Kellen Larkin: My Experience as a UVA-Wise Ambassador

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Kellen Larkin, a member of Versation's Student Advisory Board, is a Student Ambassador at UVA-Wise. He recently shared with us his experience as a prospective student visiting campus, and how that experience impacted his decision to become an ambassador:

As a high school student, visiting college campuses can be extremely overwhelming.  No matter what people tell you there is an anxious anticipation felt when walking the lecture halls, meeting professors, and ultimately wondering if each campus could be your home for the next four years.  As a prospective college athlete hoping to play baseball, I went on many college tours at different colleges and universities that I thought I might like to play at.  I scoured the listings of majors and minors at each school, and I researched the prestige that each diploma carried, hoping to find one that would speak to me!  When I had narrowed the list down to three I decided to return to these schools again for another visit.  

Upon returning to UVa Wise, I had scheduled an official tour with a UVa-Wise Student-Ambassador, not just a short-and-quick tour with the baseball coach as I had done before. I decided that I wanted to receive the student-perspective.  I wanted to see what people loved about their own school, and what students liked to do in their spare time.  I told my tour guide, “Okay.  I know you have things you have to say, and I know there are certain things you’re not allowed to say.  But just be real with me.  I’m choosing somewhere to spend four years of my life.  I don’t want to make a wrong decision.”  And off she went.  My tour guide showed me everything I expected to see from the classrooms to the cafeteria, and everything I didn’t think to ask, such as the pick-up basketball games, the library study sessions, and the hidden outdoor trails leading to secret fishing spots.  I was in awe, and I was excited.  But something else I experienced on my official tour I didn’t quite recognize until a couple of weeks later.  On the campus of UVa-Wise was reality.  There was life in the most genuine yet raw perspective.  Some students rushed to class and to get assignments crammed in, while others seemed to have their life together.  Some professors simply waved, knowing you were on a tour, while other professors welcomed me into their office to say hello and greet me.  I was given the most simplistic yet perfect tour I could’ve asked for.  I wasn’t given a speech or percentages and numbers I wouldn’t remember.  I wasn’t being stuffed full of random facts and information I would never need.  My tour guide showed me academic life, she showed me relationship between students and staff, and she gave me a true perspective on what it means to be a UVa-Wise Cavalier.  I was hooked.

Life as a freshman starts fast.  There’s no easing into college life, rather, it’s seems to be a dead sprint until graduation.  Classes, labs, baseball practices, club involvement and meetings; getting involved is time consuming.  Being successful is time consuming.  All I ever wanted was straight A’s, a great social life, and peak performance on the baseball team.  Is that so hard to ask for? Yes, yes it is.  Day in and day out I have to put in the study time, the practice time.  I have to sign up and apply for positions and clubs.  I have to stay up late at night to finish that history paper that I procrastinated on for so long that I actually forgot about it.  Success isn’t free, and it sure isn’t easy to come by.  Yet, it is possible and it is worth the struggle.  I never expected college to be quite this difficult to deal with.  I never expected to fight such a strong amount of stress when studying for finals and completing end-of-year projects.  But then again I also never expected to love what I’ve been learning about.  College changes your perspective on studying, schoolwork, and life.  You get to choose your path for the very first time in school.  You get to make your own schedule and choose to follow your own path.  

I learned to love school when I got the chance to create my own schedule and realized that it is my responsibility to become a success story no matter what life throws at me.  So when applications started being accepted to become an official UVa-Wise Student Ambassador, I couldn’t complete mine fast enough.  I remember walking to the admissions office and submitting my application along with a resume and cover letter.  I was walking back to my dorm thinking, ‘there’s probably a hundred applications being submitted.  Surely they won’t select a freshmen.’  But I was comforted by the intricacy I used to write my cover letter.  My interest in becoming an ambassador was honest and true.  I wasn’t interested in simply gaining a boost on my college resume.  Rather, I wanted to give people the experience I was given.  I wanted to welcome them home, not just fill their heads with a script.  

When I was given my first opportunity to give a tour, I couldn’t have been more nervous.  I had heard horror stories about people seeming uninterested so as to make you feel like you’re talking to yourself.  I had heard of the rude parents who were unhappy with their child’s interest in schools.  But when I first shook hands with my tour group, I knew I had made the right choice to become an ambassador.  My tour group asked lots of questions, they had interest in not just the school but in my experience as a Cavalier, and I was able to give them a REAL, and fresh student perspective.  One girl in my tour group (and her family) just so happened to be a potential recruit for the volleyball team.  As being a part of the baseball team at UVa-Wise, I was so excited to provide an athlete’s perspective on everything Wise.  It turned out that after my first tour, the volleyball coach was impressed with the excitement I was able to instill in one of her recruits.  It seemed that each week I was giving a tour to some sport’s recruit.  This was a perfect fit for me.

I love UVa-Wise.  I love being an athlete.  I love having academic mountains to climb and social responsibilities to care for.  But what I love most is being able to share that genuine and raw experience of what real life at UVa-Wise looks like, the same perspective I was once given.  I became a Student Ambassador to draw people in, to help potential students and athletes gain an excitement for the next four years of their life, and to hopefully interest them in becoming a UVa-Wise Cavalier for life.