My story and involvement with RUPA is definitely more of a personal life journey for me more so than others. I started in this organization as a general member and I have progressed to the top; I have been selected as the new President of RUPA for the 2011-2012 year. I have learned and grown so much just from being in this organization and I know that I will learn even more as President for the upcoming year. Along with my involvement in RUPA, I also work with horses. I got involved with working one on one with the horses here at Rutgers January of 09 as a farm crew worker and I have progressed to a research student who studies, observes and trains mustangs during the year. My involvement with RUPA and the farm has deeply benefited me and prepared me for the real world. I have learned from both to never give up because the rewards and the outcomes you receive from both is worth the hard work.
My first year here at Rutgers University, was a hard and difficult change for me. I attended the University for the sole reason that they had a great animal science program. I honestly wasn’t interested in making new friends; I figured that I would be best friends with my high school friends (turns out I was wrong).
I came from a pretty small town in South Jersey and was a pretty quiet and shy person who found it hard to make new friends. I made a few friends after living in my dorm on campus but I wasn’t really happy with my general experience at Rutgers after my first semester here. I wasn’t used to the busy city life of New Brunswick/ Rutgers and I often retreated back to my dorm room after my classes were done. I didn’t feel a sense of belonging like I did when I was in high school ( I was very involved in the orchestra and marching band during my high school career) and I felt a sense of family from them.
After being at Rutgers for a year, I told my dad that I wanted to transfer to another school. Rutgers was overwhelming for me and I didn’t like going outside my dorm other than to eat and go to class. He told me before I made any rash decisions to go back for another semester and to try and get involved with something. So I decided to give it a shot.
My second year at Rutgers, I decided to give the “getting involved more plan” a shot. I went to a few club meetings and even tried out for an acapella group (who did not accept me). I didn’t stick with the small clubs for long because they weren’t what I was looking for. I found out that two of my friends had joined the Rutgers University Programming Association and they would often drag me along to the events that they were helping out at. I decided to join as a general member because I figured it was something to do with my time. I helped out at a couple events and I realized that I was having fun and meeting new people.
After a few months of volunteering, I decide to apply as chair member. I interviewed in December 08 and was selected to be part of the Trips and Leisure committee as a chair. I was immediately welcomed into the RUPA “ohana” of my committee with open arms. I got to experience working in a group and planning events for the first time and I have to say I didn’t realize how much work it actually took to put together an event. The work didn’t scare me away, in fact it drew me in. I liked knowing that I was given tasks and that the end result of the event relied on me completing these tasks.
Something that I immediately learned to do was manage my time. I wasn’t very organized before I joined RUPA, but being in this organization forced me to learn how to do that very quickly. At the end of my first semester of being in RUPA, I felt that I had found a place where I was accepted and I could learn and grow. I reapplied to RUPA and was selected back onto the Trips and Leisure committee which I was thrilled about. I was super excited to present more of my creative ideas and watch them become events for the Rutgers community.
At the beginning of my third year at Rutgers, along with RUPA as one of my extracurricular activities, I started doing my work on the farm with the horses on Cook campus. I helped clean stalls and well as handle horses on a daily basis. Some days I would just groom them and then other days I would help administer vaccines. I got a lot of hands on experience along with learning that horses are very sensitive creatures. They react off of your body language and your moods so it is very important to be aware of yourself while working with them. One of my biggest obstacles was controlling my emotions and learning how to control my body language when working around them. They can sense fear, anger and sadness and if you come into the barn angry they will feel that negative energy and then your session while working with them could be at risk.
Balancing RUPA and my job on the farm at first was hard for me. I learned how to find a happy medium between RUPA and the farm though. At the beginning of the second semester of my third year, I was asked to take over the Trips and Leisure committee as “acting Vice President” because my Vice President took a leave of absence from RUPA. I was thrilled that I could finally lead my very own committee and I accepted the offer with pleasure. One of my biggest challenges that I learned to overcome was learning how to actually gain respect from my committee and transition from a chair to a vice president. I learned how to delegate tasks and lead my committee to put on successful events.
When it came time for everyone to reapply to RUPA again, I knew that I was ready to apply to be a VP of any committee for a full year as I had gained many skills already. Being a vice president already for a semester taught me that I can have a voice and lead a team effectively and efficiently. All of my hard work and growth paid off because I got chosen for the Vice President of the Arts and Culture committee for the 2010-2011 year.
My schedule for my fourth year at Rutgers was full of RUPA and more hands on experience with the farm. I was leading my very own committee, working part time and putting in at least 10 hours if not more on the farm. I had moved from a farm crew student to a research student on the farm who got to work one on one with one of the Rutgers mustangs. Basically my job was to train my horse to behave and learn ground manners so that she would be ready to sell when it came time for the auction in May. Along the way, I was also observing her behavior and studying the nutrition trials that we were doing on the side. Working with a new horse who has never been introduced to people before definitely a challenge and requires a lot of patience and dedication. Sierra was definitely a challenge to begin with because she didn’t trust people. Gaining her trust took a lot of time and persistence. I would go in every week and stand outside her stall talking to her in a soothing voice, hoping that she would approach me.
After weeks of getting her used to me being around, we finally had a bonding moment where she let me scratch her neck. Each week she would warm up to me more and more and eventually late October, we were finally able to walk her outside of her stall and get her used to more things in the barn. Something that I constantly had to remind myself was that I couldn’t rush things with her. When introducing and teaching animals new things, especially horses you have to go slow and let the horse tell you when they are ready to progress. Every horse is different and Sierra was one of those horses that did things slowly which wasn’t a bad thing at all. Each week we would work on getting her used to new things and working on her manners. Some weeks we would work on getting her used to picking up her feet and picking the dirt up out of them, other weeks we would introduce her to things such as getting used to a lot of people moving around the barn and making loud noises while she was out of her stall. All of the hard work and dedication truly does pay off in the end. Sierra has come to recognize me to the point where she will follow me wherever I go and I find that when I’m grooming her she tries to groom me back. I get such a good feeling at the end of the day because I know that I’m training her into a great horse for someone.
Working with Sierra takes up a lot of my time, but I’ve managed to balance out my busy schedule to make it work with RUPA. I’m usually up most days by 7am to go feed and work with Sierra and then the rest of the day is spent doing homework, RUPA work and attending classes. Looking back on who I was as a first year student and who I am now is almost like looking at a totally different person. So much has changed, but all in a good way. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me next year.
By Sarah Shaw