Sarah Smith, a senior majoring in history and international affairs, has seized the opportunities presented to her during her college career and “fell in love with everything about UGA.”
Joseph Wheeler High School
B.A. in history and international affairs
Certificate in Personal and Organizational Leadership
Certificate in Global Studies
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
When I began my undergraduate career at UGA, I honestly had no idea what I hoped to gain from my education. I initially selected history as my major since I always had a passion for it, but I wasn’t really sure how to build a future around it. Honestly, in my freshman year I was a little lost in the sea of red and black. I was extremely fortunate to have an amazing group of friends through my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, but I wasn’t sure what to get involved in, what direction to take my major, or how to survive without a meal plan my sophomore year. It seemed I had more questions than answers, a mindset a lot of college students can empathize with.
The summer after my freshman year, my entire college experience changed. In June 2011, we learned my father had an extremely advanced form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is a weird experience, feeling your entire world change. I went from worrying about taking upper level courses to spending hours in the hospital, effortlessly researching treatments and trials, and turning from a student into a caregiver. It was the hardest time of my life. However, my Dad never handled his diagnosis with negativity, only optimism. Slowly, I learned that cancer isn’t about dying as much as it is about living.
Taking this experience, I propelled myself to seize life’s various opportunities. This led me to a few amazing organizations. UGA Relay for Life became my home. Benefiting the American Cancer Society, everyone in this organization has his or her own story with cancer, something I desperately needed. The funds we raised directly helped with my father’s treatment, and soon enough I went from a committee head to survivorship chair to the assistant director. In my current position, I oversee 40 executive board members and manage the entire internal structure of the organization. It has been an immense challenge, and I learn something new every day; but it has taught me more about myself and shown me how many truly amazing students attend this university. We have more than 2,000 students committed to finish the fight against cancer, with aims to raise more than $250,000 this year. If that isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is.
A similar organization, although a very different experience, is Camp Kesem UGA. Camp Kesem is a summer camp for children whose parents have or had cancer. Serving on the executive board for two years, I was part of the team that started this student organization. Since its inception, Camp Kesem UGA has grown monumentally and continues to flourish. We hope to change the lives of 75 campers this year, and as a counselor (aptly named “Muggle”), these kids have also changed my life by showing me a strength I never knew existed.
The list goes on of incredible opportunities UGA has granted me—my experience as a Security Leadership Fellow at the Center for International Trade and Security has shaped my career goals and research interests; my experience as an Honors teaching assistant ignited a passion for teaching I was unaware I possessed; writing for two publications this semester, Georgia Political Review and the Arch Conservative, has taught about the power of an education at work; and finally, my tenure as a Leadership Fellow through the Institute for Leadership Advancement taught me groundbreaking facts about myself and leadership, and has helped me write the rest of my UGA story.
I have maintained a high GPA throughout college, but when thinking about my time at UGA, I won’t remember the papers or tests. I will remember my Dad’s first survivor lap at UGA Relay for Life 2012, the first camper I met at Camp Kesem, my first article published, and my passion for foreign policy research. My career as a Georgia Bulldog has given me the greatest honor of being a small part of a large family, and there is truly no tradition more worthy of envy, no institution of such loyalty, as the University of Georgia.
Family Ties to UGA:
I am a first generation Bulldog!
I chose to attend UGA because…
Honestly, during the fall of my senior year of high school, UGA was the last on my list of college destinations. Come April, however, the UGA Honors Program and HOPE Scholarship made me reconsider UGA. I reluctantly put my deposit in, and was pretty apathetic about my decision. The second I attended orientation, however, I knew that my opinion of UGA was changing. I had so much fun, met so many people and was astounded at all of the opportunities the university and Athens community had to offer. Fast forward three years, and I could never imagine a better school or college experience. I have fallen in love with everything about UGA, and I know this rings true with others who came here for frugal reasons. Sometimes when I sit back and realize all of the different lessons taught, majors offered, student organizations and different subcultures of UGA, I am blown away at how awesome our school is, and how fortunate I am to be a part of the Bulldog Nation.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
It is hard to encapsulate my favorite things to do on campus because there are so many. Saturdays in Athens are unparalleled in excitement and fun, and they are etched in many of my fondest moments of UGA. I also love to hang out in the Relay for Life office in the Center for Student Organizations—it is so fun to joke around amid the stress of school or planning special events, and I love how all of the student organizations converge in one location. Finally, as cliché as it is, I love to read on North Campus. By read, I mean I mostly daydream and people watch, but I love that environment and how it almost fosters intuitive thinking.
When I have free time, I like…
Free time feels like an abstract concept sometimes, but when I do find myself with some moments of freedom, I really love to read. My majors require a lot of intense, and usually grim, reading. I love to take a break and get lost in the world of Dickens or the drama of a John Green novel. I have come to value literature outside of the classroom, and I think it makes me a better student. I also love to run. I have finally decided to train for a half-marathon, which is one of my goals before I graduate. This gives me time to introspectively think and quite literally blow off some steam.
I also really love good television. Most recently I have discovered “Breaking Bad” and HBO’s “Veep” as two wonderful shows that can hold my attention for hours. Finally, as my time at UGA hurdles toward a close, I have found more time to invest in my friendships and to make sure I am sustaining my relationships. My friends have been the greatest part of my undergraduate career and I know that I will miss them all tremendously when I graduate.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
My one act of youthful rebellion has been getting a tattoo. It is very small and easily hidden, and it simplistically says, “HOPE.” My good friend actually drew it for me. The reason behind it is very personal, but what I like to say is that there aren’t enough people in the world who have hope, so someone needs to.
My favorite place to study is…
It’s definitely a tie between a few places. If I need to study, but not too seriously, I like to go to a coffee shop like Walker’s or Two Story. I always end up running into old friends and catching up instead of studying, which is way more productive anyway. If I need to really get things done, I head to the sixth floor of the main library. My favorite is a back table with a view of the stadium.
My favorite professor is…
This is so hard—UGA has so many great professors, and so many have taught me so many different things. For SPIA, it is definitely Brock Tessman and Loch Johnson. In addition to learning about amazing topics like international conflict and strategic intelligence, they just really care about their students. They have turned into sort of mentors for me, and have given me endless advice on what to do after I graduate. For the history department, it is definitely Stephen Berry. I took a special topic with him called “History of Death and Dying” and it is the best class I have taken at UGA.
Finally, I would be lost as both a leader and student without the help of Vikki Clawson from the Institute for Leadership Advancement. Dr. C taught me so much about myself and is where I learned my most cherished leadership lessons. She is unparalleled for her generosity and love for her students.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
… my deceased grandfather. He was my Dad’s father, Lucien Lyne Smith II. I never had the chance to meet him. He served in Patton’s 3rd Army Tank Division during WWII, and I know he has countless stories about his service, his tenure at Harvard Law School, and of course embarrassing stories about my Dad.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
… cure cancer. Without a question.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
… travel the world. Ever since I studied abroad at Oxford University, I have an incurable case of wanderlust.
After graduation, I plan to…
Isn’t that the question of the hour? As of right now, my future is optimistically undecided. I have applied to several jobs, ranging from government work to public relations to nonprofit management. I hope one of them pans out. Most importantly, I plan to eventually return to school to get my doctorate so I can return to secondary education as a professor. An education is a precious gift, and something I would love to give to others as a career.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
Beating LSU in football this past semester was definitely the highlight of my undergraduate career. Additionally, watching my Dad walk his first lap as a cancer survivor at UGA Relay for Life 2012 is definitely an experience I will never forget.
I am also excited to walk under the Arch come May. In a way, all of the incredible experiences will culminate in that small step into downtown Athens. Honestly, I can’t think of a better ending to my UGA story.