Student Post: Opportunities to Grow

As a freshman starting my first day of classes in the Honors College, I was a nervous wreck. Honestly, I was scared out of my mind and did not know what was expected of me.

Questions continually plagued me: What would the Honors College look like? What in the world is a sequence? Is it hard? Will I make friends?

With these questions swirling around my brain, I showed up at National Security, my honors sequence.

Within minutes of the class starting, I realized how absurd my fears were. All the students, or at least a majority of them, were new to the Honors College and were just as apprehensive as I was.

Our professor, Dr. Jonathan White, was incredibly caring. He welcomed us with open arms and assured us that he would always be there for us personally and academically, which made us feel special and treasured. To this day, I can still say with absolute certainty that he is my favorite professor and I feel comfortable going to him with anything.

We spent the semester learning the multiple facets of researching while also dedicating a few days to relaxation and downtime. Although it was nothing like I had thought it would be, I enjoyed it. I was able to bond with classmates, especially those who were in my final research group, and learn about something that I have an interest in.

The semester ended quickly with presentations given by groups of five to six students.  Each group had been given an assigned topic by Dr. Jon at the beginning of the semester, with my group presenting on the Chinese Navy. Although this may seem like a hard and difficult topic, it was enjoyable to research and fun to share with the class and Dr. Jon.

Coming back from winter break, my sequence started fresh with Dr. Jon and Dr. Kelly Clark, who taught us about human nature and the psychology of terrorism.

As we learned more about radical groups and what they believe in, Dr. Clark tasked the class to write a blog about everything we had learned so far in the semester.

Choosing a topic was hard. There were so many world events and people I wanted to write about but in the end I put my focus on the history of terrorism in Somalia. The world had just recovered from the November 2015 attacks in Paris and I decided that I wanted to try and open the eyes of people not only to the terrorist attacks that were occurring in the West but also the attacks in third-world countries.

Unbeknown to us, Dr. Clark planned on actually publishing some of our blogs in the Huffington Post.

After reading my blog on Somalia, Dr. Clark approached me and asked me to co-author another piece similar to mine on his Huffington Post Blog. I quickly agreed and we spent much of our free-time bouncing ideas off of each other and emailing multiple drafts back and forth.

After a week of hard work, Dr. Clark published our blog, “Je Suis Le Monde”. This blog depicts how human nature tends to see all Muslims as the enemy instead of fellow victims of terrorist attacks.

Being able to publish my thoughts and opinions about a topic I care about is an opportunity of a lifetime. Dr. Clark helped me to go out of my comfort zone by forcing me to openly declare my beliefs and this has helped me to grow as a person outside of the academic realm.

National Security was truly a blessing in disguise.

Although it required us to put in effort and time, this honors sequence forced us to grow. We were able to become comfortable with sharing our ideas without fear of consequences.

The Honors College may seem demanding and tasking at first, but it allows us to grow and to understand more of ourselves. Professors require us to dig deep and think outside of the box, which is different from many of my past experiences.

Today, I am glad to be able to say that I took a leap of faith and joined the Honors College. It has given me numerous opportunities I would not have received elsewhere and has allowed me to become a better person. I am truly honored to be a part of one of the best honors colleges in the United States.



Kilike Steyn is a sophomore in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University, pursuing a major in International Relations and minors in Arabic and French. She enjoys learning about world events and experiencing different cultures. Hailing from South Africa, Kilike loves all things American and can be seen around campus reading and listening to music. After she completes her undergraduate degree at Grand Valley, Kilike hopes to obtain her Masters and PhD in National Security and work for the United States government someday.



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