What is a Community College?

My community college experience

When I get asked the question, “What is a community college?” so many different thoughts pop into my head. My experience has been anything but flawless with many ups and downs within a short amount of time, but these have led me to Jamestown Community College and I will forever be grateful to have found where I was meant to be from the beginning.

I went to school in Dunkirk, NY, where we had many opportunities to take classes through Jamestown Community College during our junior and senior year for college credit. This was a great way to be introduced to college-level classes as well as get some general education courses out of the way before you go into college freshman year. Unfortunately, for certain reasons, I was unable to take these classes until my senior year so I only had a few credits completed by the time I graduated in the spring of 2017. Personally, going to JCC was not at the top of my list while looking for colleges since I wanted to move farther away from home to have the “college experience” that everyone talks about. After going through all of my options, I decided to go to SUNY Geneseo, since I was going for early childhood education and they had a phenomenal education program.

kate profile headshot kate sitting in JCC tee on sidewalk

My experience before going to SUNY JCC

Going into my first semester of college, I was obviously very nervous like any other person would be. I was moving away from home for the first time, I was going to a school where I knew no one, and I didn’t have any activities that I was a part of. This made it very hard to adjust and personally I was having a very difficult time with it. As time went on, I tried out for two of their sports teams and made neither, I only had one friend that I would talk to and hang out with during the week, and I had been struggling with the school work for weeks even after going to get help from my professors. With all of this going on, I would tell myself that “all freshmen go through these struggles and I wasn’t the only one, right?” After struggling with this for weeks, I began to lose confidence in myself, I wouldn’t leave my dorm room except for classes, and I cried almost every day.

Coming home for Christmas break, my parents knew I had been struggling, so I sat down with them and talked through everything. They noticed the change in my personality and how staying there was becoming a toxic environment for me. After talking, we all decided that the best option for me at the time was to come home and transfer to SUNY Fredonia. I felt defeated, like I had failed, and let everyone down who had been encouraging me from the beginning. This made the transition even harder as I started moving everything back home days before Christmas.

Transferring to SUNY JCC

Two weeks later, I noticed I hadn’t heard back from SUNY Fredonia about my application so I decided to stop into admissions, since school was going to begin that week. I ended up finding out that my GPA was too low to be admitted into their education program at that time, which meant I was not able to transfer to SUNY Fredonia that spring. Every feeling of failure and doubt had returned to my mind and I just felt like nothing was going right. My sister was with me at the time, and she had suggested that I go to JCC to see if I would be able to apply there for the semester. Since classes started a week prior to this I didn’t have much hope, but we decided to give it a try anyway. We drove to the North County Center in Dunkirk and I had explained to them my situation. They advised me to head home and fill out an online application. No more than thirty minutes after turning in my application, I received a call from admissions at JCC and they accepted me that very day. Since they had already started classes, I was only able to take about nine credits to be a part-time student, but I couldn’t have been more thankful.

Transferring in the middle of the year and commuting back and forth from home wasn’t an easy transition. I was still having a difficult time fighting all of the thoughts running through my head of doubt, fear, sadness, and confusion, but I felt in my heart that I knew this was where I was supposed to be for the time being. I still struggled academically this semester but I saw a small bit of improvement which gave me hope the next year to come.

Becoming a JCC student, resident assistant, and other opportunities

resident assistant students group photo of people in play

Just as if I thought my life wasn’t crazy enough, one week before I was supposed to move in on the Jamestown Campus for the fall semester, I was given the opportunity to become a resident assistant for my building on campus. Since all of the other RAs had moved in and begun training for the upcoming semester, I was given just a small amount of time to make a big decision! Going through all of the positives and negatives, I ended up deciding that this would be a great opportunity for me and I couldn’t pass it up. This was a perfect way for me to become involved, meet new people before school started, and also be a good way to get to know the campus some more and meet some of the faculty and staff. I was able to have that job all semester and I have been fortunate enough to be welcomed back for the fall 2019 semester.
Becoming an RA is just one of the many opportunities I had been given since coming to JCC. Since last year I have been involved in many on-campus activities and events. I was in Newsies, the musical that the JCC Uncommoners put on last semester, and I took part in this year’s production of West Side Story as well. I also have been able to get to know and work with many of the faculty and staff members on campus, work at open houses that the school hosts and talk with incoming freshmen, take part as an intern for the Marketing department this semester, and meet many new lifelong friends.

Family, belonging, and friendship at SUNY JCC

If I happened to stay at SUNY Geneseo, would I have had some of these same experiences and opportunities? Probably. But there are a few things that I believe a community college has that larger universities lack, which is a sense of family, belonging, friendship, and comfort. These are some of the characteristics of JCC that I noticed when I transferred that first semester. At the time when I felt as if everything was going wrong around me, I knew there was one thing that was right, and that was choosing to attend JCC. Everyone that I worked with and continue to work with on a daily basis has helped me in more ways than I could begin to describe. I have been encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone, work hard to succeed (even if that requires help at times), and to never be afraid to fail. I have been lucky enough to call Jamestown Community College my home for the past two years and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

standing with friends in front of mirror kate stands with friends in scharmann theatre kate on friend's back, both smiling at camera

About this post’s author:

Hi, my name is Kate Michalski! I live in Dunkirk, NY along with my parents, sister, twin brother, as well as my dog and cat. My major is early childhood education. I have a strong passion for helping young children and watching them grow and learn new things. Many teachers have influenced me in my life, so I would like to do the same for others as well! I currently work at my high school pool, local beach, and summer camp as a lifeguard. Some of my favorite things to do are playing sports, going for walks, music, and anything that keeps me social.

Last year I had the pleasure of being an RA in the residence halls and I am so excited to be back and do it again this year. I am also stepping out of my usual activities and working with the marketing program this semester. This is something that I am very excited about and I can not wait to see what new things I will learn!

About the author

JJ Jayhawk

I'm the mascot of Jamestown Community College! As the resident bird here at JCC, I'll be sharing cool news, events, and more around campus.