Shaina Chechang – University of Iowa
I created a Bucket List the February of my freshman year of college. I brainstormed 85 things of what I wanted to do before I die, predicting it would take decades to accomplish. Within a year, I was able to complete a good chunk of my list. Four years later, I am proud that I have attained almost half of my dreams and goals. I really do get what I picture.
It’s been a wild ride.
After spring break freshman year (few months after I complied my list of hopes and dreams), I received a call in early April. I was invited to go to an information meeting to hear about a summer internship because I had filled out a quick survey during one of my lectures. I immediately agreed to attend a meeting because the thought of earning $8,700 during a summer sounded extremely appealing. I must admit, I actually almost did not show up. Had the guy (my future student manager and organization leader) not call me an hour before the meeting to keep me accountable, I would have never showed up.
I was impressed the entire hour I was there. I remember I literally sat on the edge of my seat because I was attracted to the opportunities I was being presented with – earn enough money to graduate debt free, travel, build a resume, look competitive compared to other students, etc. The Southwestern Advantage summer program was pretty much screaming my name to apply because I knew I was an out of state student from a northwest suburb of Chicago paying 10 extra grand just to attend Iowa, I was a pre-dental student, and I knew I definitely had to stand out somehow when applying to dental school, and having the opportunity to go explore the east coast? Yep, sign me up.
Needless to say, I am very thankful Southwestern gave me the opportunity to learn about myself in a tremendous amount of ways, to meet amazing leaders, to develop lifelong friends, to learn how to connect with diverse people (people living in poverty, middle class folks, wealthy people, people from around the world like Kenya, Angola, India, Germany, Japan, England, France, Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Italy, people of different professions like doctors, lawyers, plumbers, home makers, teachers, people who work with the government, engineers, etc) to have that impact on people (giving kids hope, cheering on moms, encouraging dads, leading students), and to travel. In the past 4 years I have made my way to IL, IA, WI, MN, NE, CO, CA, NV, UT, AZ, TX, OK, KS, MO, IN, KY, TN, VA, WV, GA, FL, DC, MD, DE, NJ, NY, PA, ME, MA, VT, NH, RI, CT, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and even Jamaica.
However, that all came with a price.
Southwestern has the uncanny ability of stripping layers off me until I am left with my raw emotions – leaving me and forcing myself to confront my feelings. That was something I could not run away from. Not that I am stoic or anything because I do have a reputation of being a positive, bubbly firecracker. I don’t think I am too extreme, to the point of puking sunshine, but it is being that emotional giant that I still have yet to master. I realize I have grown up a lot. I appreciate the Southwestern Advantage experience, all the challenges it has presented me and learning about myself now (strengths and weaknesses), versus dealing with it years from now… when I’m busy trying to juggle more important things, like owning my own dental clinic as an Orthodontist. The person I will be in my future, I am now becoming.
Some of the most valuable things I have learned these past several years include getting my head and heart aligned right, taking control of what I want, having a strong fighting spirit, being mentally, physically, and emotionally tough, having high expectations, and daring to dream BIG are important, especially during difficult times. Enduring on hardships also help shape your character. This job of selling the Southwestern Advantage learning system door to door 80+ hours a week, facing rejection on a daily basis, on straight commission, no guarantees really did expose me to a wide variety of people. I can slowly and quickly-simultaneously hand pick qualities I want to possess in my character.
But, I know everything that I have put up with, endured, overcame… all that, was worth it. Dreaming BIG is definitely worth it. It’s been a long run, but I have no regrets. I will always continue to chase my dreams, until I cross off every single thing on my Bucket List.