Small Town… To Big World
In a very, very small town in Wyoming County, West Virginia, there is a road. You may not see it upon passing, as it is really small and not one to catch the eye. And on this tiny road, free of stores or excitement, you will come to a community, almost as small as the road it lives on, with a population of 483. This quaint little town, lacking in industry and rich in community, is called Coal Mountain, and this is where I had lived for almost my entire life. To put into perspective, it is a town snug in the Bible Belt of the West Virginia hills, which seemingly has more churches than people.
In this little town on this little road, I grew up in a small trailer in my grandmother’s backyard, a non-glamorous life that I cherish and reflect upon so dearly. As the daughter of a single mother working in our town’s small post office, my life had never grown beyond this little town, and I was content. I had not only the unconditional love from my family and my beloved grandmother, but also the unwavering support of the community that I lived in. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this town raised me.
As I grew older, and started my professional life at West Virginia University, I knew that I was destined for a life far outside of the West Virginia hills that I had always sought comfort in. However, as a first-generation college student and one without financial assistance, this dream felt so far out of my reach. I daydreamed of seeing the world, of being the president, of helping others in my position, of risking it all to find the life that I knew I deserved and craved oh so much.
Finally, in my third year of college, after ensuring that I was over-prepared, I took my first big jump, and a big jump it was. Armed with three years of French, a plethora of scholarships, and a brand-new passport, I began my journey to Strasbourg, France to spend six months at the University of Strasbourg. And here, I finally had my first taste of the life I was destined for…
At first, it was terrifying. Aside from getting disastrously lost in every single airport I stepped foot in, I struggled with the language and missed my family and the comfort and stability they represented so dearly. And don’t even get me started on figuring out the public transportation.
But after the anxiety subsided, and I gazed around at the incredible place that I had landed in, I was just totally in awe of this new and exciting life that I had carved out for myself. The entire country had this breathtaking beauty entwined with a history and culture that is completely of its own. Coming from a town of less than 500 people, and then standing in the city center of this enormous and glorious place was enough to bring me to tears (on several occasions).
Even though it was absolutely the most terrifying risk I had ever embarked on, it was by far the best decision and the best adventure I had ever earned. The world can be a scary place, but it is also wonderful and exciting, and so, so worth all the stress and anxiety that exploring it brings. The best parts of life are on the opposite side of fear, and once we pass that threshold, that is when we allow ourselves to appreciate that fear and use it as our driving force.
As I took my first steps onto foreign soil for first time in my life, I felt like a bird that had been locked in cage for so long and finally had the opportunity to soar as high as I could. I felt limitless, and that’s what I am. Although I will always have my roots in my little hometown, with the endless possibilities of the world, I can allow myself to bloom anywhere my heart desires.
Sarah Wallace is a native West Virginian, who loves to travel the world and experience exciting new adventures. She is a student at West Virginia University where she is completing Bachelors in International Studies, Political Science, and French, and attends the University of Strasbourg as an exchange student studying Political Science. After graduating, Sarah plans to volunteer in the Peace Corps in the Youth and Development sector, and dreams of one day becoming President of the United States (or the world).