What is it about the wide open space that just makes you want to scream, “This is my home!”? Is it that Arizona has preserved the true heart of the southwest, the ability to live and breathe in your own space? Clearly there is enough space to go around. Everywhere I look, open deserts stretch endlessly for miles in every direction underneath a relentless and beautiful sun, free of obstructing clouds. Looking out my window as I write this essay (although occasionally glancing back to check my typing accuracy), I am reminded of driving down historic Route 66 to Flagstaff during my first visit to Arizona. That was the first time-but certainly not the last-that Arizona truly opened my eyes to a new experience.

Originally born and raised outside St. Louis, Missouri, I had grown accustomed through the years to the foliage and rolling hills clustered with every type of tree that the Midwest had to offer. Frankly, I got quite irritated with all of it. The wildlife preserve on which I lived allowed me to fully realize the intensity of humidity (among other unlikable aspects of that climate). I remember trekking out into our 100% humid, mosquito-ridden, poison ivy-infested yard to cut grass that I knew would cause me to itch for the rest of the day. When the summer gave way to other seasons, new hardships would arise (driving a car on winter ice, raking countless leaves in the fall, planting my mother’s new favorite flowers in the spring). To sum it all up, by my sophomore year of high school, I was quite ready for a change in atmosphere. Luckily my father, an Arizona native, knew the best thing to do for our family.

Before beginning my sophomore year, we said goodbye to the mosquitoes, humidity and leaves and moved to Sedona, Arizona. Stepping out of our overly air-conditioned car, I was immediately hit by the intensity of the sun. Never before had I fully felt the sun completely uninhibited by daily clouds. It felt wonderful. As we drove around Sedona, I was amazed at how such beauty could exist without the greenery that I was so used to. The towering red rocks thrilled me and I knew I would love my new home.

However, not even the red rocks of Sedona could fully reflect the entire beauty of Arizona as a state, since they are specific only to Sedona. As I looked at Arizona as a whole, I grew more confident that my father’s decision had been a good one. Phoenix turned out to be a wonderful city that, despite a large population, still retained a somewhat small town feel (at least compared to the skyscrapers and cramped, fifty-story buildings of downtown St. Louis). Sedona, with its beautiful scenery and small but friendly and welcoming population, proved to be a wonderful place to call home. Playing soccer for Sedona Red Rock High School, I also got to venture out to many other cities in Arizona for matches. From Show Low to Ashfork to Camp Verde, each town offered a unique sense of fellowship within both its own small community and the overarching connection that seemed to bind all Arizonians. This sense of connection, one I had not felt in the Midwest, caused me to find that I was not confined to simply one city or one town and that all of Arizona was my home.

To further reinforce my findings, once I was finished with high school, I began attending the University of Arizona in 2005. Pursuing a double major in both Music Performance (piano) and Business Management, I felt I was following the Arizona belief of coupling hard work with personal pleasure. I was rewarded by discovering many other talented students in Tucson working towards the same goals as myself. This allowed me to find a comfortable learning environment and accomplish a great deal in only my first year (by University standards, I am already a junior with many prerequisite classes already finished going into my second year).

This does not all mean everything has gone perfectly. To the contrary, I have encountered many hardships during my time so far in Arizona, everything from girlfriends to family deaths in only 4 years. Financial matters have constantly plagued my family, causing me to put myself completely through college by my own wallet. As soon as I gained financial independence, I used scholarships to pay for my schooling and working since the age of 14 to save up for whatever my scholarships could not cover. While I understand that all of these experiences would have come with time no matter where I lived, I strongly feel that all the factors in my life that Arizona has affected have helped me mature in the best possible manner. What more could you ask from your home?

My Arizona home has provided me with everything I could possibly need:  My parents are living comfortably in a beautiful city, my brothers are receiving a terrific preparatory education and I am receiving an outstanding college education at a fantastic in-state price. I have grown as an individual and realized my goals and abilities. I have worked through rough times and fully enjoyed good times. Finally, I hope to continue funding my own education and reach my highest potential at the University of Arizona. With all these factors in mind, I can confidently say life in Arizona has proven to be an experience and an adventure thus far. Even if I were to move away sometime, I know that I have something that only 1/50th of this country has. I have the ability to say that Arizona is my home.