Laura (second right, behind the trophy) smiles with her teammates after winning the MCAC Volleyball Championships in February.

There were endless reasons why I stroked off Canadian Mennonite University from my list of possibilities for the fall of 2016. I didn’t know for certain that university was the place for me to go; I didn’t know what I wanted to study; I couldn’t decide where to go; nothing seemed to grab me.

I didn’t want to do anything my older siblings had done because that was too predictably mainstream. I wanted to be my own person, to dream big and do the unexpected. Hearing about CMU made me shake my head because it was small, Mennonite, and had good community.

Small… no. I wanted somewhere big where I could get lost. I was looking for a place where nobody knew me and if I did not want to meet anyone, I wouldn’t have to. The word Mennonite made me scared.

Theology was another word that sounded boring and unnecessary. Actually, I’ve found those classes fun and the professors interesting. You can even choose which Bible classes to take, relating them to your specific interests.

As a graduating student from a Christian high school, I also didn’t want to hear the word community ever again. Community was a shaky term for me, not to mention how I wanted to be anonymous—a community was not going to fulfill that for me! I didn’t realize that community was not just a good-looking, positive-sounding word used by everyone, but a true possibility.

CMU has turned out to be exactly what I needed. It is a place where professors know you by name and welcome you into their office at all hours. It is a place of welcome, knowing that if you want to get involved you can, but there is no pressure to be known. It is a place of growth, where you learn such fascinating facts and life-giving material. It is where you can take the courses that look interesting to you and decide only later what you love or what you hate. 

This is where I took my first Peace and Conflict Studies Class and decided that I found my major. It is the place where I spend hours studying, drinking coffee, playing volleyball, and people watching. It has become my second home.

I am Laura, a student, peacebuilder, psychologist, philosopher, theologian, athlete, and musician. CMU is the place that I can be who I am and what I want. I can take risks or stand back, and I can humbly learn from my mistakes. It is the place that I initially turned away from and only applied because it was free. Now it is my university and I encourage you to imagine it being yours too.

Laura Woelk is a first year student in Peace and Conflict Studies.