How Did We End Up Here?- My SMU Story

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Hope. Heartbreak. Drama. Plot twists. Australia. You can find it all below, in the story of how I came to attend Southern Methodist University.

Today was the first day of school for the semester.

I am attending Southern Methodist University.

If you knew my story, you’d chuckle. When life gets ironic or takes unexpected turns, especially for the good, we tend to chuckle. I am chuckling.

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Halloween. October 31, 2014 was the first time I set foot on the SMU campus. Anyone who visits can tell that it is easily one of the most beautiful college campuses in the US. But I also fell in love with the Arts school. Long story short, after my very first college tour, I was hooked on SMU. As a high school sophomore.

When it came time to enroll, I got in. The acceptance rate is 49%, so I pretty much had a half and half chance.

The problem?

The price.

That’s fine, right? I can just get a scholarship!

Totally! I received a scholarship of $30,000!!! Super exciting, right? The problem:

SMU’s undergrad tuition fees are around $50,000 a year. Plus, they require students under 20 to live on-campus, so add another solid $14,000.

I did not have that money. My parents did not have that money. So off to community college I went, kicking and screaming.

The thing is, Collin County Community College actually turned out to be an amazing experience. I had a bunch of friends by my side in the same boat, and made some new friends along the way. I got to help start a Bible study group on campus and soon became its President. Attending community college was one of the smartest decisions I ever made because of how much money it saved me, and it was a crucial stepping stone into adulthood. I was also so grateful for that extra year I lived at home. It really prepared me for moving out.

But what now? What’s the plan? What happens after Collin?

That’s the question, isn’t it. That’s the thing with community college. You feel like you have multiple senior years because in the end, you still have to figure out where to go to school.

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With some dual credit courses under my belt, I could transfer from Collin after a year. So I had one year to decide where to go. Sounds like enough time, right? It should be, but not for me! No sir, it was approaching the summer and I still had no idea where I was going. I applied to 7 schools- UTD (University of Texas at Dallas), UNT (University of North Texas), TCU (Texas Christian University), Rice University, UT (University of Texas), Tufts University (a school in Boston), and SMU. I was basically waiting to see what the cheapest option would be, because money.

Slowly, financially things got narrowed down. But they got narrowed down too much. Everything was too expensive. Pretty much every school gave me a decent amount of money, but not enough for me to afford going for three years. Even UTD, the cheapest school I applied for, barely gave me money so it was still pricey.

And then I got the call.

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I was in Austin for a Leadership Training week, having a deep convo with one of my girls, when the phone rang. Out of the 100+ students that applied for a transfer scholarship, 25 were being chosen to come in for an interview. One of them, being lil’ ol’ me.

I got pretty much everyone I knew to pray. I had elders in the church on their hands and knees praying for this interview. So you can imagine the stress, huh?

No sleep for Isabel.

Only 10 would be chosen to receive a full-tuition scholarship to SMU for 5 semesters. That’s basically like winning $150,000.

My sister had her driver’s test that morning (talk about STRESSSSSS in the Arcellana family household), so my friend Lacy drove me up for my interview.

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(Photo taken right after the interview, when I was feeling pretty good about myself.)

I got the email soon after.

I didn’t get the scholarship.

I read it over and over and over until my tears blurred my sight. “We regret to inform you…”

Why was I crying? I’m not a very emotional person. But I am a very driven person with very high expectations of myself. I’m also a dreamer. SMU was my dream school. I had worked my butt off at Collin so I could just have a shot at this exact scholarship. I worked so hard. And what was it about my interview? Am I just not likable? What did I do wrong, what did they want?

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I also didn’t know where else to go. It was June by this time, and I had no idea where I was going to live in 2 months. My mom and I crunched numbers over and over. I would have to go into a lot of debt (which we were trying to avoid like the plague) to even go to UTD, which was not even a school I really wanted to go to.

At one point, I started planning on moving to Australia. People thought I wasn’t serious.

I was serious.

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I was already emailing friends out there and figuring out where I’d live. But my mom wanted to try for SMU again. She said we might be able to afford it if I commute the 45 minute drive, since I have some scholarships. So we started negotiating for me to live at home. And that’s when my SMU advisor asked me to come in.

Two weeks after I had received that heartbreaking email and the day before my birthday, I was back at SMU. At the same intimidation building that was fancier than the White House.

I was led into the office of Jennifer Lasagna, and when I sat down she put a letter in front of me.

“I’ll let you read that.” She said.

I did read it. Again. And again. And again. (Actual footage of me that day)>>>

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I finally decided that I probably forgot how to read and did not understand the letter. “Wait, what?”

She laughed. “You got the scholarship!”

What a turn of events, am I right? I’ll take that as a birthday present.

As it turns out, I was chosen as one of the 10 all along. This whole time, there were 4 or 5 SMU staff members emailing back and forth because some of my credits weren’t transferring and they weren’t sure if they could accept them yet. (Because of me, SMU is having to change some of their policies on AP transferring credits.) They had to tell me no just in case things couldn’t be worked out.

So there you have it! I was absolutely blessed with one of the 10 North Texas Community College Full Tuition scholarships!

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The way I see it, God was like “I’m going to humble you first and make you rethink your whole life and really depend on me. Then I’ll show you my plan. It’s great, I promise. We’ll all laugh at this someday.”

Here’s to hard work paying off, God waiting until the last minute to reveal his plans because it helps my heart, and random life plot twists. Here’s to doors opening and closing right when they need to.

Pony up! I’m a Mustang!

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Finding Dory | Movie Review

(The following review is absolutely spoiler-free!!!)

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My grandma, mom and I went to see “Finding Dory” to finish off the celebration of my 18th birthday. We almost didn’t go, because we hadn’t heard much about it besides the fact that it was existing. But I wanted to see it no matter how good it may turn out to be. I mean, we’ve waited 13 years for this!

“Finding Dory” did not disappoint. I loved it! It was everything I needed it to be, having grown up with the last movie. It gave us everything we loved about “Finding Nemo,” with new surprises. Made us feel happy, sad, stressed, excited, and happy again. As can be expected from a movie about Dory, there were plenty of laughs. I was also impressed with the love-able new characters, the animation that seemed advanced yet consistent with the previous installment, and the story line that always kept you guessing.

Pixar did it again!

Below is an entry into my little notebook of movie reviews. I wrote it late at night so hopefully you can read my handwriting!

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Top 5 Studying Tips and Tricks

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I’ve been homeschooled most of my life. And I love it. It’s taught me a lot about having a solid work ethic when it comes to school.

I am now a senior in high school, but I’m taking dual credit classes at my community college. I was really nervous about it at first, but surprisingly the jump from homeschool to college wasn’t so bad. Plus, I got a system down.

Here are my top 5 tips on studying.

  1. Cell Control

Let’s just – as a generation – face the truth. Phones are distracting. Unless you have super-ultra-crazy self-control powers, one little “ding” or “bleep” (or in my case, “medieval horn noise”) and all of a sudden you’re out of your studying zone and into the consuming world of technology. There’s always a new app to look at, a new social media platform to check. So will we ever get things done?

The best way to stop yourself from using your phone is by using your phone. Hear me out on this.IMG_2027

There’s this app called “Forest”. Really modern and simple, which I love. You “plant a tree”, and it sets a 25 minute timer. During that time span, you can’t leave the app or your tree will die. You can also set it to more than 25 minutes by planting multiple trees, and soon you’ll have a “forest”. It’s a great way to stop myself from doing anything on my phone for a while so I can concentrate on whatever it is I’m doing. There are also a lot of other apps similar to this one, but this is my favorite.

2. Mynoise.net

I know a lot of us love to study with music in the background. It’s just more fun that way. But sadly, science says it’s not the best way to study. It’s distracting. You can’t retain as much information while listening to music.

But with no music, my mind tends to wander off. So what do I do? There’s this website called mynoise.net, and it is a life-saver. It contains a whole bunch of different background sounds that are great substitutes for regular music.

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The noises are stimulating but not too distracting. There’s so many fun ones to choose from. You can hear the sound of rain, the ocean, a waterfall, even things like a cat purring or a cafe restaurant. You can even adjust each sound to your preference. It’s just awesome. Click on the picture above for the link!

3. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Repetition is probably the best way to study. Writing out something over and over again is a good way to remember things. Also, recording yourself reading your notes aloud and listening to them over and over does wonders. I just use my voice memos app.

4. Make Your Notes Good

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You probably know, I’m an artist. I like things that look nice. I like to try and make my notes look decent. In a way, it kind of motivates me to look at my notes. Is that weird? Oh well.

Anyway, I like to write my notes like I’m writing a textbook. I write as if I have a friend who is taking a test and all he has to study with is my notebook. I also go crazy with sticky notes and color code my highlighting 😉

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Things you can do in your notes that help:

  • highlight
  • underline
  • doodle and illustrate
  • make mind maps
  • make lists!

5. Plan and Strategize

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I. Love. My. Student. Planner. I think it’s just so important to stay organized. To stay on top of deadlines and everything.

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I am really forgetful, so writing down all my deadlines and things I need to read is super important. That way every time I have time to study, I know exactly what I need to do for each subject.

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Oh, and here’s a picture of my backpack. I like to think it’s secretly cow-printed.

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That’s all for now, folks! Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment or share… you know….

Random Questions to Ask Your Friends

Random Get-to-know-you questions

Watch out, awkward silences.

P.S. I made these up all by myself 😉 you’re welcome

  • If you had to be renamed based on what you ate for breakfast, what would be your new name?
  • What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say “don’t do it!”?
  • What restaurant have you probably eaten the most at?
  • What’s a unique skill you have that you wish you could get paid for?
  • What’s your spirit animal when you’re angry?
  • Which celebrity do you want to be friends with?
  • What TV or movie family you think you’d fit in with?
  • Would you rather fight off 3 toddler-sized adults or one adult-sized toddler?
  • What’s your fictional dream job? (super spy, superhero, mermaid…)
  • Would you rather have to act like you just won the lottery every time you saw a vending machine or cry a single tear every time you forget someone’s name?
  • What time period would you most like to live in and what one thing would you want to bring with you from the present?
  • If you had to be roommates with a movie villain, who would it be?
  • If you had to take a bath in a breakfast food, which one would you choose?
  • If you had to be renamed after a name of a restaurant, which restaurant would you pick?
  • What song describes your relationship with food?
  • Would you rather be a bird that can swim or a fish that can fly?
  • Which do you think is the most unnecessary letter in the alphabet?
  • If you had to trade places with one of your friend’s parents, who would that be?
  • If you had to dress like one movie or TV character the rest of your life, who would that be?
  • Which pop star would make the best math tutor and why?
  • What’s the nicest house you’ve ever been in?
  • Would you rather have an ugly car, an ugly house, or ugly clothes?
  • What board game do you wish you could earn money with?
  • What’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?
  • What’s the smartest thing you’ve ever done?
  • What cartoon character describes you when you’re tired?
  • Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten that you actually liked?
  • Which historical figure would you like to have as a sibling?
  • You’re stuck in the last book you read. What are you doing?
  • If you could master 3 skills right now, what would they be?
  • What commercial would you love to be in?
  • If you had an exercise routine based on the last book you read, how fit would you be?
  • During a zombie apocalypse, would you rather go to an office supply store or a craft supply store?
  • If you had to/got to relive a day from last week, which one would you choose?
  • If you got to scroll through your Instagram feed from 1 year into the future, would you do it?
  • What book would you love to live in?
  • If you had to switch lives with one of your grandparents, which one would that be?
  • Who do you wish could sing you to sleep every night?
  • What store/restaurant would you rather be the manager of?
  • You have to spend the next 24 hours on one app. Which one?
  • If you had to change languages right now, which one would you pick?
  • What first comes to mind when I say “favorite”?
  • If you had a superpower based on the last restaurant you ate at, what power would that be?
  • If you got to talk to your childhood self but only got to share advice using song lyrics, what would you say?
  • What would your autobiography called?
  • What movie genre would your life be and what would it be called?
  • If you had to perform a commercial jingle in front of a live audience, which one would you choose?
  • What would you choose as the theme song for a sitcom based on your year?

That’s all for now, folks! Let me know if you’d like more, there’s a lot where that came from! Thanks for reading!

Pinterest- my internet addiction

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This is my pinterest account. I have 5.2K pins and counting. It’s kind of a problem.

I don’t know why, I just can’t stay away from this website. It’s so cool! Right now I have a lot of boards dedicated to fashion and all that jazz, but if you scroll down you’ll see my extremely nerdy boards. Oh, and if you want a laugh, check out my “laughs” board, because I think it’s hilarious. Just my opinion, though.

I guess I’m just really visual, so a website full of pretty pictures is the perfect Isabel trap.

Anyway, click the above picture to go check it out! Just wanted to share so anyone who also has a Pinterest addiction can know that they’re not alone.

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Adventures in Alaska- Part 2

Alaska, adventure, trip, travelThe day we got to the camp, the Hope Youth Corps leader told us that we had 5 days until we had to actually run a church camp. There were 30 kids from 2nd to 10th grade coming to stay with us for 3 days, and we were totally in charge. (Obviously, there was adult supervision, don’t worry, but we called the shots.) 22 teenagers were supposed to be the counselors, lead lessons and activities, feed the kids, and we had to plan all of this on our own while doing the 8-hour-a-day blue-collar labor. This was our big second task. Kids.

We thought it was impossible. At least, I did. I was shocked that they were giving all these responsibilities to us. We had just gotten to know each other, now we were expected to run a camp? We were just teenagers!

But we had no choice. We had to pull off this camp for the kids. We each thought of our experiences with church camp and wanted to give someone else that great experience. I was so surprised at what we were capable of. I think the world has such low expectations of teenagers sometimes, and things like this reminded me of how much of an impact we can make with God and each other.

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We had a blast those three days. It was great. It felt like one big play date. We got to know each kid and spend time with them, play with them, teach them, talk to them. It felt like a big family at the end of it.

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Yes, there were smores. What else would we do in the woods in Alaska?

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On one of the weekends when we drove down to Anchorage, we got to climb Flat Top. Being from mountain-less Texas, I had never climbed a mountain before. (The picture above was taken probably when we were a third of the way up. ) I’m not going to lie, it was super hard. But I’m glad I did it. I’ll spare you a cheesy mountain analogy.

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What’s a mountain adventure without a motivational speech? This is my friend, Nathan, giving the best mountain speech I’ve ever heard. Yes, he was very intense.

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Here’s my friend Lizzy doing one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

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And here’s Peter wearing my backpack. Real men carry Vera Bradley.

Here’s a few of my favorite random pictures from my amazing trip. (Click to view full image)

Thanks for being great, Alaska. ‘Till next time.

Adventures in Alaska- Part 1

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Recently, I participated in a mission trip with my church called “Hope Youth Corps”, specifically the Alaska chapter. I flew to the largest state in the US with two of my close friends.

We were trying to take a selfie on the plane, and someone decided to join. I don’t know him. We called him Jorge. Guess he couldn’t stay away from the camera. Anyway…

One thing is for sure, Alaska didn’t disappoint when it came to scenery. Pictures will never do it justice. That didn’t stop me from snapping away, though.

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I had no idea what Alaska had in store. I didn’t know it was going to be two of the best weeks ever.IMG_9628 IMG_9786These are some of the 22 volunteers (aged 15-21) that became my family for two weeks. We lived together in cabins two hours away from Anchorage and all civilization pretty much.

No showers, no electricity, no running water, no heaters or air conditioning. We only saw bathrooms on the weekends when we drove down to Anchorage. You know it’s true friendship when they still love you after you haven’t taken a shower in a week. Camping, Alaska, Talkeetna, Youth Corps

Two Weeks in Alaska

Two Weeks in Alaska

We worked hard. The first week, we served with manual labor, building and improving a camp for kids. Blood, sweat and tears was an accurate way to describe my experience. But it felt good. I didn’t realize what I was capable of until I was pushed to my limits, lifting wood and shoveling rocks from 9 to 6. I ached all over but loved it. volunteer, alaska IMG_0252

It felt good to do something had for a good cause. We built beds and tables, dug 7-foot-deep outhouse holes, maintained gardens and cleared trails in the woods, built a shed, moved rocks and gravel, and more. And that was only the first week.

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The camp we worked on became very dear to my heart. It was a privilege to contribute to it during that first week.

Posting about the second week soon! Stay tuned, thanks for reading!!!!

I wasn’t the only blogger on the trip. Check out my good friends Hannah and Lorena’s blogs! They put up some killer stuff!

Lorena (blogger) : Le Unexpected Traveler

Hannah (vlogger): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUVEShNYzk6aS-aJMQ3QPRQ