Home sweet home
New England is known for its tight-knit
communities, rooted by a sense of neighborly hospitality, community, and
long-standing tradition. So it’s understandable that after growing up among the
gentle hills and woods of Concord, New Hampshire, Amanda Unger expected her
journey to Northern Arizona University – across the country in the wide-open
American Southwest – to come with some culture shock.
However, Unger, a senior psychology
major, would find the northern Arizona community was closer to home than she
anticipated, and not just because of the generous winter snowfall.
“I got that home town feel of New
Hampshire as soon as I arrived in Flagstaff,” Unger says. “I was expecting it
to be less connected or friendly, but once I arrived, I saw it was nothing like
Unger left much of her family in the
process of moving out west. Having grown up as the youngest of four siblings
with a single mother, her departure proved an initially intimidating decision.
“My entire family lives in New England,”
Unger says. “I’m the only one in my family who left. People don’t get out of
New England very much, so when somebody does, it’s scary.”
Naturally, Unger struggled with the
distance at first - a thousand mile gap separated her from her loved ones. Her
free time was spent balancing coursework and Skyping with her mother and
“The transition wasn’t always easy,” Unger
says. “There definitely were some struggles along the way. But after
my first semester, I started coming into my own.”
Unger cites her resident assistant in Wilson
Hall as integral in getting her involved with clubs, organizations, and
other on-campus happenings.
“I was honestly surprised by how nice
everyone was and how much they wanted to help me,” Unger says. “I call this
home now. My family had bets for when I would transfer back home, and I proved
active and engaged
As she continued to grow more comfortable
at the university, Unger’s education began to flourish. In addition to her
psychology major, Unger took on a minor in sociology to better round out her
education. Within the department, she names Risa Garelick, a part-time
instructor, as one of her most influential faculty members because of her
ability to aid students with their goals.
“She was my favorite professor,” Unger
says. “She makes the classroom very comfortable, and encouraged me to talk with
her about attending graduate school, which was really helpful.”
Unger has also flourished outside the
classroom as a web publisher for the Marketing
Department. In her role, it is Unger’s responsibility to maintain numerous
university websites. Venessa McCallie, Lead Publisher for University Marketing
and Unger’s supervisor, explains what a valuable asset Unger has become to the
“Amanda is very knowledgeable about the
technology we work with, and is quick to pick up new systems that we implement.
We have a large role in supporting clients who maintain the sites that we build
for them, and that’s where Amanda really shines. Her strength is guiding our
clients in a way that they can understand. She’s patient and thorough,
whether it be on the phone, through e-mail, or in person.”
McCallie explains Unger has left an impression
both on her coworkers and the clients she assists.
“Amanda has always been a favorite of
our clients,” McCallie says. “Many times,
they call the help line and ask for her by name. There is no greater
endorsement than that on our team. She’s irreplaceable.”
Unger says her co-workers, as well as
her mentors, have combined to create a support system that rivals the one back
in New Hampshire.
“I love it here,” Unger says. “It's really important when you move so
far away to find people like I have here at this job to help you be comfortable
and feel loved where you are,” Unger says. “If I didn't have these people,
I may not have come out of my shell as much, or have learned about so much of
the things around Arizona that I should check out."
a worldly view
Unger says arriving in Flagstaff helped
her embrace a broader mindset through her interactions with different cultures.
“Honestly, we don’t see much diversity in the
Northeast,” Unger says. “I can’t get enough of visiting new places now and
talking to people about different views we have just because we grew up in
different areas. I go home with new stories every time I visit.”
In her spare time, Unger enjoys exploring
the northern Arizona community, including the Navajo Reservation, the Lava
Tubes, and the red rocks of Sedona.
“With every new place, it’s always
another culture shock,” Unger says. “I’ve made it a point to go to all those
little landmarks so I can learn these aspects that make Flagstaff and Arizona
Unger hopes to draw upon this worldly
experience as she prepares to apply for the Peace Corps. and eventually
graduate school. She hopes to become a behavioral therapist, a job she feels more
than prepared for after carving her own identity at the university.
“Coming out here has taught me a lot
about other cultures and other people’s points of views,” Unger says. “I’m way
more outgoing, and you need to be that when you’re working with kids. I feel
like I’m more confident; I’m a much different person than I was freshman year,
and I’m really thankful for that."