SENIOR COLUMN: Create your own story at UA


Lavinia Doan, Photo submitted

I’ve kept a journal since the first grade, and almost every day since then I’ve written in it. There are times where an entry would be purely bullet points of things that happened that day or random ideas, and other times where an entry would be a novel of emotions and deep thoughts. 

Some consistencies that I have in my entries are that I write down when and how I met someone, and any funny stories or occurrences that I have that day. Sometimes I like to reflect back, often with a friend by my side, and look at old entries. We’d turn to a random date and read the entry, just to relive a forgotten day in the life of Lavinia. The most rewarding feeling is reading about how stressed I was about a class in the past and living in the present knowing that I aced it, or reading about how I met someone at a club volleyball tryout and knowing today that person would eventually become my best friend.

I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about what I wanted to write my senior column on, deciding between why picking Alabama over 22 other schools was the best decision I ever made, or why saying “yes” more was something I learned during my time in college. Both topics had stories behind them that I wanted to share, and that’s when I knew what I should write about.

I’ve realized that a platform of communication that I like to use is storytelling. Any experience, idea, opinion or joke I have ever had usually comes with some kind of narrative. These narratives are archived in my giant stack of journals, in my heart, and many of them, in the Capstone itself.

When I walk around campus, certain buildings, smells, feelings and sounds evoke memories that I hold near and dear to me. When I walk by the President’s Mansion, I think about the Anderson Ball, serving as the President of the Anderson Society and how it was one of my most rewarding experiences in college. When I smell the delicious smells of the nearby bread factory on my early morning runs, I think about the all-nighters I pulled at Rodger’s Library as an underclassman and how I am so glad I eventually learned to stop procrastinating (most of the time.) When I hear Denny Chimes play the Harry Potter theme song, I think of the first time I heard the song on my campus visit in high school and how I knew the University of Alabama was going to be my home for the next few years.

This brings me to the story of why I picked UA, and why it was the best decision I ever made. Being the first college student in my family, I didn’t have much of a direction when it came to applying to colleges, so my best bet was applying to a lot of them – 22 exactly. Interestingly enough, Alabama was the very last school I applied to, the day before they won the National Championship against Notre Dame. When it came to looking at colleges, there was really nothing that I was looking for except potential scholarship money. It wasn’t the Greek life, the athletics, the academics or the people that initially brought me to Alabama – it was Yahoo Answers.

I remember coming home from track practice one day and feeling like there was a college application that I was missing, but I didn’t know what school. I had already submitted 21 college applications, so honestly I thought I was losing my mind for wanting to submit one more. I Googled “What school gives a lot of scholarship money?” A thread on Yahoo Answers was my first result, which led me to the UA application portal. 

At the time, I thought of Alabama as a random school because I had never heard of anyone attending the school, let alone applying there. And NCAA football, sadly, wasn’t an interest of mine at the time. The day after I applied, I found out that Alabama had beat Notre Dame in the National Championship, and I remember thinking “Oh, cool.” Present-day Lavinia would not be okay with this response.

After receiving all of my admission and scholarship offers, my parents encouraged me to tour every school that I received a scholarship to. At each school I visited, I remember thinking “I can definitely see myself going here,” and would buy a t-shirt at the student bookstore to wear, just in case I ended up choosing that school. UA was the last school that I toured because, quite frankly, I didn’t see myself going there, and I didn’t want to make the 13-hour drive. My parents encouraged me to go. As much as I hate admitting it, they were right, and I am so thankful I listened to them. 

The moment I set foot on campus, I knew. No one had to convince me, not even myself. I was sold. Not because the campus was beautiful, or the fact that the dean of the College of Engineering went out of his way to meet me and my family or because there was a Chick-fil-A right by my future dorm. It was because nothing in my life had ever felt so right. My parents asked me if I wanted to stop at the student bookstore on the way out to get my usual t-shirt, and I decided not to because I knew I would be back. I said “yes” to Alabama that day.

I could write infinitely about why coming to UA was the best decision I ever made. But rather than sharing mine, I challenge you to find your own reasons why. I challenge you to create your own story at UA, one that you would want to share with others when you’re standing in my shoes getting ready to leave some of the best years of your life. In addition to this, I challenge you to say “yes” more, because if I have learned anything from my time in college, it’s that most good stories start with a “yes.”

Lavinia Doan is a senior majoring in chemical engineering.