Aliyah3Editor’s note: Aliyah Polner is a junior at the University of Arkansas studying business in the Sam M. Walton College of Business and a student worker at the Arkansas Alumni Association. She recently shared her story about why she chose to attend the U of A.

I am a New York girl and I was raised by a New Yorkian family. When my mother’s health caused us to move to Arkansas when I was 8, my life changed. For the most part, I grew up trying to resist the situation I had been put into (i.e. the South). My family was, and still is, 1,400 miles away from me and on top of that, I felt as if I just did not fit in. My only goal was getting back.

However, when I was in eighth grade, my father and I decided to take a trip to Fayetteville for the first time. We’d frequently heard people talk about the place, but we hadn’t ever seen it. It was a spontaneous trip and we knew nothing of the area but somehow ended up at Bordino’s Italian restaurant on Dickson Street. Ironically, we were a walking distance away from the University of Arkansas campus. Though I was resisting, Dad wanted to see the school. We got to the Old Main lawn and he looked at me, nudged my shoulder, and said “You know, you could go here.” Naturally, I blew off his statement with a cold “Nah. That’s not happening,” and walked the other direction. That was my first encounter with Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas.

When I was a junior in high school though, Dad wanted me to consider all of my options. He suggested that I take a tour of the University of Arkansas even though I had no intentions of going there. Begrudgingly, I agreed to the three and a half hour trip.

Lo and behold, that tour had captivated me from the very beginning. The video we watched with the ambassadors at Silas Hunt Hall talked about a senior walk. Every graduate from the University got his/her name permanently etched into the sidewalk of his/her alma mater. I admit, I thought that was something truly great. My father even mentioned that he wished his school [Binghamton University] did something like that and he endorsed that it was special. After the video we went on a tour. Even though I’d already seen an incredibly beautiful campus, I looked at the sidewalk and had a chill. There was something about the fact that the school tried to remember all of its graduates that affected me. That was also the day I had first heard the term the “You of A,” and the phrase was instantly proven on the concrete beneath my feet. My perspective of the state’s flagship university had become much more positive. I felt as if I belonged somewhere and was valued.

Of course, despite my experience, when senior year came, I had not given up my hope of going back up North. That’s where my family was and that’s where they had all gone to school. As planned, I’d applied to Penn State University as well as Binghamton and was accepted to both.

In fact, I was so dead-set on attending Penn State that I even cried happy tears when I received my acceptance. However, I wasn’t going to give up on the University of Arkansas without seeing it just one more time. The little voice in my head said to give it one more chance and make sure that I was not giving up something I was meant to have.

The rest was history. I fell in love with the school all over again and undoubtedly knew that I had found the place for me. I turned down Penn State and despite being a member of a very small accepted population, I turned down the Binghamton School of Management. My freshman year I called the Hogs for the very first time and I was the first member of my family to experience SEC football. Most importantly though, in May 2016, I will be the first (and not last) member of my family to have my name etched onto the University of Arkansas’ renowned Senior Walk.