Dear Brigham Young University,

I’ll be honest. When I first got your acceptance letter, I wasn’t all that excited. I was happy to be offered admission, but only because it meant I had a backup plan. What did you have to offer that Penn State or Virginia Tech didn’t?

All I really knew was that you encouraged weird things like praying before class and that professors talked about spirituality. Although your interesting characteristics seemed amazing to some, they didn’t seem amazing to me.

I believe my distaste came from what I perceived as extreme religion and a strict Honor Code. You were unlike anything I had ever experienced, and the thought of your different culture scared me. Though I had no interest in you or exploring my faith at the time, there was something about you that pulled me in.

And, BYU, you were everything I dreamed of. There were times where I’d stay up late with people I came to love, and other times where I cried because of the difficulty of my classes. You gave me moments that I will treasure forever, and for this reason, I want to thank you.

Thanks BYU, for challenging me. Walking around campus, there was always something new. From a sewing class to a fascinating 3D printing course, a new challenge was always available. With everything you provided, I was eager to accept your offer to try new things.

One day, as I was headed up to my apartment in Heritage Halls, I read a poster saying, “Give Rugby a Try!” Eagerly, I put the try-out dates on my calendar and prepared for the big day.

Rugby quickly became my college adventure. From traveling to Washington State or playing local universities, I loved representing my school with the blue and white stripes on my back. I never thought I would be considered a collegiate athlete, but you, BYU, inspired me to try.

Thanks BYU, for giving me love. Coming to BYU, I thought I knew what love was about. As I left my previous idea of love and relationships, I entered a strange world where love seemed to be defined by an engagement ring. Although I stayed away from the dating scene, I met someone who left me daydreaming.

One afternoon the courtyard was filled with clubs. As I wondered if I wanted to stop by, one club caught my attention. I read “BYU Triathlon Club,” and my eyes slowly moved up into the light green eyes of the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen.

My quirky, fun-loving personality filled our first encounter with awkward questions about tri-suits and what sports were involved. I could have never guessed that our conversation that afternoon would lead to our marriage. I quickly fell in love with a man who would treasure me forever.

Thanks BYU, for being there for me. As a sophomore in the finance program, my semester was filled with tears and stress as my husband’s cancer flooded our lives. His dormant cancer had metastasized, forcing him to undergo chemotherapy. His suffering and diminishing personality during treatment left me feeling alone. His empty expressions and the lack of energy in his eyes broke every piece of me as I watched my husband temporarily disappear.

While all of this was happening, BYU, you were there for me. Although most of your students didn’t know, their smiles, optimism and humor filled my hurting heart. When I went to class and the person sitting next to me asked about my weekend, I was happy to have someone to talk to. Just for a second, just for a minute, my heart was filled by our human connection.

Steadily, our lives returned to their adventurous, goofy, selves as Seth, my husband, regained his strength and finished his treatment. Thanks to you, BYU, we didn’t have to do it alone. Instead, we were surrounded by loving support and hopeful thoughts as your students sacrificed their time to be there for us every step of the way.

Although you are not perfect, BYU, you were perfect for me. You gave me everything I have now and lifted my efforts into something I couldn’t have accomplished on my own. I am sad to have to say goodbye, but I am grateful for our time together.

So thank you, BYU. Thank you for filling these last four years with optimism and love. Thank you for giving me endless opportunities to learn, grow, and challenge myself. Thank you for the spiritually-strengthening experiences and for allowing me to pursue my dreams.

Oh BYU, I simply can’t thank you enough.

I’ll miss you,

Genesis Hinckley

Genesis Hinckley

Genesis Hinckley, a first-generation college student, recently graduated with a degree in finance from BYU. She will be heading to Boulder, Colo., to work for Google as an associate account strategist. Her passion is helping underprivileged teens realize their potential to escape the cycle of poverty. You can learn more about her story and efforts at www.genuinelygenesis.com.

Clarification: This essay has been revised to clarify that Genesis Hinckley's husband survived his cancer treatment and that the two of them are still married to one another.