A shy 12-year-old girl + a boy with dreamy green eyes = a perfect love story. And it’s true. That little girl fell in love, but not with a person, with a place.
Ugh I cringe just thinking about middle school. Awkward outfits, braces, everyone just trying to fit in… man middle school is rough. For the first time, boys don’t have cooties and everyone you meet you see as the next prince charming. In sixth grade, I thought I had met the love of my life. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong- but he did set my path to the greatest school on earth. You see, he was a big Tar Heel fan, but us being from Florida, Carolina wasn’t exactly a school you were “born” into loving. UNC could’ve stood for Univerity of Northern California for all I knew. Safe to say, my knowledge of the school was an absolute zero. That didn’t stop me however from I fantasizing about going to college with him and marrying my middle school sweetheart (totally normal right?).
On the way to a Christmas trip to Washington DC, I asked my family if we could stop in Chapel Hill. Yea, it was pretty out of our way, but I told them I was considering it as a place for college, and compared to Orlando, we were closer now than usual. This was the winter break of my sophomore year, so college wasn’t realllyyy on my mind. It was just kinda this place I knew I would go to after high school, but it was anyone’s guess as to where that place would actually be. We ended up stopping by on December 30th. I remember campus was deserted. Obviously everyone had headed home for break. It was cold, the branches were bare, yet part of me couldn’t look away. We walked all around campus trying to find the Old Well. I nagged my siblings as they complained and I just kept telling them, “Guys trust me, this Well thing is like one of UNC’s biggest picture spots.” We ended up at the water tower by Morrison. I know they recently painted it Carolina blue, but four years ago it was as plain as could be. We were not in the right place. After about another hour of wandering around, we finally found it. There was nothing fancy about it. It really is just a well. At that point, I didn’t know what the Well stood for or what its importance was, but I did remember the water was tastier than I imagined. I left that trip with Carolina on my mind, and it hasn’t left my mind since.
2016 marked the start of my senior year in high school. College really mattered at this point. As I tried to make my list of schools, I knew Carolina had to be on it. I spent the first few months of my year checking out what each school had to offer. I narrowed my list to five. I had a few safeties and a few reaches. Carolina was a reach. I was confident in my grades and application, but I can’t deny that those out-of-state statistics aren’t scary. Out of all the schools on my list, Carolina’s application deadline was the earliest one. It was October 1st and I didn’t have my essays written. Two weeks until the deadline. I told myself I just needed to sit and focus, but I was so busy with senior year, that moment never came. October of 2016 was when Florida got hit by Hurricane Matthew. By some miracle, UNC extended their application deadline for families that were hit. I heard the message loud and clear. This was my second chance to get my application in. There was no way I was going to pass it up. I locked myself in a room for a weekend and I typed. I typed my long essay and my short responses. I sent them to my teachers and my friends. I deleted and I rewrote almost every line. Finally at 11:57 PM, I hit submit.
A few weeks later, my mom and I took a trip to Carolina one more time. The last time I had been I was a sophomore, so a lot could have changed. I wanted to make sure it was still the school I remembered. Good news: we didn’t get lost this time. I took her straight to the Old Well and we took pictures again. We paused after as we took in the scenery. Carolina really is beautiful. It’s welcoming and it’s peaceful. I drank from the Well once more, hoping when I heard back from the school in January it would be a “Congratulations!” and not a “We regret to inform you.”
When decisions came out in January, I was too scared to open it. I had my little brother look for me. The thing was, I forgot he didn’t really know how to read. After hearing him struggle with the words, I looked myself and saw it, “It gives us great pleasure…” I can’t tell you what it said after that, my eyes were filled with tears at this point. Everything I had ever wanted was written in the letter right in front of my eyes.
In February, my mom and I once again flew to Chapel Hill to see the school one last time. I had my choices narrowed down to two schools, and this trip reminded me why. Walking around campus I saw smiling faces everywhere. I wanted to go to a school where I’d be happy- a school I’d enjoy going to. Chapel Hill was it for me.
As for the boy from middle school, he did also get into Carolina, but he decided not to come here. It’s his loss. Carolina is where I’ve found my home, my friends, and my future. Of all the love stories I’ve heard, Carolina is my favorite so far.