Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 7

Day 7 was quite the series of events. It was our last day on the Isle of Skye, which was a bit of a bummer. The day started with Garrett breaking his shoelace. This was only the start of a series of unfortunate/interesting events. Despite these events, it makes me smile and was so fun!

We started with a tour of Dunvegan Castle. It is the longest continuously inhabited castles in Scotland. Because of this, it was not in ruins, but did have some nods to other centuries. It was a combination of a castle and Biltmore Estates in NC. The MacLeods had a lot of family history in the castle which was very interesting. Outside were impressive gardens complete with waterfalls. They had been developed throughout the years. While the most expensive castle to tour, it was worth it in my mind.

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After eating lunch at a cafe that overlooked a loch, we headed to the Fairy Pools. This was another favorite place of mine on our trip. It is a popular destination, so go early or prepare for some crowds. We had to park a quarter of a mile down the road and hike to the trail head. Keep in mind we were pretty dead from the day before; however, this hike was very pleasant.

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The trail follows water that leads to the Fairy Pools. These pools are deep, crystal clear, blue, and very cold. Many were swimming in the pools. We didn’t go swimming, but we did take our shoes off and dip our feet in. While there were a lot of people, we were still able to find secluded spots to enjoy the scenery. The hike back was equally as pleasant until we reached the hill to the road. That sucker was steep. I was sweating and out of breath by the time we reached the car.

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We found real fairy homes

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I will note that by now, Garrett is driving like a local and even made a 3 point turn on a one lane road. Today, though, his driving would be truly tested as we headed to Fort William. Little did we know that it would take an extra 4 hours to get there.

 

As we were heading out of Skye, we were remarking on how funny the mist looked up ahead in the mountains.

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As we got closer, we realized it was billows of smoke! This was confirmed when were stopped by the police and told to turn around due to a wildfire that had spread to the road and was quite large. He was very nice and even apologized for the inconvenience. We thanked him for not letting us get burnt!

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After getting directions from him, we headed back down a very curvy narrow one lane road to Portree. We had just been down that road that morning. It was much more busy now. Also, meeting a tour bus on such a road is a bit nerve-wracking. Garrett did great, though on the hour detour. As we were finally leaving Skye, you could see the line of fire run across the hills. I’m glad we didn’t get trapped on the Isle. There aren’t but so many roads.

Before we could make it to Fort William, we hit traffic on A85. People began turning around. A bus driver rolled down his window and told us there was a wreck ahead and there would be a 5 hour delay!! We were only 45 minutes from Fort William. Our choices were to hope it wouldn’t be a 5 hour delay or drive an hour to Inverness to go 2 hours to Fort William. We decided the 3 hour detour to Inverness was safer than waiting. It ended up being the right decision.

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We went to Inverness and ate at La Tortilla, a restaurant we had seen but didn’t go to a few days ago. I had a hankering for Mexican and was really hoping for some salsa and chips. Yeah… that’s not what this place was. It was Spanish. No chips and salsa. Just bread and an odd menu that we weren’t sure what was what. We asked the waiter how this works and ended up ordering 2 bowls of potatoes with spicy sauce, 1 bowl of chorizo sausage, and a bowl of garlic chicken. It ended up being cheap and very delicious. And yet, our adventures for the day were not over.

The alternate route to Fort William took us down a very scenic, but was very narrow and curvy. I was nervous, especially when on-coming traffic came. This was a two lane road, but the narrowness and curves made it scary. Garrett did good, but also scared me. I was white-knuckling it. What made it worse was it was 50 miles of it! It was all made more scary by impending darkness. Finally, we made it to Fort William.

We arrived at the cutest hotel, but had to park in the last parking spot–a bus spot at that. Inside the hotel was newly redone and very nice. We had to climb a narrow steep staircase to our room. It was certainly hot in our room (no ac) but the view out the window was over the water.

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Our adventurous day was over. It was absolutely crazy. To think, it all started with a broken shoelace.

Tips:

  1. If you go to Dunvegan and are a student, be sure to show your ID for a discount.
  2. If you can, go early to the Fairy Pools
  3. When the weather is warm, pack a swimsuit to the Fairy Pools and take a dip.

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 6

I was really excited to start this day out. It was going to be all about exploring and hiking. Disclaimer: Garrett and I took charge of planning different parts of the trip. Today was one of the days I had planned. I may have overestimated my abilities. You’ll find out what I mean in a bit.

Our first stop of the morning was Fairy Glenn.

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We weren’t sure if we were in the right place at first. It was also a bit sketchy considering it was a one lane road. By one lane road, I mean that it is a two-way but there’s only room for one car so you have to pull over onto special passes. We’d get really used to these type of the roads as our adventures in Skye continued.

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Cattle guards  on a one lane raod

Needless to say, we ended up in the right place and it was truly magical. You could really imagine fairies in the glen.

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After a quick jaunt, we headed to Quiraing. Wow! The scenery was gorgeous!

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We were amazed at the amount of traffic. You have to park on the side of a single car road. There aren’t large parking lots or car parks as they are called, so the side of the road it is. We would learn that sometimes that mean parking on the edge of a cliff or half a mile from your destination, and that’s not in peak tourist season.

The Quiraing was a wonderful hike. While we didn’t go to the very end, we hiked for over an hour on a trail that was just cut into the cliff.

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Garrett teased me a lot because I would often get distracted by all the sheep that were able to just graze anywhere it seemed. They often shared our path.

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I wanted to take one home. This pic is the closest I got to taking a sheep home.

We made the quick stop to Kilt Rock and the falls before eating burgers at a cafe.

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The next point of interest was Brother’s Point, also called Rubha nam Brathairean. We almost skipped this stop, but I had read on the Earth Trekkers blog that it was worth it and not as touristy. They were right! There was a small car park just past the Glenview Hotel. We had to cross the street and walk down the road just a bit to get to the trail head. We went down what looks like someone’s driveway, entered two gates into a sheep pasture.

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Don’t forget to close the gate behind you. Sheep are inside.

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We certainly were doubting if we were in the right place, but noticed a few people down towards the bottom. We also saw signs directing our path.

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We found ruins, lots of sheep, barnacles, and the most gorgeous of views. What’s better is it is secluded and not crowded. The hike is not too strenuous either. From here, you can also see Kilt Rock in the distance. We didn’t walk all the way down the point, but even still it would become my favorite place of the entire Scotland trip! I cannot recommend it enough!!

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Behind the scenes of the photo above.

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Our final stop was Oldman Storr. It was completely opposite experience than Brother’s Point. I straight died. Don’t believe me? Garrett documented:

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The trail to Oldmann Storr is all uphill, no shade, and a long way. In fact, we didn’t make it. I looked up at Garrett and said I can’t. In my defense, my foot ankle was not happy, I had a slight cold, and poorly planned a long hike at the end of a full day of hiking. I absolutely hated to call it quits, but I know my limits. I think Garrett was a bit relieved too. Moral of the story, rethink planning all major hiking on one day. That was my bad. I also suggest bringing sunscreen. You wouldn’t think that would be needed in Scotland, but we were blessed with warmer than normal weather and full sun.

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This is where we were supposed to go, but never reached.

After calling it quits, we went back to Portree to shop where I got some things for the boys. In my journal my exact words to end the day were, “we ate at Isles and called it early for bed. We wrote postcards and planned tomorrow. We are pretty dead.”

And that is the end of day 6 on Scotland. It was my favorite, but also the most taxing physically.

Tips:

  1. In order to plan different parts of the trip, but still collaborate, we used the website Inspirock. It was fabulous. It not only allowed us a venue to plug in our plans and information, but also gave suggestions. This is a great tool for any trip anywhere!
  2. Bring lots of water hiking.
  3. Visit Fairy Glenn in the morning before crowds hit. It makes for a more intimate experience that adds to the magic.
  4. Don’t hold out for a parking spot in a parking lot. Just go ahead and park on the side of the road.
  5. Kilt Rock was cool, but will only take you 10 minutes to see it. Plan for that as you travel.
  6. Make the time for Brother’s Point. You can also find dinosaur footprints.
  7. Beauty lies everywhere. Even on the side of the road. Stop to see it.DSC_0505DSC_0510

 

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 5

The next morning on our honeymoon was early. We ate breakfast in our hotel’s sunroom and headed out to Loch Ness.

On a whim we decided to by tickets for a boat tour of Loch Ness that we had learned about through a pamphlet. It was a fabulous decision! We chose the tour that would take us through the canal, loch, and to see the outside of Urquhart Castle. We were almost late thanks to the GPS, but made it! The tour took a total of 2 hours and was filled with great facts and lovely views! It even had a Loch Ness detector.

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They said this was a lighthouse…
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Urquhart by boat
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We used the camera as binoculars at times. This time, Garrett was actually taking pictures, though!

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Our next stop was to explore the grounds of Urquhart Castle after seeing the outside by boat. We drove along the loch. Before touring the grounds, we stopped at the Nessie Cafe and had yummy sandwiches.

Urquhart Castle may seem like a bunch of ruins, and you may be tempted to skip it completely while in Scotland. DON’T! It ended up being Garrett’s favorite part of the whole trip and both of our’s favorite castle.

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The castle is rich with history and has just enough standing to be able to imagine it in it’s glory days. Besides age, the castle is mostly in ruins because it’s last resident blew it up. You see, Urquhart was prone to raids by the McDonald clan and others. So, on the last of the raids, the owner fled, and blew the castle up as he left. Pretty crazy, right?

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The great thing about this castle, is you can go everywhere. Nothing is off limits, and fabulous views surround you. Plus you can walk down to the loch and dip your toes in. After dipping his hand in the loch, Garrett claimed he had Nessie pee on him which was pretty cool. I married a goober!

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While we would have stayed at Urquhart longer, we had to get to the next castle of the day–Eilean Donan. After purchasing a souvenir painting, we headed on. We did stop along the way at some cool scenery. It was different than other places we’d seen.

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We also came across feral goats! I saw a sign that said look out for them, and just got out of my mouth, “I hope we see one!” Then, their they were! I was so excited I failed to get a quality photo, but as you can tell, they are hairy and have huge horns!

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The best way to describe Eilean Donan was beautiful on the outside and weird inside. Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, and rightly so. Just look at it:

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Inside, though, is a bit difference. Part of the oddity is that the castle was almost completely rebuilt in 1912 by the family who owned it. Inside was therefore, an odd mix of the 20’s, medieval, and a family home. While certainly not what I expected, it was still neat. They didn’t allow photography inside, so I don’t have any photos to show you of that.

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It was now time to finally be on our way to the Isle of Skye. Wow, is all I have to say. We knew that Skye was supposed to be beautiful. It did not disappoint. These photos were taken just on the drive in! Wait until you see the next day.

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We checked into the Portree Hotel. Super cute place in the middle of town.DSC_0699

The room was itty bitty, but beyond quaint and cozy. We walked across the road to the Cafe where we enjoyed a great meal of pork meatloaf with tomato spicy cream and fish and chips. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip.

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We finished it all off with ice cream and a walk around town and the harbor.

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We retired for the night to dream of castles and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

Tips:

  1. We would highly recommend the Portree Hotel, but know that they don’t have a lift up to your room. It wasn’t an issue for us, but it may be for others.
  2. Personally, I would choose to pay to see Urquhart and not Eilean Donan, but that’s just my opinion.
  3. If you decide to go on a Jacobite Cruise, look up the docks before the morning of. They are not always recognized by the GPS. Refer to a good old fashioned map.
  4. Highland Cows are pronounced Coos. We had fun saying that.

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Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 3

Day 3 started with an early morning to hit some last minute Edinburgh sights before heading to Inverness.

Our first stop was the Scott Monument built to memorialize author Sir Walter Scott. It was built during 1841-1844. While you can climb inside it, we chose not to due to time constraints and for the want of saving our money.

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Scott Monument is in Princes Street Gardens, so of course we had to walk along the paths. You can even see Edinburgh Castle from some of the paths. It was a fabulous last morning in Edinburgh.

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We made our way back to the hotel to retrieve our bags and hop in the car. I wasn’t looking forward to driving the streets of Edinburgh again, but we had gotten the bugs out of the GPS this time.

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I’m happy to report, it was much less death like and minimal wrong turns were made. We did accidentally end up at Forth Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1890 and has been voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder. The only reason we saw it was due to a wrong turn. We were perhaps a little too excited about the whole deal.

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Another happy accident was our lunch stop. We were trying to find something quick to eat, and typed in McDonalds in the GPS. I know, I know…who eats at McDonalds when in a foreign country? My only defense is we were travelling. We followed the GPS and arrived in the town of Pitlochery. The GPS lied. There was no McDonalds, but there was the cutest town where we had the best fish and chips at McKay’s. We walked around the little town, got some ice cream, and went on our way. Best stop ever!

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As we drove out of the cities, the landscape began to change to rolling hills and farms. I snapped pictures through the window left, right, and center. Little did I know that this was nothing compared to what we were about to see.

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The driving was much easier in the country, but the roads were quite narrow (I would later consider these roads wide).

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We stopped at Dalwhinnie Distillery for a tour. The process of making Scotch whiskey is fascinating. Dalwhinnie was the highest (in altitude) scotch distillery in the world. It is normally quite cold, but we were there on a rare warm day, however, the mountains were still snow-capped.

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We continued to wind our way through the Scottish roads until we reached Inverness. I fell in love with this little town. We had the most adorable hotel.

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For dinner we walked to the city center and ate at Bella Italia. While we got turned around walking there and didn’t get the river views going, we certainly got them coming back. Wow! Those walks with my new husband were some of my favorites of the trip.

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Along the walks are several pedestrian bridges to pass from the two sides of the rivers.

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One of the bridges led to a magical little island with a wooded area and river views.

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To top it all off, Inverness has a castle! It was all truly fairy tale feeling.

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Tips:

  1. It is ok to take wrong turns. Don’t freak out, but explore and have fun!
  2. While long, take the walk to the City Centre in Inverness, especially at sunset!
  3. Try Irn Bru soda. It is a Scottish drink and is similar to cream soda. Garrett loved it!

When Your Life Plan Goes in the Trash

“If you wanna hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”-Iyanla Vanzant

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I’m a planner. I want all my ducks in a row, and I can get cranky if one steps out of line. But, I’ve come to learn, that plans are not all they are cracked up to be…my plans aren’t anyway.

My master plan was in place. I’d get my bachelor’s degree, meet the love of my life, go on to get my master’s degree, and get married. Perhaps, I would get my doctorate, but if I didn’t, I’d have a full-time job waiting for me upon graduating with my masters. I’d move out and get a place of my own. Then, set life to cruise control. Pretty good plan, huh?

My master plan is essentially non-existent now.

So, what happened? Why is my carefully designed life plan obsolete now? Because, it was MY plan, and as much effort, thought, and emotion went into that plan, it wasn’t good enough. I just didn’t know it.

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted, but how can you know exactly what you want when you don’t know all the options? I thought I had the perfect plan, but I didn’t. God did. He knew that there was a far better plan than the seemingly fabulous one I had concocted.

Don’t get me wrong, God didn’t do away with everything in my plan. I got my degrees. I met my man. The rest, though…well, let’s just say when God heard my plans, he laughed and turned me down a different path.

Before graduating with my master’s, I started panicking about getting a job. So, I began to scour the internet. I deliberated so hard about applying for several jobs, but ultimately, I just didn’t. As May got closer, I got a job lead. I interviewed. I was offered the job-a full time job. A good job. But, instead of jumping up and down, I had a nagging feeling of doubt. I cried. I prayed. I talked it out with those closest to me. Then, I turned the full-time position down. I turned my back on my master plan, and I am so glad I did.

Since then, I have been given so many opportunities that have been the perfect fit for me… opportunities that I didn’t know existed. Someone else did, though.

In the months since graduating, I have been asked countless times, “what are you doing now?” Good question. I’m teaching Presentational Speaking at my alma mater, Campbell University, a dream of mine since graduating there.

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I am also teaching Intro to Communications at Wilson Community College (yes, I drive a lot). I am Director of Engagement for NC Farm Families, where I fight for an industry that I love and combine my love of agriculture with communications (bonus: I’ve been on TV but my autographs aren’t worth much).

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I have also snagged several contract jobs–all with agricultural emphasis and communication. In case you were wondering, I’m balancing a total of 5 different jobs.

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My photography was published in the Pork Report and even featured as the cover.

The path I’m on is a tad unconventional, but it is perfect for me. Because of this path, I have a lot more flexibility. I have been able to attend so many of Isaac and Gideon’s activities and competitions because of that flexibility. Because of this path, I didn’t have to choose a career; I get to do several. I couldn’t have chosen a better path for me. I didn’t choose it, but then again, I didn’t know it existed.

Come to find out, God knows me a lot better than I know myself. I’m doing everything I love. Does that mean this is what I’ll do for the rest of my life? Not necessarily. I’m not going to make those plans, though. I already did that once. Apparently, I’m not as good of a planner as I thought.  I will say, it drives me nuts, though. I’m a planner. So, not planning important things like my life, is hard. It takes a lot of trust, patience, and simply letting things go. That’s how I got onto the path I am now.

I wasn’t confident to make this step. It was scary as heck. I doubted–hardcore. I had told myself for so long what the plan was. It was hard to let MY master plan go, but I came to realize that the Master’s plan is way better.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”-Proverbs 19:21

Just Call Me Master Marisa|NCSU Graduation

Some of you may have heard, but I graduated…again. This time the powers to be decided that I was a master at communicating so gave me a piece of paper that said so.

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After two years at NC State University, I met my goal of getting a master’s degree, and am officially an alumnus of the Wolfpack. Let me tell you, though, running with the pack was not always easy. However, I learned more than I ever thought possible–things that go beyond communication theory, research, and papers. Some of these lessons were small, and others were much larger. Most were learned somewhere between Coliseum Deck and Winston Hall.

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  1. Always make a mental note of where you park your car in the parking deck–after a stressful first day of grad school, I couldn’t remember where I parked my car. I walked aimlessly around, praying and trying not to cry. Finally, Blueberry came into view and I drove off into the distance.
  2. You cannot possibly predict the many scenarios you’ll be faced with as a teacher–I thought I had imagined it all. I was wrong. Almost on a weekly basis, a new scenario came up that I had to scratch my head at and supply an answer. The things those students came up with never left a dull moment.
  3. Somehow the 6 flights of stairs never get easier–I just knew I’d be oober fit by the end of my 2 years. Alas, nothing changed.
  4. Even a communication major can do statistics–I suck at math. I don’t exaggerate either. Somehow, though, I chose to do a quantitative thesis filled with numbers, and finished it!
  5. You can research anything, so do what you love–If I was going to write more than 60 pages, it was going to be on something I liked. So, I chose pigs. It made the hours of writing and research much more enjoyable and exciting!
  6. Night classes will complicate your eating schedule–when classes start at 6 and go till 9, figuring out when to eat gets complicated. Cookout was my saving grace on the way home at night.
  7. It is possible to deal with a forest of papers and never get a paper cut–this is only a quarter of the papers over 2 years, but I’m proud to say, I never got a paper cut.

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Of course there was a lot more that I learned. Like the first few days are scary and really hard. You wonder how the heck they let you in to this place, but soon enough, you find your way…and your confidence. You learn to prioritize the millions of readings and assignments. You may find yourself learning what to do in a tornado warning with your students. You will definitely know what late nights are, and the joys of finishing a paper.

And, now after all of the lessons, I now hold a Masters of Science in Communication. I couldn’t have done it without some dear people like my thesis committee. They put hours into proofing, editing, and guiding me. Without them, I wouldn’t have a thesis that encompassed 2 states, 300 participants, pigs, and communication. A huge thank you to Dr. Keyton, Dr. Taylor, and Dr. DeJoy, and all of the other professors I had along the way.

I certainly couldn’t have gotten through grad school without  my family. Their prayers and support got me through every paper, assignment, and long night. They were my lifesavers so many times.

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Speaking of lifesavers, I would be lost somewhere in the one way streets of Raleigh if it wasn’t for Garrett. He helped me navigate Raleigh, answered my many statistics questions, listened to my struggles, and always reminded me to get lunch.

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So, I’m done. I came. I worked. I graduated. Just call me Master Marisa. I’m off to the next chapter in life, but first here’s some pictures from graduation day!!

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