Like many students going off to college for the first time, Sarah Emerson’s journey at Illinois State started off with a lot of nerves. Adjusting to new classes, living arrangements, and even social obligations take time and effort. For Emerson, the Honors Program community at ISU helped her navigate these new challenges and has shown her strengths she did not know she had.

Luckily for Emerson, the first step in the transition process was made easier by living in Manchester on one of the Honors Themed Living Learning Community (TLLC) floors.

“Living on the Honors floor, I made some of my best friends, and I really thrived in that environment,” Emerson said. “I met a wide variety of different people in different majors, but we were all linked through Honors. We had a lot of fun that year and I really felt a strong sense of community.”

Emerson, an elementary education major, also found a support system at ISU that played a large role in her transition to college life. “The very first time I went in to see my advisor, I was really stressed, sick, and homesick,” said Emerson. “Not only was my advisor very kind to me during my appointment, but she followed up with me to make sure that I was doing ok. It was a small, but very appreciated, gesture that made me feel like a valuable member of the community.”

One of the many different opportunities available to Honors students is the ability to join the Honors student leadership team. As she became more familiar with life at ISU, Emerson decided to take a step out of her comfort zone and apply for the team.

“I kind of thought that applying for the team was a long shot, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was given the opportunity,” said Emerson.

Her experiences on the leadership as both an Honors Peer Mentor and Community Assistant gave Emerson many different opportunities, and the chance to grow as a leader.

“The Honors Student Leadership Team is one of the best experiences I ever had,” said Emerson. “I made a lot of friends, but it also taught me a lot about myself. It was an environment that I thrived in, and I was able to take on a lot of responsibility. Honors have also taught me how to be an everyday leader, and how everyday actions can show leadership to others even if it’s not in an official capacity.”

Emerson is currently student teaching, but she is able to look back fondly at her time with the Honors Program.

“I think the biggest thing Honors has done for me is giving me confidence in myself,” she said. “It gave me a chance to build that confidence in my abilities and choices. Honors gave me a voice and a chance to do something bigger than myself for the good of my community.”

Whatever comes her way, Sarah Emerson is ready and willing to take on new challenges.

“One of the most important ways that Honors has sprung me into new opportunities is that it gave me the confidence I needed to know that I could do it,” she said.

As she finishes her time at ISU and prepares to take her first steps into the world as an independent adult, Emerson knows that she has the skills and the drive to take her wherever she wants to go.