By Hannah Bassitt
She nervously sat in her chair waiting for the moment where she would feel normal in this foreign environment. One student would walk in the class, followed by a train of other students. She fumbled with her pencil and wondered if the other students were as anxious as she felt on the first day of first semester. She kept looking around the classroom because she was trying to study the atmosphere; she had seen classrooms in movies and imagined them in her mind, but now she was actually there. Her entire education up to this point had been through homeschooling, but at nineteen years of age, here she was to college for the first time. She quickly snapped out of her thoughts when the professor cleared his throat to start the class.
Starting at a new school with strangers is a scary time in one’s life. Emma Helbling, a Freshman Liberal Arts Major at UC Clermont, has done just this and has overcome her fear of the unknown. For Emma, the biggest unknown was the traditional classroom, because up until beginning her studies at UC Clermont, she had been homeschooled.
“School varied as I got older. In high school, I went to a co-op which was once a week. I took four classes, and I had homework for each class that was due every week,” stated Helbling.
In many respects, homeschooling is different than a public university. In a homeschool situation, the co-op sessions represent the cooperative and social aspect of education, whereas in college, the entire environment is constantly social (or sometimes seems to be). Helbling said, “At home, it was just me and my siblings, so co-op allowed for participation in group projects and being around people all day. But outside of school, most of my socialization happened at dance class.”
Most people think of college as a place to reinvent themselves. For Emma, college was the beginning of a new lifestyle as a student and as a person. College is the time for growth and change, which Emma found to be true when she was surprised at how much she had changed in just a short period of time.
“Being homeschooled, I was definitely so quiet and definitely an introvert. I was reserved and I didn’t talk a lot because I didn’t have to be super social. I almost felt like I was invisible because I never talked,” said Helbling. However, since Emma has completed a full semester and is in the middle of her second, she has discovered just how much she has changed. Others may find it difficult to notice a change in themselves or their personality, but Emma says that this was not the case for her and her time so far at UC Clermont.
Helbling explained, “Just being around people all the time used to really exhaust me, but now it is really nice and I like it. I contribute in class, which I never did before. I will speak up, ask questions, and I will talk to people from class to class, which I also never would have done. My current job at the dance store helped because you are having all of these random people come in and you have to talk. For me, it was first the store and then transitioning into college. I am glad that I started at UC Clermont because I believe it is a good middle step [to]UC Main.”
Emma has not only changed as a person, but her attitude towards school has certainly evolved. Until her first semester, Emma was never one that loved school, but of course, she still finished her work and went through the motions of a homeschool day. Today, Emma can say with confidence that she has thoroughly enjoyed her classes and her time on campus. “Last semester, I took so many awesome classes and I want to be here and I want to learn, and now I can say I love learning,” said Helbling.
Emma decided to apply to UC Clermont in May of 2017. She did not know what to expect of her professors, the classes, or even the classrooms. Emma felt that students who had been traditionally educated already had a great start. Other students could expect certain classroom behaviors and seemed better prepared for the different teaching styles of professors, whereas Emma was coming from an entirely different style of education. “I was very anxious the first two weeks leading up to the start of classes because I had never been in school or a classroom. And then, my biggest class was forty people, which I was not used to because normally it was ten [students],” states Helbling.
Some students might say that college is just like high school, while others believe that the two are vastly different. There are many different backgrounds and educational experiences that come together at UC Clermont. For example, one student may say that he or she believes college is similar to high school because of the socialization factor. On the other hand, another student could say that he or she thinks high school and college is different because of the schedules and class times. Each student has his or her own perspective about high school and college based on past experiences. For Emma, she was able to look at her past homeschool experiences and decide what she enjoyed about her new school. “I think the professors are good; I feel like I have … lucked out because they are so nice. I didn’t really know what to expect coming in, but I am glad that everyone is really friendly. I really like it and I am surprised that I like it as much as I do. I have come out of my shell and I am not as quiet and I like having a place where you can talk and socialize,” explains Helbling.
After college, Emma would definitely love to travel as part of her job. She is unsure of what she wants to do with her major in Liberal Arts, but she knows that she wants to get her bachelors in Communications. Emma Helbling has blossomed into a better version of herself just because of her transfer to UC Clermont. She has experienced the social aspect of school as well as a typical school environment, such as classrooms. Emma is proud of who she has become and how much she has matured from the summer.
Finally, the professor finished up his lecture and turned to smile. “Until next time,” he boomed to the class. Students got up from their desks and the chairs squealed against the floor. She sat in her chair for a moment, took a breath, then began to gather her backpack. She started for the door when the professor looked at her and said, “I am glad you are here.” At that moment, she realized that she no longer had to keep quiet or be scared to speak. She walked out of the classroom knowing that she had found a place where she could shine—a place where she did not have to hide anymore.