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Sophomore Year Reflective Essay

Jared Allen Steiman

I believe this year has seen more change in my life than any other before. My priorities are

different, my major has changed yet again, I have gained a number of new skills, my network has

grown, and my plans for the future are all re-written. These past two semesters flew by, as I found

myself immersed in so many more planes of work and responsibility than I have ever had to

balance in the past. It was certainly a difficult year. I finished spring semester with all A’s, but just

barely. Regardless, with the amount that I accomplished beyond my academics, I would have been

proud to finish with straight B’s. I am hopeful moving into my junior year, because my experience

these past months have taught me a lot about who I am, what I want, and how much I can handle.

Of all the things that filled my sophomore year, I am most proud of my activism. Since last

July, I have attended one march supporting DACA in Nashville, one “day of action” for Tuition

Opportunity in Nashville, one march in Washington, D.C. for the Dream Act, two weeks of protest

in D.C. for the Dream Act, one event in Chattanooga protesting family separation, and organized

two marches and a fundraiser in Chattanooga for DACA and the Dream Act. Of course, that is all

in addition to numerous talks and community meetings we have organized or contributed to. When

Bryan Stevenson spoke at NCHC last year, his advice to us was to “get proximate.” He said that

once you found yourself near to a problem, it would be impossible not to get involved. I can attest

to this, as each struggling immigrant I meet has pushed me deeper into this fight, renewing my

resolve to make change for my community. I am proud of the work I have done, proud that my all-

too-comfortable life has been disrupted by something infuriating, something that drives me to be

better.
However, it is not without cost. All of this work took an enormous amount of time and

energy, and composed merely one small facet of my responsibilities. While engaged in all of this

activism, I was working fifteen hours a week for the Honors College, and nine hours a week for

the dealership. I was volunteering with La Paz, and helping teach ESL classes for adults. I was, of

course, enrolled in sixteen and then seventeen credit hours at UTC, as well as participating in the

Chattanooga Writer’s Society. I was finding time for my family, going home on weekends and

cooking for my household on Sunday evenings. I was, without a doubt, loaded beyond capacity. I

missed some classes, gave up some time at home, and certainly lost a lot of sleep. I’ve learned that

I have a hard time saying no to things; it’s not because I’m a pushover, but rather because I care

too much about too many different things. I still cannot decide if this is a problem that I should

fix.

I suppose that my most significant contribution to Honors this year would have to have

been my position as Student Assistant Director. That is where I dedicated my greatest quantity of

time toward our Honors community. That being said, I think there is also value in the fact that

some of our Honors peers joined Alondra and I time and time again in our work for immigrant

rights. I consider this, also, to be a contribution to Honors. Even as I write, I realize that I have yet

more to contribute before this year is finished, as I must finish organizing this new mentorship

program for the Council. Soon, this too will be one of my more extensive contributions to Honors

for my sophomore year. I also attended three conferences this year, and will be attending one more

at the end of July. This may be more about how Honors is contributing to me, but I will count it

anyways.

So we arrive: the future. I have some goals. By December, I will be proficiently fluent in

Spanish. I will have a body of written work, drawn from my experiences both in the U.S. and
Mexico, to begin compiling in the form of a DHON. Upon returning in the spring, I will seek an

internship that will prepare me for a career in either writing, teaching English, or humanitarian

work. I will help my brother-in-law get into college. I will learn to cook Mexican food, so that

Alondra does not have to. When I no longer need a smart phone for study abroad, I think I might

just smash it and go back to the flip phone.

This has been a sophomore year.