Arts & CulturePersonalities

Look a little deeper: students open up about what makes them feel alive

At the same time that self-reflection can be liberating and encouraging, it can also be ugly and overwhelming. Peeling back the layers of our lives isn’t always glamorous, but it is often constructive and necessary and can open up space for growth.

In a spirit of self-reflection, the Emerald took to the streets of Eugene to take a deeper look into how students perceive themselves and how they experience joy.

(Left to right): Madison Sharp and Waileia Botelho, sophomores, are both UO students from Hawaii. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Waileia Botelho and Madison Sharp

Sophomores Waileia Botelho and Madison Sharp were standing on the sidewalk outside of Johnson Hall enjoying local cuisine from the ASUO Street Faire. Botelho and Sharp, who both moved from Hawaii to Oregon, acknowledged the stark cultural differences they’ve experienced. For them, adjusting to the noticeable lack of diversity was challenging.

“I would say that I am contradictory,” Botelho said when describing herself. 

The Emerald asked the two women to remember a time, whether it be long ago or recently when they were proud of themselves. After a moment of silence, Botelho proudly mentioned the volunteer work she does at the University of Oregon. Currently, Botelho is assisting SAS, Sexual Assault Services, to ensure a safer environment for students on campus both physically and emotionally, and to provide care for those affected by sexual assault.

Cahill Shpall

Cahill Shpall, a senior at the UO studying Biocultural Anthropology, said that he first came to the university because he saw a Youtube video of campus and decided to take a leap of faith. He moved to Eugene without knowing anyone who lived here or what he wanted to study.

“[I am] very emotional, but I am aware of myself. I can be a little much. I can come off pretty heavy,” he said. “I am a dichotomy between very friendly and sometimes kind of off-putting. I meditate at least, I try to do 20 minutes every day.”

Shpall wore a blue and white checkered flannel with a Carhartt vest zipped almost to the top. As he spoke, he adjusted his hat and rested his hands on the camera case that was draped over his shoulder — while making sure not to drop the ice cream cone he was holding. As Shpal talked leisurely, the ice cream started to melt.

Cahill Shpall, senior, lights up when talking about his horseback riding experiences. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

“I have this habit of doing things that I don’t think I’m going to do,” he said. “Before I knew it, I had like 4 campus jobs.” Shpall learned just how important it is to be able to manage time efficiently by working all over campus — in labs, as a grader, and as a UO ambassador.

Beyond academics, lab work and over-excited parents on campus tours, Shpall said nothing gives him more joy than horseback riding. “I learned how to ride a horse before I learned how to ride a bike,” he said.

On a recent birthday Shpall took his favorite horse, a Norwegian Fjord named Thumper, and rode to a nearby river where he went fishing all day. “I had this surreal moment where I was like, ‘What is my life right now?’” He compared the moment to a scene in the movie, “Dancing With Wolves,” where the main character courageously rides a horse across a battlefield while extending his arms out from his sides and tilting his head towards the sky.

Isaiah Daniels

A far cry from Shpal’s outgoing nature, Isaiah Daniels is a freshman at Lane Community College who describes himself as quiet and reserved, though willing to talk if someone engages him. He jokingly said that his favorite thing about himself is his height. “In high school, I was one of the tall guys, but now that I’m here, I’m one of the mid-to-tall guys,” Daniels said.

Daniels was cautious during the conversation at first; however, he had no shortage of words when asked what makes him feel alive. “Recently, it was bridge jumping,” he said. “Me and my friends went up to Moulton Falls in Battle Ground, Washington. We heard stories about people jumping off this bridge 60 feet above the river.”

He said the three seconds he spent in the air were some of the scariest, and as he got closer to the water he thought he was going to die. “Well, I didn’t have time to think, I was screaming,” he said. 

Looking deeper within ourselves might bring up a lot of junk that we’d rather not deal with, but it can also reveal some of the best feelings and moments of our lives; ones of pride and joy and fulfillment. “It’s really good to do check ins with yourself,” Shpal said.

He stayed standing where he was and attempted to salvage what was left of his beloved ice cream cone. 

Isaiah Daniels, a Lane Community College freshman, describes himself as a “listener,” but also enjoys thrill-seeking activities like diving from heights. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.



Tell us what you think:

Sarah Urban

Sarah Urban

Sarah Urban is an associate A&C editor at the Emerald from San Jose, CA.

For tips or questions contact her at [email protected] or check out her work at