Through college, Brazil, Mexico and back
Mykel France is a blue shark.
Whenever the "If you could be any animal, which one would you choose?" question arises, Mykel answers, "I'd want to be a shark." "If Icould be a shark, it seems that I could get the best of everything," she says. "I could be at the top of the food chain. I could live without fear. And, not to mention that sharks can swim and I love to swim. Swimming is the closest thing to flying for me."
Her perfect day would include a swim in blue water. Mykel (pronounced Michael) adores the color blue, not just navy, royal, baby or sky, but all shades.
"It's a diversity thing," she explains. "It's the air, the water, the color of someone's eyes."
She even named her forest-green Ford Taurus Blue. Life doesn't come with blueprints. If Mykel had been handed a set of plans outlining her future before entering college she probably would have felt overwhelmed --out of her small-town comfort zone. She never would have believed it all possible. Her description of both sharks and the color blue accurately reflects the path she's taken.
In high school she enjoyed math and figured she'd major in engineering. She wasn't sure what engineers did, but she did know that they used math. The uncertainty of her future intimidated her, but she didn't let it hinder her.
"I had no idea. I graduated from high school and said well I'm going to go to college. I don't know what I'm going to do," she recollects.
When choosing a college, Mykel did not feel blue. As a first generation college student, she selected Utah State University after touring the University of Wyoming, Weber State University and the University of Utah. The Cowboys scared her, but she can't explain why. And neither the Wildcat nor the Ute campuses felt quite right either.
At first, she actually resisted the idea of becoming a part of Big Blue. A Lyman, Wyo., native, Mykel didn't want to attend an agricultural school. She associated farming with economic volatility and wanted her college choice to offer more financial stability--to sit at the top of the food chain. The Aggie campus struck her as lush, green and somewhat isolated, but it felt all right--not scary or great--just ok.
Logan may have lots of comforting woodsy-greens outdoors, but Mykel did not find the '70s, one-inch shag, lime-green carpeting of her Valley View Towers dorm room consoling. In fact, of the seven residence hall choices on campus, Valley View ranked last on her list. Her third-floor room felt like a closet, but not the spacious walk-in type. She laughs when she recalls first meeting her roommate, Joanne, whose initial comments to Mykel involved the importance of the word "Flush!"
"When taking a shower, hug the wall if you hear someone yell "Flush!" or you'll get scalded second-degree burns. If someone is taking a shower, shout Flush! before flushing," she told her.
Better than Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends" book, the ability to scream in a timely manner this considerate phrase guaranteed social success in college.
During fall quarter of 1994 --before USU switched to semesters--the third floor was arguably the most social level in all of Valley View. A group of avid card players lived there. They enjoyed nightly games of Phase 10, Rummy or War, and although Mykel set goals of going to bed by midnight, more times than not, the card games sucked her in often until 3 a.m. Mykel, however, wasn't always playing cards until the wee hours of morning.
The floor relished in playing practical jokes on Mindy, the resident assistant and one of Mykel's best friends. More often than not, the floor victimized Mindy, but she could dish it out almost as well as she took it. Once the floor's residents removed and hid all of Mindy's belongings. Then, they stood a couch on its end, and rested it vertically against Mindy's door, filling the void with all of the floor's recyclable cans and newspapers. Mindy even came home to find marshmallows stuck to her door and her bedroom floor covered in 2-feet of newspaper and toilet paper, all thanks to Mykel.
Mykel's first college friend Joanne, a sophomore, helped her adjust to college life. During fall quarter Valley View's basement flooded so Joanne and Michelle, a girl from the second floor, dressed in slippers, bathing suits and scarves and took a midnight swim in the foot-deep indoor pool. Mykel remembers that every snowfall a duel began between the third floor of Valley View and Mountain View's second and third floors. The boys battled ruthlessly, whitewashing faces, stealing mittens and ganging up for hard-earned victory. But girls don't give up easily. Joanne even persuaded Mykel to dress up in pajamas and grocery shop at Smith's one night.
All of these memories, along with a plethora of firsts define Mykel's freshman year. The college experience yielded her first roommate, male friend and boyfriend, which led to her first kiss on A-day atop the 'A' during spring quarter. Before moving to Logan, Mykel had never lived in a town with a stoplight or watched a soccer game. She also made her most memorable friends during her freshman year.
"My most meaningful friends have come from that year. A lot of people come and go, but for some reason the freshman year always sticks. That allows us to be friends forever," she said.
The following year Mykel and Mindy worked together in Merrill Hall as Resident Assistants (RA). Mykel supplemented her RA income with money that she earned working at the Junction cafeteria. And, with the move to Merrill, Mykel also switched her major, this time to psychology.
After her sophomore year, Mykel traded in the small town life of 1996 for the big-city experience, exchanging a city of 30,000 residents for one with several millions. For the next year and a half she served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. She "felt like an ant." So much for counting stoplights, the Brazilian government can't accurately tally this city's population.
After mastering Portuguese, she later moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to learn Spanish. While the snow fell last fall in Logan, Mykel enjoyed Mexico's balmy 70-degree climate. She took with her a 1-year certificate from the Bridgerland Applied Technology Center in graphics design, which she now uses in her work at Kinkos.
After returning from Mexico and reentering USU, Mykel changed her major for the last time.
"It's funny because everything that has happened in my life over the past seven years has been leading to public relations, even though I didn't realize it," she said.
She believes that her background in psychology, Spanish, Portuguese, graphics design and her travels all culminate in a career focused around public relations.
"Even USU's public relations club, Public Relations Student Society of America or PRSSA could be kind of a representation of what my life is like," she said.
She joined PRSSA this semester. The club's membership costs around $45 a year. Although she has yet to experience any benefits from membership, she feels that she has made a good investment. She anxiously awaits news on internships, activities, projects and a copy of the newsletter. She still has a year left until graduation when she hopes to find a job working for an airline.
The current state of the airline industry doesn't seem to bother Mykel. She'd actually prefer to work internationally. There she can experience other cultures and better use her language skills. She might even run into Enrique Iglesias! Posted on her refrigerator is a picture of the Latin singer
"If he were an actor, he'd be my favorite," she said.
Her taste in music ranges from tribal-African rhythms to alternative tunes, but no Macy Gray. Any "Batman" movie or television shows will please her, but no "chick-flicks." Her favorite reading material is the Discovery magazine and her textbooks. What she doesn't find time to read during the semester, she catches up on in the summer. Now that she lives off campus she feels that she has more control over her time. She can go to bed without listening to the card tournaments in the lobby. Mykel organizes and plans her active life and still makes time to jog. Her roommate, Bev, said, "She has to plan to be spontaneous."
When asked what she thought Mykel was like as a freshman, Bev laughed, "I bet she did it all. If someone said, let's go run naked through the forest, she'd do it. Mykel's a bit crazy, but a lot more planned. She plans dates we're going on to be spontaneous."
Marie, another roommate, echoed Bev's sentiments and added, "Mykel is well spoken and eloquent, she's our PR major."
Since high school, time has flown or swum by. Mykel has enjoyed life*s diversity and redefined the "blues." She has overcome her fears, challenged her comfort zone and expanded her abilities. Her blueprint of the past guides her to a future in public relations. She is a blue shark.
Mykel articulates, "It's just been a nice surprise of how my life has slowly turned into what it is."