by Amy Gaasrud
I met Elizabeth Syson during our Freshmen Welcome Weekend at Taylor University. She walked into our dorm with a spikey fauxhawk, rings on every finger, and ripped jeans. She carried a sweatshirt though temperatures outside had been consistently above 90 degrees. Needless to say, she was not the kind of person I had been expecting to meet at my small university in the cornfields.
My perception of Elizabeth gradually changed. We became better acquainted through shared classes, and I discovered her witty sense of humor, incredible writing talent, and unique backstory. The fauxhawk is gone now—replaced by dreadlocks—and the ripped jeans and multitude of rings have been switched around, but the girl wearing them remains the same.
Elizabeth is a two-sided coin. At first glance, she seems average. She chose Taylor for the Professional Writing program, and like many professional writing majors, she looks forward to a day when she can simply sit and write or read, “to make a hot cup of tea and get comfortable . . . when I don’t have to feel guilty about not doing something.”
In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Criminal Minds, and Doctor Who. She plays the flute and sings. She loves to laugh, and her heart melts at fluffy creatures. She stays up until two in the morning accidentally and spends her first waking moments calculating how long she can ignore her alarm before actually having to get out of bed.
Although in many ways she resembles a typical college student, Elizabeth is quite unique. A missionary kid, Elizabeth moved five times before traveling with her family at age seven to Panama. The Sysons moved back to the United States when Elizabeth was eleven, spending a year in Michigan before settling in Arizona. This experience caused her to appreciate things like being able to call family long-distance, having good educational opportunities, and having a caring family. She speaks Spanish conversationally and wonders at the weirdness of being a racial majority again.
Her past isn’t the only thing that makes Elizabeth unique. There is a depth and an understanding in the way she looks at things. For example, her favorite superhero is Hawkeye, not because of his talents, but because he’s human. He has flaws, and he gets kicked down and depressed, but, he still comes back to fight for what he loves. “He pretends to have a big ego, but deep down he’s insecure about being human. It’s something I identify with,” Elizabeth says, adding that she is touched by anyone who stands up against the odds.
A deep-thinking, cockroach-owning, horseback-riding, swing-dancing lover of words and music, Elizabeth plays with the stereotypes of what a “normal college student” should be. She conforms to normalcy in some respects, but shines with uniqueness in others. Elizabeth is more than her major, more than her hair style, and more than you would ever expect at first glance.
– Amy Gaasrud