This is something I scribbled in my planner the week of April 26th, walking around campus for one of the last times.

I love this campus. When I walk around in the shadows of these red brick buildings and the shade of the aging oak trees, I am filled with a feeling unlike any other I’ve experienced. With every step I take, I feel it–a strong sense of purpose and direction (or at least, a sense that I am uncovering it), and the insatiable desire to learn as much as I possibly can. I walk around acutely aware that every person I pass has something they could teach me. This wasn’t true of me when I first arrived. Of all the lessons I’ve learned here, that is the most important.

And as I graduate and reflect on my four years here, I am amazed at how I have changed. I have found that sense of purpose and direction for my life but ironically, it was very little to do with major, career, arts, science, or diploma. It has everything to do with Jesus.

Within the four walls of my classroom, I learned about constructivism and Vygotsky, guided reading and inquiry, authentic assessment and least-restrictive environment. No doubt, these things will make me the effective, engaging elementary school teacher I want to be.

But on my FAB trip, I learned that it is possible, worthwhile, and empowering to work and live life with incredibly diverse people. The dozen-or-so people on my team were different in EVERY possible way I can think of. And in less than one week, I learned how incredible they each are and how quickly real relationships can be  formed. I learned how each “difference” meant they had something to teach me.  There is a special place in my heart for each and every one of them. Not to mention, I learned more about educational inequality than I have learned in any of my university courses.

As part of the Women’s Leadership Council, I learned that as an individual woman, I am strong. I learned that as part of a team of women, we are a force to be reckoned with. I learned that women, despite different political views or cultural background, have many of the same concerns and desires. I learned how to work really hard to bring something to fruition.

From Florida football, I learned that there can be a strong sense of family and community among 90,000 strangers. I learned the power of cheering someone on and the encouragement of friends (or strangers). I learned that there are few things quite as thrilling as a Saturday in the SEC. From Tim Tebow, I learned to never hesitate to say, “I believe in Jesus,” no matter how many people are listening.

From Campus Crusade for Christ, I learned that of all the things I will accomplish in life, Jesus is the only thing that matters. I learned that telling people about Jesus is my highest calling (and one I often ignore or fall short of). I learned that worship is a powerful thing.

From my community group, I learned what it means to love unconditionally, to love like Jesus. I learned what it means to be honest. I learned what it means to serve. I learned what true friendship looks like, and that I can not live my life outside of authentic community. I discovered what I want my life to look like. (But that’s a topic from another time.)

They say the Gator Nation is everywhere. I hope that’s true. Because I can’t forget these lessons. I can’t move on from them as I move on from UF. They’re part of who I am now. I’m a Gator.

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