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I’m so honored to be a part of the Clarion West class of 2016! I’ve already started chatting with classmates on Twitter, and I can tell it’s going to be a great experience. Seattle is gorgeous, and I’m ready to learn, make new friends, and work hard. 😄

I’ve also been happy with the diversity of my class—I’m not the only nonbinary/trans person, not the only disabled person, not the only person of color (far from it!). Having a diverse group makes me feel like I can breathe out a sigh of relief, as I always feel safer in more diverse spaces than less diverse ones.

I’ve been thinking too about my previous study abroad experiences. While Seattle doesn’t count as “abroad” for me (though it will for others—another aspect of diversity in my class!), it’s still going to be a home away from home for six weeks, filled not only with fun, but also with pressure. When I did study abroad programs in undergrad, I always burned out and broke down from overexertion and a lack of self-care. But I’m hoping to prevent that this time around and to reach out, both for my own sake and to help support others.

As I wrote in my personal statement, “I would love to see everyone succeed and would do my best to help others, whether that’s through helping them with self-care or with thoughtful critiques.” And I intend to commit to that. The camaraderie of Clarion West is perhaps the aspect I’m most excited about—while it’s scary to me, a shy introvert, to put myself out there to strangers, it’ll be worth it.

After I announced my acceptance on Twitter, Evan Mallon, a Clarion 2015 graduate, offered me a bit of advice:

I’ve been reflecting on that. The writing, the instructors; they’re only a part of the experience. From what I’ve seen of Clarion and Clarion West graduates, the relationships between students in your cohort are what last.

So here’s to overcoming my fear of new situations with kindness and compassion, with patience and love. I can’t wait for Clarion West (83 more days!) and to meet everyone in person. 💖