A couple months ago I was over at my dad’s house looking at some old things. I walk inside and instantly feel at home. Reminded of the countless smiles and limitless laughter which filled my childhood, I was flooded with emotion. As always, I head straight for the photo albums, as who doesn’t love to reminisce. My dad was in the kitchen, preparing his typical Sunday dinner: potatoes, carrots, and hamburg, when I bring my best friend into the living room with me, to show her some of the old pictures. Sooner or later we run out of albums to look through so we start exploring. One thing leads to the next, an old stuffed animal to a summer journal from first grade, and we end up stumbling upon a safe box. Feeling a little curious, we begin looking through the safe. We find what you’d expect to find in a safe: important paperwork and a bunch of files. One file reads “Maria,” and so of course I look inside it. There lies a book with my name on it, a baby book accounting for all the milestones of my first year of life. Inside, I read about when I first started to crawl, when I took my first steps, and what was going on in the world when I was born. I never knew my parents kept a book like this for me, and it wasn’t the detailed notes written in my mom’s handwriting that really caught my eye. What captured my interest the most was what was on the front cover: my mom had pinned an angel onto the first page of my baby book, and next to it she wrote a little message about how she wore that pin every day when she was pregnant with me, as it was her “guardian angel.” Right there and then I found a new purpose. I didn’t tell my friend this, but what I immediately thought of was all the sacrifices my mom made for me. My mom found out she had cancer while she was still pregnant with me, yet she was persistent that she wouldn’t accept any treatment until I was ready to be born. It was lucky I was born a couple weeks early, but still this extreme sense of selflessness remains a thought of mine every single day, something I strive to one day embody. I love my mom. I’ve unfortunately spent half my life without her by my side, but for those of you who really know me you know how often I think of her and how much I wish to still make her proud. I get sad and down sometimes thinking about her, and sometimes I get angry at the world for taking away such a significant person in my life. But when I sit back and think about it, I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if things hadn’t worked out the way that they did. My dad is still here, and I still have countless family members and life-long friends who love me <3 I appreciate absolutely everything everyone in my life has done for me, especially my Aunt Elaine and Uncle Matt who have sacrificed more than they needed to, and I wish nothing but to say I am extremely grateful for the life I have received. With all this said, I know one thing is for sure: You truly never know when your last breath is going to be. So here I am, a college Junior at the University of Maine, and an opportunity of a lifetime has been presented to me. Study Abroad. I know this has been a long read, and many of you are very busy people who have your own struggles and worries to think about, so I completely understand if this isn’t something that you’re able to help me out with. However, if you are one of the few willing, I would be utmost grateful if you could help me contribute to a memory of a lifetime. You see, with my mom’s memory in mind, and her guardian angel pinned to my chest, I hope to travel to the University of Otago in New Zealand for this upcoming 2019 Spring semester. For those of you who don’t know me all too well, I am a small-town girl from Vermont with big dreams of seeing some of the world’s greatest wonders. The University of Otago, although all the way on the other side of the world, seems to me a perfect fit, as it fulfills my adrenaline-junky desires, answers my calls to nature, and satisfies my love for sports and the outdoors. If you’d be willing to help my dreams come true, and feed my passion for learning in more than just the classroom environment, any contribution would mean the world to me. Whether it’s $5 or $200, anything that would point me towards my ultimate goal of $2006 would be exceedingly appreciated. I chose $2006 because that was the year my mom went to Heaven, and this is an experience I wish carry out in her memory!