Sterling has been a force multiplier for my personal growth. I could go on about the good food, amazing work program,  and the beautiful views, but in truth it is the people at Sterling that have been most impactful for me. Sterling gave me a chance to redefine myself and craft my own identity. Before Sterling, there was a top-down approach to defining me and it was aggravating. When I return to my hometown over breaks, it is the unconditional support and newfound identity, which I crafted, that Sterling has provided me that I miss the most.

Neko1College is generally place for people to start fresh since everything is new. In general the people at college do not know our histories, or basic information like our name. Thus, it provides us a chance to define ourselves, which is something I desperately needed that my hometown does not provide me with. Being at Sterling, I am surrounded by new people, in a new place, and I have wonderful freedom of choice. For me,  the newness was not overwhelming, but welcoming. Here, I could chose how I wanted to be defined. People would know me by the story that I tell and not the fabrications told by others about me. Moreover, I no longer felt the obligations  to validate myself because people here just accept what I say as truth. For Neko3instance,  I no longer had to argue that I was an artist, someone who enjoys outdoor adventures, as well as other aspects of my identity. It was accepted and supported by everyone in the Sterling Community.

Having a strong web of support, as evident at Sterling, made it much easier for me to share different aspects of identity. Consequently, I could improve and connect with folks who had similar interest as me. As well as expand my horizon of possibilities by getting know people in the community who were different. As a result, I can share my art, other can share their art with me, and we can grow together. Or, I can hear about other people’s talents, have genuine interest in what they are doing, and learn how to do that. For example, last semester a student introduced me to some gymnastics. I knew little about the sport, but worked with my fellow student. Eventually, I got to a point of doing an assisted back flip. Although it was far from a perfect back flip, it was still a chance for someone to share their interest with me.

When I am home, I miss the support and growth from being at Sterling. Though I have only a fraction of support at home than I do at Sterling, I am able to go home and using my inevitable return to Sterling as motivation to keep going.  As such, I more hopeful and confident when I am at home than ever before. Thus, I am able to challenge people and their expectations, and know that no matter what happens I have a place of support that is awaiting my return.

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