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Cassie Irwin


Finding yourself and community

Finding Me

– Cassie Irwin –

I think there’s always this misconception that college is just going to be a good time all the time. Which it is—it’s a great time, and a great experience. But it’s also a prime time for challenge and growth. I had no idea I was going to learn so much about myself. As a senior in high school, I was like, “Oh, I’ve got this. I know who I am.” But I had no idea.

I’ve learned so much more about how to handle myself and the situations that come up in life. I learned in a class about emotional intelligence—learning to control how you respond to different events in life emotionally. I’ve learned to be very aware of myself and realized that I have the power to decide how I want to see the world.

I think I’ve always had that kind of ability inside me, but it’s really come out in college. I used to be really nervous to put myself out there, and I still am, but I’ve become a lot more confident because of all the support I’ve had at Nebraska. People have told me “Hey, you do have these abilities. You can do these things.”

I think everybody having a strong sense of self, rather than conforming to one image, is what makes a strong community.


It goes back to the basic human need to belong. I studied this in psychology. We’re a species that works together as a community. At first I felt like, “I need to fit in,” and, “I need to do things a certain way so I’ll be accepted and not feel alone.”

But that’s a myth that we tell ourselves. I like to bring my own flair and my own self into the groups I’m in on campus and start little sparks within them. I’m more comfortable being myself than trying to match perfectly to those around me. I let other people adapt to me a little bit.

“The community here helps me see the world in a bigger and brighter way than I did before.”

— Cassie Irwin

It’s that sort of mindset that makes the communities at Nebraska really diverse. There are people here from all over the country and all over the world. They’ve got different personalities and lifestyles. I can ask three different people in the same community a question and get three completely different perspectives. I didn’t get that when I was growing up. The community here helps me see the world in a bigger and brighter way than I did before.

I think these four years at Nebraska are just the beginning. People are accepting here, so if you want to grow and find community, you’re free to experiment and try different things to see what works. That will carry over into our futures. The environment at Nebraska really aids in instilling that freedom to experiment with our personalities. People have all these ingredients and they’re finally not afraid to go for it—to stick their curiosities and aspirations in the oven, bake them up and share them with other people. I think Nebraska is the greatest place for that. It’s helped me to be authentic and understand what having community really means.