has challenged my thinking and uncovered new themes in education for me to consider. He never gives the answer instead he forces me to make decisions for myself.
It is nearly impossible to compress all of my great experiences at UConn into one blog post. I have met some amazing people, tried some unbelievable experiences, and challenged myself to do more than I thought possible. The all-nighters, the exam stresses, the fatty movie nights, the early morning rows, unpredictable adventures, five hour meals at North dining hall all have brought me a lifetime worth of memories and I am graduating with unbelievable friends and stories to share. I know no matter where I end up teaching, I know I’ll always be a Husky forever!