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Q&A with Flowery Branch senior Kelsey McQueen, who attended GHP
Kelsey McQueen with a friend on the lawn at Valdosta State University. The students completed a long application and several interviews to attend the Governor’s Honors Program.

Learn more about the Governor's Honors Program and other local students' experiences.

What did you attend the Governor's Honors Program for?

I was a communicative arts major and a songwriting minor.

How was your experience (positive or negative)?

My experience was different than others, I think, as I actually did not enjoy my first few weeks there. I was quite homesick and overwhelmed, and this definitely started out being an obviously negative thing. However, I eventually found incredible friends and began loving my time in Valdosta and learned so much about communicative arts and music, but also, about truly being present wherever you are in life, a hugely positive thing.

Can you tell me what your day looked like?

In the morning, my lovely roommate Zuri would wake me up a little earlier than I liked, and my day would start with a cup of coffee and a quick gathering of my daily supplies, including my terribly heavy guitar and case. Then, I would walk out of my dorm hall with my friends to West Hall, where the communicative arts students studied on the second floor, and there I would be in class until about 1 in the afternoon. I took classes on "Othello" by Shakespeare, the nature of evil in the movie "The Godfather," interacting with strangers, filmmaking and even cannibalism. At one, I usually chose to walk to the Chick-fil-A on campus and eat with some friends before heading to the fine arts building, where I studied songwriting and actually recorded and produced an album until 4r in the afternoon when I was free to go work out, eat, nap, go to seminars or my favorite, join the impromptu jam sessions on West Lawn.

Are you still in contact with people you met in Valdosta?

I speak to my GHP friends every single day, without fail. We have so many group messages, and I love it so much, because they are the people that challenge me and make me believe better things. Actually, my best friend from Valdosta is talking about rooming with me next year in college, and we want to major in the same thing.

What did you learn?

I learned how to be a really good human and how to keep the faith, even when it's most difficult. Is there a specific end result that was visible to you (like a concert or a paper that you wrote)? I wanted to finish my novel, and while that didn't happen, I have a notebook full of new pieces to show for my time there.

Were there any entertaining things that happened?

Far too many to name. I think my favorite, was when a very nice political representative came and made the dreadful mistake of answering, "No," when a young theater major asked if he was a feminist in a room full of young, liberal, gifted individuals. In his defense, he is a sweet and intelligent man, but this was a grave mistake considering where he then found himself. It was terribly entertaining for days to come. I also loved the various creative projects. It wasn't odd to see a person with a mask on their face sitting on the lawn by themselves with a sign that read, "Tell me your worst fear." That's also what I miss the most, I think. The ability to create without fear of being rejected.

Were there events on weekends for students?

On weekends, we had themed dances. My favorite was the decades dance, as I am quite the grunge fan. Otherwise on weekends, we just went to seminars and relaxed. Sometimes, as in my case, our parents would come down and take us to St. Augustine for the day or to Mellow Mushroom. My favorite weekend activity, as odd as it sounds, was eating Chinese food in the laundry room while I washed clothes with friends.

What did you minor in?

I was a songwriting and recording minor. I felt so out of my element, as I only recently began teaching myself to play guitar, but it was so amazing to actually produce an album. I learned so very much.

How has GHP changed your outlook on your future or career?

I am leaning more towards a career in music than ever before. The astonishing love and support I received for my music, my dreams, and my ability to play and sing hasn't been matched since I left Valdosta. And for that I am so thankful, as I want to play music more than anything. However, I still intend to write my novels and poems, etc. I can't forget my communicative arts friends.

Would you recommend GHP to others who have been nominated? If so, why?

I would recommend GHP with every fiber of my being, because, simply, you will not leave with a heart unchanged. I can't explain that place; no one can. But I can tell anyone, if you get the opportunity to go, go swiftly, as you will have your eyes opened to a world of beauty, hope and so much love. You will know, finally know, that you are not alone.

What is your advice to future GHP students?

Go swiftly, go entirely. Don't think constantly of home, as the grass is not always greener. And please, wherever you are, be all there. Oh, and please don't go in with grade, specific expectations as GHP is different and means something else for everyone, and as in all other areas of life, there are some difficult parts, like the startling lack of restaurants and good coffee.

Were the classes difficult or relaxing? Elaborate.

I began to tear up thinking of my classes, as they were absolutely refreshing. They were difficult mainly in challenging each of us to open our eyes to ideas previously not considered and in showing each of us that the world is much more complex than we ever dreamed. They were difficult in that we literally questioned everything, even the foundations of life we held most dear, and that was scary. But, they were so relaxing too, because we didn't have grades. We were there because we truly wanted to learn.

Did you find one subject that you are interested in pursuing in the future?

Songwriting and playing music.

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