There is plenty of research surrounding the benefits that service learning brings to the community and students alike. But, it is far less common to break down individual experiences and greater effects service learning can have beyond the studies and statistics. Although this piece cannot speak for every service learning experience, it explores the changing mindset of my personal interaction with service learning. This autobiographical account identifies moments of personal and intellectual growth through a long form reflection of my three years as a service learning student at Virginia Commonwealth University. I wrestle with my thoughts and emotions of what goes on behind the community engagement and classroom setting. “Becoming a Part of Your Community” encapsulates relatable expectations of what service learning can provide in a university setting beyond what more traditional research does. I began writing this essay as part of an independent study during the Fall semester of my senior year while simultaneously finishing my Service Learning Teaching Assistant experience.

Author’s note

The piece that stands here proudly has come a long way from the original ideas that blossomed in Fall 2019. The goal reigned true throughout this process, but getting here was no simple task. I was inspired by those whom I met in the VCU service learning community, married with one of my favorite English courses that introduced me to creative writing. I wanted to give an outlet where readers could find some common ground with becoming comfortable being uncomfortable in certain situations. All while using one of the most important exercises for personal growth: reflection. Continuing to edit this piece throughout a pandemic allowed me to unravel more emotions and feelings of gratitude for this experience than I thought. This final essay is nowhere near the original product and I could not be more proud of how it emerged. I would not have been able to reach this point if it wasn’t for my iconic Service Learning professors and mentors: Lindsay Chudzik and Katie Elliot. Their incredible support and guidance during my undergraduate college career is something I will cherish forever. Lastly, I would like to say a special thank you to my brilliant editors, Steve Grande and Emily Kohl, for their guidance in allowing my piece to make it to this platform. I appreciate the countless Zoom calls, invaluable feedback, and most of all patience from you throughout this process. Thank you for this opportunity.



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