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An Unexpected Trail

My life has been a whirlwind of experiences since graduating from K in June 2013. Where do I start? How can I describe all that has happened? That’s a great question. I guess I’ll start by saying how exactly I ended up living where I do now, in beautiful Burlington, VT.

Two days after graduation last June I was summiting Mt. Katahdin in Maine, beginning a life changing experience on the Appalachian Trail. No, I didn’t end up completing the whole thing, but I will before I go to graduate school in a few years. The three months I spent on the trail were some of the most beautiful, challenging, and interesting months of my life that, without K, wouldn’t have happened. I started the trail intending to hike by myself and have a self-discovery trip. Man, was I wrong. My first day out, I met people I would be hiking with for months to come. We all had, and still have, our trail names (mine being Wheels). I was always injuring myself and trying to keep hiking. Months hiking through Maine and New Hampshire, gracefully ‘falling’ down rock slides, jumping into freezing cold lakes to catch crawfish, and hitchhiking led me to one pivotal afternoon. I was hitchhiking in southern New Hampshire, trying to make my way to a sugar shack to sleep for the night, when a gentleman picked me up.

After a wonderful conversation he dropped me off. Two minutes later, he was back again offering to let me shower and share a meal with him at his home 20 minutes away across the Connecticut River in Vermont. Being a starving hiker who hadn’t bathed in 4 days (this is a very conservative estimate), I accepted. Little did I know that by accepting that meal, my life would change. I ended up living with this man on and off for about 2 weeks while hiking, eating, swimming, rock climbing, and renting a car to visit my best friend, another K alum. My friend moved to Burlington, VT for a job after graduation.

Driving through Vermont to visit him I began falling in love with the state: the mountains, how quiet and quaint everything was, and how many Subarus I saw on the roads. Waiting for him to get home from work, I Googled outdoor stores in Burlington, and I came upon The Outdoor Gear Exchange located in the middle of town. Speaking with a member of the staff for 20 minutes, I was offered a job on the spot. I originally declined the job to get back on the trail, which I did. I spent 100 more miles walking on the Appalachian Trail until I turned back.

I immediately went home to Kalamazoo, packed up my things, and moved to Burlington, VT. I now work at The Outdoor Gear Exchange as a merchandising manager for the Nordic skiing and paddling departments, and I am still dating the man who picked me up in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire. I’m also studying for the GRE’s to apply to graduate school at University of Vermont in the fall. It amazes me what will happen if you let life take you where you really want. That is something I learned at K during my time there.

I had always had an interest in hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I became truly committed during the Spring quarter of my junior year because of two reasons, the fact I didn’t want to think about what I was actually going to do with myself after I graduated the next year, and a class I took in the history department about American recreation and leisure. My final paper for that class was on the Appalachian Trail.  From there I fell in love with the idea and K College helped me actualize this dream. Without being in an environment that continuously pushes students out of their comfort zone, and opens one door after another, I don’t know if I would have become as adventurous as I did. Not to mention, the vast support that members of the college community showed me in my endeavors.  My K plan has allowed me to live my post-grad life how I want it, and to not pass up opportunities that are put in front of me. I don’t think I would change my “Kollege” education for anything. Hopefully in the future it’ll continue to pay off!

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