Editor’s note: In the coming weeks until commencement in December, the Torch will be doing features on Ferris seniors, who have spent their last two semesters in college in unprecedented times. For the 2020 seniors, who have lost the last bit of their college experience but learned many lessons along the way.
No two bulldogs are the same. They all led different lives leading up to their arrival at Ferris and they all have different experiences while they’re here.
Justin Veltema is a Healthcare Systems Administration (HCSA) senior set to graduate this December. He hails from McBain and enjoys hiking and kayaking in his free time. After Ferris he wants to further his education by attending medical school.
McBain is a small town and Veltema has lived there his entire life. College was his opportunity to get out and see what the world had to offer. As a first-generation student college was a big step into the unknown. For Veltema, the lead up to arriving on campus was full of uncertainty and anticipation.
“I didn’t really have many expectations before coming to Ferris,” Veltema said. “As move in day got closer, I began to feel less and less sure about the major I had chosen, but I had hope that my time at Ferris would direct me to where I need to be, and it did just that.”
Though Ferris turned out to be a good fit for him it wasn’t his first choice. He initially wanted to get his degree in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVACR). Ferris was one of the few schools that offered this program.
During his time at Ferris Veltema has grown and matured. A common thread shared by many small towns is a controlled public discourse and limited ideas of what is considered normal or acceptable. Attending a university away from home has given him the chance to outgrow some of those thoughts and form his own.
“I’ve grown so much over my time at Ferris. My eyes and mind have been opened to so many things physically, mentally, and emotionally. Ferris helped me to escape the sheltered, narrowminded feel of the small town I grew up in,” Veltema said.
College doesn’t just challenge students academically. It challenges the way they were brought up and their views of the world. It puts them in positions where the choices they make have real consequences. It takes them out of their comfort zone and makes them build new boundaries. With that there are many lessons to be learned.
“Ferris has taught me that while everyone has a different path, there’s no such thing as a wrong path to take. Everyone is unique in their own ways and finds their path in a way that best suites them,” Veltema said. “I’ve also learned that no one is ever too old to better themselves with a college education. Pursuing knowledge has not limits.”
Some lessons are more straightforward.
“I had to quickly learn how to effectively study,” Veltema said. “In high school I coasted and took the easiest classes possible to get out. In college I had to adapt to not taking the easy way out in order to further myself. Learning to study was by far one of the most difficult things I had to overcome here.”
As he prepares to make the switch from student to alumnus Veltema has some advice to share.
“Something I want all students to know is that there’s nothing wrong with changing your major as often as you need too,” Veltema said. “Take the time to find something that makes you happy.”
The end of his journey as a college student has been turbulent. His junior year was cut “short” due to COVID-19 and now he must make peace with the reality of having an online graduation ceremony.
“I was disappointed to learn that my graduation would be online but understand that due to COVID it was the rational decision to make. Either way it’s still a huge accomplishment for me and I couldn’t be more excited to become a Ferris Alumn this coming December,” Veltema said.
As this chapter of his life closes Veltema has had time to reflect on everything that’s happened to him these past couple of years.
“I’m proud of being able to call myself the first college graduate in my family and overcoming so much hardship adapting to college and being away from home,” Veltema said.