Recently, there have been many events that have occurred that have reminded me of how much I want to thank all of those people who have made it possible for me to be here.
First, as I have said before, one of the main reasons I am keeping up this blog is to share my experience in France as a part of winning a scholarship from the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Foundation. This foundation has awarded me with a significant amount of financial assistance for my trip to study here in France. Since I can only take out so much per year in loans, and that limit is reached due to a predetermined cost of attendance, the remainder of the money I needed to fund this trip would have had to come in the form of either a personal loan or credit cards. The Gilman Foundation has given me the money that I would have had in credit card debt otherwise, and for that, I am very thankful.
There have also been several other scholarships that I have won from gracious contributors, individuals and corporations alike, who have allowed me to not only Study Abroad, but to be given the opportunity to go back to school in the first place. To all of those who have financially helped me, I am very humbled, and thank you all for taking the time to read the story of my life and my wishes for the future, appreciate them, and award me for them. As the first person in my immediate family to go to college, let alone having the opportunity to Study Abroad, I am forever in your debt, and am grateful for the investment you have made in me.
Yet without the encouragement of my family and friends as well, I am doubtful that I would have felt the empowerment and courage to go back to school, travel abroad, and strive to make myself a better person inside and out. Without you all, I would not have had the courage and support to do many things. I would not have had the strength to lose 115 lbs without your understanding and acceptance of my special dietary restrictions, which some may feel (and have felt) would be a burden. I would not have had the approval to ditch you all during Finals Week and at other stressful times, failing to resurface for days, even weeks on end, but when I did, you were there, ready to pick right back off where we left. I would not have been able to trudge through long days filled with classes, waitressing, and homework until the wee hours, without knowing that you were there to cheer me on when all I wanted to do was quit (or at least go to sleep). You were there to sit with me across tables filled with paperwork from my social work days, essays and presentations for classes, cried-through tissues and napkins, endless cups of coffee, and the occasional Oreo milkshake at 2 am. You are all in my thoughts while I am so far away, and although I am excited to be here, I am just as homesick for you all.
I would also like to take the time to thank all of those on campus at UNC-Asheville, for even though helping students may be their “job”, they have continued to go above and beyond helping me, as well as others, to make their wishes and hopes a reality. For the ladies in the Study Abroad office, continuing to be patient with me as I asked question after question from chicken-scratched lists of things I would remember in the middle of the night. For my professors who may or may not have heard of my personal story, but who have encouraged me, pushed me, supported me, and handed me the occasional tissue. Who have sat patiently through my blubbering in broken French (and sometimes in broken English as well), and who have assured me on matters of taking classes that I want to take, as opposed to simply taking classes that I may do well in.
Finally, I would like to thank Elizabeth Bartlett in UNC-Asheville’s Financial Aid Department. She has been there to help me find the financial support I needed to go back to school since the beginning. She was the first person I talked to when I was thinking about returning to school who actually made me feel like I could come back, and who has continually went out of her way to personally search for financial assistance that I would otherwise have looming above me, waiting for me to graduate in order to be paid back. I still remember her writing my name on a small list, handwritten, of students that she focused upon to match with equally unique scholarships. I truly believe that as grateful and appreciative as I am to those who have given me financial and moral support, I would not be here, neither in France, nor back in college, without her.
To all of you, my heart swells with pride, love, and gratitude, and words cannot express how thankful I am for you all to be in my life. Merci à vous.