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Life at Utah State University – Dublin High School 2014 Alum Alyssa Collins Reflects on Her Freshman Year

July 30, 2015

DSC_1266Nestled on a shelf-like foothill at the northern most part of the state resides Utah State University. The campus exists less than a mile from downtown Logan. USU is the largest public residential campus in the state and more than 16,000 students live either on or adjacent to campus. It is also 815 miles away from Dublin. In our newest entry in the Life in College Series, we are pleased to share the experiences of Alyssa Collins. We sat down during her recent July return to home and the discussion was a revelation.

Alyssa 5Whether or not she realized it at the time, Alyssa’s motives for a career were exposed to her at an early age. Her mother, Carrie, provided childcare services for many years out of their home and Alyssa was the oldest of three children. So, she has been around young people for her entire life. However, as her junior year approached, Ms. Collins knew that she would need to make her college choice with greater precision. She thought that a career in education would suit her interests in supporting children. But, she also has a fascination with Korean culture and wanted to at least take a Korean language class. So, the research began with the assistance of her mother. Alas, they found an institution with the highest in-state rating in Elementary Education and one that offered Korean language courses. As if to verify her thought process, Alyssa enrolled in an Elementary Education class through ROP which allowed her to intern in a first grade setting at Frederiksen Elementary School. This experience cemented her decision to someday become a teacher. The family considered additional options both in California and those out of state. But, an on-campus visit followed by an USU “Out of State” weekend for potential enrollees sealed the deal. We asked Alyssa to share observations on her first year in college. Once you decided upon a path of pursuing a degree in early/elementary education, what were the factors that led you to Utah State University.  Was it the quality of the program and/or the size of the institution?

Alyssa Collins: “Once I decided to pursue Elementary Education, I ended up at Utah State because of the program. Their ELED program is one of the best in the country, so we decided to take a look at it. The fact that it was more economical for me to come here than stay in California was a pleasant bonus for wanting to go to school here.” As an out-of-state student, a primary factor was to determine your living situation.  Describe the process in becoming a dorm student and how that has resulted in the formation of some of your friendships.

Alyssa 1Collins: “Because I’m an out-of-state student, living in the dorms was the obvious option for my living situation. For my first year, we chose the cheaper non-apartment style dorms so most of the space I had was communal for a whole floor and then I shared my room with one other person. This dorm situation really forced me to meet people and make friends. Plus, you have to live the whole year sharing this space so you might as well befriend your neighbors. Because of this it was very easy to meet people and become friends. I personally believe that if I had been in an apartment style dorm I wouldn’t have made friends as easily. Really, all my current friends are people who lived on my floor last year. It did make it easier though because USU has these things called freshman interest groups. They have one for Education, Art, Sports, and so on. By joining these FIGs you are placed by people who have similar interests and the leader of the FIG creates events that deal with their subject and everyone who joined attends. I joined the Education FIG, so most of my neighbors were either going into ELED, Secondary Education, or were just interested in Education. That gave me at least something in common with my neighbors and really helped us begin to connect.” For those of us that are unfamiliar, please describe the “vibe” and environment at USU.  As a university town, how does it compare to living in Dublin?

Alyssa 4Collins: “Honestly, I don’t know how to describe the “vibe” of USU. It’s definitely not a party school, but there are always really great turnouts for events on and off campus. Logan is a college town but it’s also very family-centered because since there is a large Mormon population in Utah, people tend to start families young. There are many USU students that have kids before they’re done going to school. I think you would expect a school so populated by one religion that is feels very churchy and preachy, but that’s not the case. All my friends who are of the Mormon faith are very accepting and while they’re willing to tell me about their religion they never try to force it on me or convert me. Plus the town has several different churches so people of other religions can still practice their faith. All in all, Logan reminds me a lot of Dublin. It’s a small town, but still has stuff to do.”  We discussed your transition from DHS to a university student.  Please share how some of your study habits/disciplines have made this a successful transition for you.  What study behaviors did you observe of other students?

Collins: “Something that made the transition really easy for me was that I already had a strong work ethic. It’s always been easy for me to get myself to sit down and do my homework (though there are times when I struggle). Personally, I like to have things to do because then I feel like I’m accomplishing something. When I started college, my assignments started to require a lot of work being put into them and this was no problem for me because it just makes sense to me to sit down and do my homework. However, I have several friends who intensely procrastinate. This usually messes them up and takes a toll on the final product of their assignments. However, some people work better under pressure, so then procrastinating works for them. In my experiences with friends who procrastinate though usually they think that they’ll have the motivation to do it later but in reality their motivation to do the assignment or go to class just gets lower and lower which causes them to do poorly on the assignment. My advice is to just sit down and get it over with, but there are many study techniques to fit different people.” While it may have been comfortable or “convenient” to remain in California for your post-secondary education, you commented that you “endorse getting out of state” and that this has opened many doors for you.  Please articulate what the arc of this experience has meant to you by stepping outside of your norm.

Alyssa 3Collins: “The act of stepping outside of my comfort zone and going out-of-state has impacted me and my life enormously. By going out-of-state, I lost all the securities I normally fall back on and shed the niche I had ended up in while in growing up in California. In California, I was very dominated by what everyone else was doing, what my sister was doing, and what people’s expectations were. I was definitely a product of that environment. Once I had become that person I felt that it was too hard to change without completely starting over. By moving and going to school in Utah, I was able to start over and really focus on figuring out who I am and what point I feel I am in life. Leaving California has given me a better handle on myself and where I want my life to go. It has also taught me that I am capable of whatever I put my mind to and that I am much more independent than I ever thought that I could be. It has also shown me what I find important – whether that applies to things I feel that I need in my apartment or characteristics of people that I find important. Overall, moving away from my norm has given me the freedom I need to figure my life out. It has been extremely gratifying.”

So, it is clear that young Alyssa has made great strides in her first year at Utah State University. She is creating a circle of friends, taking advantage of college life and is stretching her own boundaries. We must also mention two other items. Ms. Collins also secured employment at an on campus pre-school and worked 14 hours/week during the academic calendar and then doubled her hours over the summer. Her parents drove out to Utah earlier in June to deliver a vehicle. Previously, she had gotten around by asking friends for rides, but she also complimented the regional bus system – one that is free for students. We never did get a chance to discuss that Korean language class. would like to thank Alyssa for her candor and willingness to share her experiences.


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