More Than Meets the Eye

There is something to be said for the scenery at Young Harris College. Actually, something has been said for a long, long time. The Enchanted Valley lives up to its name. 

Surrounded by peaks such as Bell Mountain and Brasstown Bald, we have beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day. The fall bursts with so much color it almost hurts your eyes, and the mountain roads make for a fun drive. But that doesn't even scratch the surface of the potential of the north Georgia mountains.

The areas surrounding us have hiking trails that lead you to breathtaking waterfalls. Lake Chatuge has a beach just down the road towards Hiawassee, with grills and swings. When the weather gets hot, that is the place to be. Also, the Recreation and Fitness Center will let you rent out canoes and kayaks, and the beach is the perfect place to get out on the water.

There is even tubing in all directions, including Blue Ridge, Helen and Clayton. There is even rafting not far off at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina.  There are an innumerable number of campsites around the College—just off the lake or up in the mountains—great places to hike, rock climb, kayak, or just lay on the beach. 

There is truly much more to the Enchanted Valley than what firsts meets the eye.


A Passion for Learning

Hey, Mom and Dad… I want to change my major. Panic! Panic!

Okay, so I’ve never changed my major. I declared it as history before I even arrived at YHC. It was the one subject that I could see devoting four more years of schooling to. 

At the time, though, I had no idea what my minor would be. A minor can enhance your marketability. One of my history professors, Dr. Byron, told me a friend of his had a biology major and history minor, but decided to study history in graduate school. She used her minor to make that dream come true. I entertained the idea of an English minor, but I decided that didn’t suit me.

I thought pre-law may suit me and attended an information session on it my sophomore year. After the session, I was scared to death because of just how few students get into law school. During the session, I heard someone make an offhand comment about going into teaching since law is too difficult. 

That thought moved several gears in my head. I’ve always been interested in education and I’ve always wanted to learn. It seemed to be a natural fit. 

Around this time, we were scheduling classes for the next semester. I got into one of Dr. Brunner’s “Introduction to Education” classes. I was hesitant at first, but before I knew it, I’d taken four education classes. I observed in public school classes as a practicum education students, where my duties included creating a two-week lesson plan and giving several lessons including a 30-minute one to a bunch of third graders. 

After a few semesters, I decided the education program was not for me. I don’t regret leaving the program, and I don’t regret being a part of it. Because of my education classes and practicum, I now have public speaking skills. When I started going to YHC, I was not a strong speaker. I remember giving one speech with my knees jolting the entire time. Now I know how to keep people’s attention. I’ve learned how to just glance at a PowerPoint and then look back to the crowd and talk. I know how to break a complex concept into its component parts in order to teach students. I’m confident in front of people—a big deal for a loner like me.

I won’t graduate in the spring with a minor because all of my elective courses are filled up with education classes, but they were worth it. I have skills that will serve me well in the real world. 


Helping Yourself and Others

There are many things to consider when starting your college career in order to get the most out of it.

Yes, your grades earn the degree, but I'll let you in on a little secret—employers look for more than that. They want to know that you not only have knowledge of your field, but also the skills and experiences that will help you succeed in the professional world. They look for leadership qualities and communication skills, as well as the ability to work with others. 

These skills can be fostered in so many ways at YHC. Join a club that interests you and work towards a leadership role. I joined S.P.A.G.E. (Student Professional Association of Georgia Educators) because I have a passion for education. I enjoy being able to lead our new organization in developing a strong role and voice on campus and providing professional development for those in the education field. 

I joined Sigma Beta Sigma (Susan Bs) sorority because I wanted a strong support system throughout my time here, and enjoyed it so much I became president! I have loved the chance to be a representative of a great group of girls and lead the sorority in planning events, community service and more. 

Community service, by the way, is one of the best assets you can have on your résumé. Employers look for graduates who have made an effort to impact their community in a positive way. There are constant opportunities for community service on and off campus. The Bonner Leaders host trail maintenance days and sponsor the after-school program for grade-school children down the street in Young Harris. Many organizations hold canned food drives and other programs to support the military, economically disadvantaged families, and more. I have even volunteered my time at a local animal shelter. 

Take the time to consider how you want to be viewed after college, and get involved in the numerous opportunities on campus. Not only will you have an awesome resume, but you will meet so many people, try new things and have fun doing it!


My Trip to the Reece Farm

During the first semester of my sophomore year, my English professor Dr. Jim Bishop took our class on a trip to the Byron Hebert Reece Farm located near YHC.  

In the class, we spent two days studying the Pulitzer Prize-nominated local legend Byron Herbert Reece, ’40. He was a student, then teacher here at YHC despite having not graduated because he didn’t take French or math. We studied his poems and his novel “Better a Dinner of Herbs,” and took a trip to the Reece Farm and Heritage Center. There, we met Dr. John Kay, ’56, a YHC alumnus, former professor and chair of the Reece Society, who gave us a lecture on Reece and took us on a tour of the farm. Back then, it was still very much under construction—the house was nice, but the barn didn’t have any exhibits open at the time. I’d love to see how it looks now.

If you’re not familiar with Reece, his work is quite popular throughout Georgia up here for being nominated for a Pulitzer and being true to his farmer roots. He actually considered himself more of a farmer than poet. Interestingly, there is a highway in Georgia named for Reece despite a poem he wrote where he noted his love of nature and farming, and his dislike of roads and the inevitably that roads leads to cities. I pointed this out while Dr. Bishop was driving us to the farm, much to his amusement.

YHC provides many opportunities for hand-on learning, like our trip to the farm. In fact, over the weekend, the entire campus was invited to learn more about Reece there during a special “YHC Day.” It’s great that professors take time to plan these kinds of unique learning experiences. 


Meeting the President(s)

One of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had at YHC was taking a Georgia history class. To be honest, I never knew much about the state I’ve lived in my whole life. The remarkable thing about the class, though, was the professor—YHC’s very own President Cathy Cox.

Where else can students be taught a class by the college president, let alone a distinguished public servant? She was elected Secretary of State for Georgia twice. What was her job? It obviously couldn’t have been foreign relations like the U.S. Secretary of State. Well, her duties included supervising elections and maintaining public records, like those necessary for businesses. During her time as Georgia Secretary of State, she certainly learned enough about the state to teach a class on it. Astonishingly, she wasn’t even asked to teach this particular class. She volunteered to teach it because she wants to give her all to this College. 

For the course, President Cox organized a trip to Atlanta to tour the state capitol. During the tour, we met Senator George Hooks, the unofficial historian of the Senate. The coolest aspect of the class was getting to meet President Jimmy Carter. I never thought I’d ever get to meet a U.S. President, and yet I did. We drove from the capitol building to meet him at his Presidential Library. When we were talking afterwards about him, we all could only describe him as a “cool old guy.” He had a self-effacing sense of humor. When he learned that we had read his book “Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age,” he jokingly apologized that we had to do so. He discussed the book with us and then opened the door for questions. When we were done, he signed all of our books and even took a group photo with us.

Moments like this don’t happen at every college. I am proud to attend a school that offers unique opportunities for all students to take advantage of.  


A “Minor” Choice

I've always wanted to teach. In grade school, I finished my work as quickly as possible in hopes my teacher would let me help the other students. I've been lucky enough to have been raised with a high regard for education and learning. So, I came to YHC to study education. I started off in music education, but switched to early childhood education with an art minor shortly after. I then changed gears and went for a psychology minor.

Realizing that I had never strayed away from education, I had to ask myself what the purpose of the minor was. Was I taking these extra classes for enjoyment, to impress future employers or to support my major? Music and art are very much interests of mine, but more of hobbies I like to escape to. Psychology is also an interest of mine and I feel it could support my major in that it gives me insight on how brains work. 

The idea of using my resources for professional development in order to be a fierce competitor in the workplace was eye-opening for me. I enjoy my education classes and the experiences I have gotten through observations and student teaching, but there is more I can do to prepare myself for the post-graduation phase. A psychology minor gives me a background that I can use when interviewing for a teaching job or when applying for graduate school.

Picking a minor can be difficult (and not always necessary), but it can also give you more experiences and knowledge outside of your core studies. Even outside of class there are lecture series and faculty "tell-all" presentations that give students an opportunity to prepare for interviews, graduate school, and so much more. Take advantage!


My First Impressions of YHC

I was homeschooled since the seventh grade. This made my college application process interesting to say the least. I went on a tour of a large college near Atlanta, which was nice. A few weeks later, my mom got a call requesting some more paperwork for my application—paperwork I didn’t have because I was homeschooled. Nowhere on their website did they say they needed this particular paperwork. Oh! And they needed all of it within 30 days. With this news, I resolved myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be starting college in the fall and would have to reapply for the next semester.

Then, got a call from YHC saying they had accepted me, so I went to the College for a tour. I expected many other prospective students to be there just like at the other college. That was not the case. It was just me. My parents and I walked into the Admissions Office, and so many staff members came out to greet me by name with smiles on their faces. They all said they had been waiting for me to arrive. I honestly felt as if this was the highlight of their week, and they certainly made it the highlight of mine.

After we had toured the campus, they took us around to meet other staff and faculty. I remember one in particular—Sean. It’s a testament to the College that I don’t remember Sean’s title or even his last name. He wanted everyone to simply call him Sean. When we met with him, he greeted us with a smile and pulled a chair out of his office into the foyer to where my parents were sitting on a bench and where I was nervously walking around.

We didn’t go into his office. He came to us. There was no desk between us. As I recall from my time in the Teacher Preparation Program, a desk can be negative space. It is essentially a barrier between the parents and the teacher, or in this case, staff member. It makes the parents feel belittled because the person they are talking to is protected and, in some ways, elevated by the desk. With Sean, we didn’t have that problem. We were own equal terms. He talked to my parents—I don’t remember about what. However, what I do remember is that through Sean’s tone, body language, and actions, he was there to help us. He wasn’t someone who expected us to give him paperwork in less than 30 days. He talked my parents through the process and alleviated some of their fears. My dad even made the comment that he thought I was more prepared for college than he had been.

I think it was that meeting with Sean—more than perhaps even START Orientation—that made me want to come to YHC. This is now my fourth year at the College, and I’ve found that all of the faculty and staff still embody that same character.


Finding Myself

In high school, I wasn’t very involved, my grades were average and I spent a lot of time at home with my TV. During senior year, I saw myself as no one important—someone with no special talents or unique characteristics. So when I came to college, I assumed it would be the same. I would not stand out, and definitely would not make an impact. I soon discovered I was dead wrong.

My sophomore year at YHC, after I got the hang of college classes and living away from my parents, I decided to join a sorority to find a group of friends I could depend on to support me throughout my time here. What I got out of this experience was inspiring. I found myself. 

After one semester in my sorority, I became vice president and learned how to run meetings and handle the business of an organization. Let me tell you, this is not just a group of girls that throw parties. My time management skills skyrocketed as I made time for sorority activities while also staying on top of classwork. Last semester, I was voted in as president. I was honored that these girls wanted me to lead them and represent them on campus. I had so many ideas to help the sorority grow and this was my pathway to enacting them. Through this role, I gained leadership skills I never knew I was capable of. I made friends with so many other Greeks through collaboration and friendly competition. And now, I sit back and smile because I know exactly who I am and who I want to be.

Social organizations at YHC do not force anyone into a pre-set idea of who they should be. They build confidence in order for members to find themselves. Sigma Beta Sigma has so many different types of people with different goals and values—that’s what makes it work so well. Just like in the real world, people will have different backgrounds and viewpoints, and you have to learn how to collaborate and cooperate. I believe the most important asset after college, in order to succeed in a professional world, is knowing who you are—your values and beliefs—and the ability to consider others’ values and beliefs. Young Harris College is a perfect place to foster that.


The End of My First Semester

The semester is coming to an end, and I’m ready for the month-long winter break that Young Harris gives us. I look forward to spending time with my family and seeing all my friends from high school—both make the two-hour drive back home worth it. 

Don’t get me wrong. I have had an amazing first semester. My classes and professors challenged me in the right ways. I’ve also made a lot of new friends along the way that support me and accept me for who I am. Simply, I’ve fallen in love with YHC. The College provides plenty of opportunities for every student to excel academically and socially.

It’s strange to think about how fast the semester went by. It feels like only yesterday that I was moving into The Towers for the very first time. Looking back, there’s nothing I would change about how I did things. I put myself out there in order to meet new people, and I’d say it worked out well. My on-campus job taught me responsibility while also connecting me with the staff and administrators that work behind the scenes. The courses I took made me feel accomplished, and my professors recognized me for excelling. I even learned how to deal with conflict in a professional and respectful way. 

With everything that Young Harris has offered me thus far, it’s the least I can do to tell prospective students how great this College is. I’ve grown to love waking up to the mountains every morning and pulling out my big jackets in the winter.

I hope I was able to give you a better feel for what life is like here on the YHC campus. I’ve had a great time sharing my experiences and knowledge that I’ve learned after just one semester. To anyone out there thinking about joining the Mountain Lion family, I highly encourage it. Choosing Young Harris College was one of the best decisions I have made.

Thank you for reading what I had to say over the past several months. I really appreciate all the support I’ve had in the comments from my friends and family.  

I hope you have a fabulous Christmas with your families and a happy New Year.




Wrapping It Up

Hi everyone,

It’s getting to be that hectic time of year when it feels like there are simply not enough days left in the semester needed to get everything done. Overwhelmed with due dates, papers and rapidly approaching finals, it occurred to me how lucky I am to be in this position. I am so thankful for the many extraordinary opportunities Young Harris has given me. The small, close-knit community has provided me with friendships that will last a lifetime, and a rich education I don’t feel I would have received anywhere else. It’s comforting to know I am surrounded by students and professors who genuinely care about me and my success. 

Even though it’s a busy time, the end of the semester is always my favorite. The last few weeks are filled with studying, tests and writing but there is always time to enjoy the company of friends before everyone leaves for winter break. Ending a semester of hard work with good friends is always a satisfying feeling. 

Sometimes it’s hard to think of everything you’re thankful for. It seemed to hit me in the whirlwind of studying and frantically writing papers that my YHC education is the best thing that’s happened to me. I wouldn’t be in this place—a senior at YHC—without my loving family, friends and many others who have influenced me and helped me grow. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of classes and being a student but I’m always glad when I can take a moment to realize how fortunate I am to learn and grow in a place where I am more than just another face in the crowd. 

Young Harris truly has so much to offer and I hope I have made that apparent through the stories I have shared on my blog. It’s crazy to think that I am almost halfway done with my final year at YHC. Considering how quickly this semester flew by, I’m sure my last one will go by just as fast. I will greatly miss being in these beautiful mountains every day but I am beyond grateful for the adventures and memories I will always cherish from my time here at YHC. 

Thank you to all who followed along with me on the journey of my fall semester. It has been a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to discover what lies ahead!



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