Why I thank God I didn't go to Cornell

Almost a year ago to this very day, I sent a letter that has changed my life forever.

I remember the day like it was yesterday.  I delayed.  I took a shower.  Read a book.  Checked cnn.com.  I panicked like a guy whose wife just went into labor.  And finally, the moment of truth.

I sealed the letter, and off it went to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Four months later, I packed my bags for the University of Michigan, in some Midwest town, to this place that I knew absolutely nothing about except that it was cold.  I didn’t even know that the school was split into two campuses, or that people were fanatics about football…and what was all this “Go Blue!” nonsense?

And yet–the longer I’m here, the more I never want to leave.  I’ve caught the Wolverine fever.  Although frustrated by the “college bubble” that we reside in, the campus and its neighboring Ann Arbor community has been incredible.  Just three months ago (a lifetime, really), in conjunction with MPowered, I’d organized the University of Michigan’s first Startup Weekend, and it was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.

But this wasn’t the original plan.  On March 15th of last year, I thought I was the happiest girl in the world.  I’d been accepted to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, a dream I had long ago given up.  By March 16th, I’d all but hopped on a plane to Ithaca.  

Why did I do it?  Why did I choose a school I’d never laid eyes on, let alone an entire part of the country that I’d never stepped foot in?  I could have graduated from the University of Washington at age 19.  I could have entered the Ivy League.  I could have stayed right at home, right in my comfort zone.  And…I could have hated my college experience.

Instead, I embarked an adventure.  Sure, I’d miss Seattle, I’d miss the familiarity, the home-cooked food, the friends, and even the rain, but I needed to seek what was beyond my current scope of the world.  And I didn’t want to limit myself.  I didn’t want to set barriers early, both academically and socially.

I came thinking I would study Business and English.  Today, I’m not so sure.  Instead, the incredible faculty and friendships I have found here have taught me to explore.  To challenge myself.  To be unafraid of uncertainty, or failure, or criticism, or rejection, or most importantly, of compromise. 

And today, as I write this on the last night in my dorm room (aka messy hurricane of packing supplies), I don’t want to leave.  This community of leaders, of explorers, of change agents have impacted me in ways I could have never imagined.  In the past four weeks alone with MPowered, with our Center for Entrepreneurship, and with my fellow friends, peers, and risk-takers, I have learned more than ever about leading and building a team, the dynamics of this university, of entrepreneurship education, and much more.  But more than anything, I have had to make decisions.  As a part of MPowered’s exec team, no longer do my decisions only affect myself.  My decisions affect programs, projects, and people.   

The University of Michigan has provided an environment in which I have learned, thought, and created.  It has shown me my fears, my flaws, my failures.  It has enabled me to grow as a student, as a thinker, as a leader of an organization.  And it has shown me that with a little bit of smart risk-taking, a healthy dose of invention, and a dash of fearlessness, we can lead our very own action revolution.