We made it!
This year required a lot of hard work and lacked in social life outside of school and work, but it was totally worth it. Over the school year I worked just under 400 hours in order to pay for Big Lisa to live at the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center on campus, working (on average) 13 hours per week in addition to a full class load with two lab classes and an additional half credit in which I conducted research on horse genetics with my friend and former hunt seat teammate Megan Reilly. On top of work, class and research, I did manage to find time to ride Lisa three to five times per week and somehow ended the semester with a 4.0 in all of my classes and (even more miraculously!) I still had some money in my bank account!
This was my favorite semester at Albion from an academic standpoint. I realized I love field classes (I took vascular plants and ornithology) and found out that I am a natural at identifying plants and birds. It was easy to see that I not only excelled at the field classes, but was genuinely happy to be a part of them unlike the more cellular and medically based lab classes I took previously – which means that, after a lot of thought and meetings with professors, I have decided to pursue a master’s degree in EEB (Ecology and Evolution Biology).
I graduated from Albion with a major in Biology and minor in Art (and if you want to be specific, I was also one class short of a Chemistry minor), so I have a strong scientific background, but almost every EEB program requires that students have taken statistics during their undergraduate years, which I did not take (because I was taking all of those other classes I just listed). So this fall I will attend Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek to complete that final requirement while living with my aunt and uncle and working in order to continue paying for Lisa. (Hey Albion Equestrian Center, you hiring?) I will also use that time to research EEB programs to figure out where I want to go and apply by the end of the year so I can get started. My eventual goal is to earn my PhD and work as a professor; before I worked at the barn, I was a teaching assistant for Biology three times and Chemistry once and I loved it!
As for Big Lisa, she has fully transitioned from trail horse to an enthusiastic hunter-jumper. I have jumped her just over three feet but I know she can jump over four feet considering I have witnessed her jump out of the arena and her pasture gate. She has dropped her bucking habit, learned her leads, and no longer requires a bit with leverage. Currently she is at the barn I grew up riding at and is enjoying jumping in the outdoor arena and trail riding across the farmland in the surrounding area. She has even made friends with some of the horses I loved to ride as a child; they look a lot smaller than I remember, especially next to the big lady herself. Pretty soon we will head up to Mackinac Island for our fourth summer of work in the tourist trade, but this will be the first summer she will officially be there as my horse.
If someone had told me my freshman year that I was going to change post grad plans my senior year, I would have thought they were crazy (and told them so). Likewise, if someone had told me I would own a jumping (mostly) Percheron mare, I would have thought they were absolutely insane.
And that’s just it: Sometimes you can’t predict where life will take you, but Albion has provided me with the resources to find my passion with teachers to help direct me, and an amazing equestrian facility that I used not only to train my horse, but also to pay for her as well. This was truly the best school year and I am sad to move on, but I will always be a Brit.
Emily Galka ’17 graduated from Albion on Saturday, May 6; she previously wrote about her adventures with Big Lisa on Mackinac Island in a two-part series on this blog. You may read those entries here and here.