In August of 2014, I was left on top of a mountain—alone—to start my undergrad at Appalachian State University. As someone who lived in the same town for 18 years, I left a life of comfort and routine. I was someone who had dreamt of college for years and I suddenly had no parents or familiar faces around me, and no clue where the next four years would take me.

As the months continued, I was getting more adjusted to this unbelievably new and beautiful environment and realizing how incredible college truly is. Only a few months in, I knew I had met my life-long best friends, was already making better grades than high school and taking in every experience being thrown my way. Lacking from this narrative, however, was on-campus involvement. 

Fast forward to my sophomore year, which featured a room upgrade and new opportunies on the horizon. It started the same as the last, with the exception of my friend Halle approaching Shannon and I about starting an on-campus organization called Spoon University.  

I wasn't sure how this was going to happen; finding 300 people who would like to see a food-focused publication surface on Appalachian's campus seemed like it might be difficult, but we accepted the challenge.  As we established ourselves as an organization in the community, we grew our chapter into something larger than I could have imagined.  

Starting this organization has helped me step outside of my comfort zone and gain leadership skills, such as commanding a room and interacting with the campus in a way I never have before. Anyone else find public speaking painfully stressful? SAME.  

Talking in front of large groups of people is not something I was particularly good at nor enjoyed prior to creating Spoon App State; it caused me extreme anxiety and I honestly just looked like a tomato. Since joining the Spooniverse, all of the anxiety has disappeared and I am more confident in myself. Now it’s something I look forward to!

Our chapter has gone through periods of extreme success such as participation, articles going viral, and our social media pages having high engagement. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have endured times when the morale was low, causing our motivation to slowly flatline and as a team, we had to elevate. Our chapter thrives because of how we function as a cohesive team, and learning the things that motivate us as a whole was crucial to the future of our chapter.

Using our marketing skills, we learned to create off-campus connections with local restaurants to host events at. After a period of low chapter moral, we got real with our chapter to find the source of low participation chapter-wide, which ultimately made us stronger. These are the times we have seen the good, bad and ugly of working as a team, but have learned life-long lessons.

To say I am extremely into Spoon is truly an understatement. I have taken every opportunity the network has offered to me and ran with it. I love conveying how important our community is and what it can do for our future.

At some point, you've probably been told "network, network, network" throughout high school and college and Spoon gives you great talking points for those exact moments. Every time I get the chance to brag about the work HQ has done, and my personal chapter, people are in awe.

You can also gain some killer connections in the network. It is as simple as one direct message on Slack and you’re talking to the CEO of Spoon. Slack is a communication tool that connects the network through various channels based on your area of interest. Since the addition of Slack to our network, we have been able to connect with members from all over the world—to share experiences and advice.

The people at HQ are incredible. By fostering a community of learning, discovery, and innovation, they allow you to step outside of your comfort zone in ways unimaginable. I have become a "yes" woman because of the opportunities Spoon has given to me.  

Looking back on the past three years, my freshman year self would never believe I am comfortable talking to complete strangers, holding meetings or asking for opportunities instead of waiting around for them to come my way. By saying "yes" to starting my chapter Appalachian State University, I have gained an experience of a lifetime and skills I will use for years to come