by Anjali Patel

My name is Anjali Patel, and I am a student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science within the School of Public and International Affairs, SPIA. As a returning ambassador within the SPIA Ambassador Program, I reflect back on my experiences within this program and spot bright moments where SPIA allowed me to impact the lives of rising UGA students. I recall quite vividly that I was called on to host two Georgia Scholar tours because someone else was not able to make it in time. Recalling the story of my first out of the two tours I would take part in, a detail that cannot be missed is how terribly freezing it was and how the luring thought in my head the whole time was how I would make it without freezing to death. This was also the day that I would receive my decision for a membership as a UGA Ambassador for the Arch Society, so the pressure remained for both my first tour and my awaiting decision. Soon enough, I met my group of high school students who were admitted into UGA and began touring them throughout the beauty that is North Campus. After explaining artifacts and historical contexts of the buildings and traveling through traditions of the chapel bell and the arch itself, they seemed to care more about the actual UGA experience and what SPIA could offer them. I guided them into Tate Student Center to warm up a bit and also to sit and have a conversation about SPIA and the mass number of opportunities that it has given to me and to a number of other students. As I began speaking about the Ambassador Program, the faculty, the research opportunities, etc. I could feel them becoming more excited to learn more about SPIA beyond the statistics and success stories that UGA often recounts on social media or in published letters. For me, it meant a lot that I, as a member of a minority group on campus was given the opportunity to share my experience, my failures, and my successes with students who may give UGA and SPIA a chance to do the same for them. We sat there for what seemed like 30 minutes, a group of high school students and a second year at UGA talking as if we were old friends. In those moments, it felt as if I was their mentor, but I also learned a lot from them. I feel like as we progress throughout our academic journeys either at UGA or elsewhere, we tend to lose that same glimmer in our eyes and same spark of character and motivation we held as we were incoming freshmen at the University of Georgia. We become so accustomed to the life of a highly involved college student that we lose sight of the goals and aspirations we held coming into SPIA or UGA as a whole. They taught me to never lose that spark because that spark is what continuously drives us forward. I could see how passionate they were about politics, public service, and just seeing the world through a diversely unique lens. It was then that I realized that yes, I was exhausted from a long night of studying and attending meetings and also, I felt the pressure from receiving my Arch Society decision that same day, but a conversation with fresh faces and hopeful beings truly changed my perception of everything I took for granted as a SPIA student. After our time had ended, I guided them to Candler Hall to meet with back up with their parents and to continue the rest of their day in Athens. We extended our goodbyes and to my surprise, we hugged, as if we were old friends. It was in this conclusive moment that one of the girls within the group said “Hey Anjali, you got this! Go and check your decision!”, and with that, we bid farewell and I walked to Tate Student Center to check my decision with a newfound appreciation for UGA SPIA for this opportunity.