1 Break the mold

Returning to Osland University for her sophomore year of college was bittersweet for Alyssa.

Her freshman year was a time of exploration and slight panic as she found her footing in the adult world. Everything was so unfamiliar and new, but it was better than being stuck at home.

She had her worries about coming back, though. As a Biological Sciences major, the classes were going to only grow harder and their demand for work would be higher.

She even watched people drop out in their freshman year because of being overwhelmed and burnt out.

If she failed, she'd have to go back home and be just as disappointing as her parents. She wanted to be better, to be more than the example she saw growing up.

Fighting her way through this bachelor's degree to get to medical school was her chance to finally break the mold. If she could handle the pressure.

After shutting the door to her single dorm room, Alyssa strode down the hallway of her dorm building to head to her first class of the day.

Psychology was just an elective that she needed to take to reach her course hours, but she found the topic interesting.

Even when she was little, school was always her strong suit. It was the only thing that she felt confident in. She was no good at sports, art, or music.

She couldn't sing, dance, or take beautiful photos. Acing her classes and being able to retain information were her only strengths.

At least it granted her a full scholarship. She wouldn't have had enough money to go to college without it, and she needed to get out of her parents' house and make something of herself.

Psychology 101 was in a huge lecture hall with around 200 people. It wowed her during her freshman year that a class could contain so many people.

Her high school classes had only 30 people at most. College was a whole different landscape, one that she was still trying to grasp and navigate.

Since it was the first day of class, Alyssa paused near the top of the staggered auditorium layout to decide on a seat. She gazed down at a sea of people in theater-style seats.

She didn't like sitting right in the front. That was way too much attention that she wasn't looking to draw to herself. She didn't want to sit in the back either with the obnoxious people.

She chose the third row near the middle and sat down in front of two chatty girls.

She could tell they were from one of the school's sororities because of their matching pastel green t-shirts with the white swirly letters of "KDP" on them.

Sororities weren't really her thing. Way too many rules and not enough privacy. That was a big reason why she chose a single dorm this year.

Alyssa set down her book bag between her white sneakers before fishing out a purple pen and her notebook.

She figured she could try to look for an on campus job so that she could buy a small laptop. Everything was moving online nowadays, and she was tired of always having to use the computers in the library to do work.

"I heard he's so hot," one of the sorority girls said from the row behind Alyssa.

"He's like a decade older than you," the other one laughed out. "Plus, he's our professor."

Alyssa hadn't heard anything about Dr. Pierce, their instructor for this class. She wasn't too in tune with Osland yet.

The only person she interacted with a lot was her freshman dorm roommate, who decided to live at one of the sorority houses this year.

Alyssa figured they wouldn't be BFFs for life, but it still had been nice to hang out with someone.

Now, she was back to square one of not really knowing anyone. Her classes were still a bit introductory, so she saw a lot of people that she would never interact with ever again.

Maybe things would get better later on in college in her smaller, more dedicated classes.

Suddenly, one of the side doors leading to the front of the lecture hall near the stage swung open.

A man in his mid-thirties strode through the open door with a leather messenger bag on his shoulder. His hair was short and light brown, and his lightly bearded face was adorned with black-rimmed glasses.

"Well, hello there," the blonde sorority girl with shimmery pink gloss on her lips purred beneath her breath.

Her brunette friend giggled behind the thick body of her yellow Hydro Flask.

"He could teach me a thing or two."

Alyssa narrowed her eyes slightly as she watched Dr. Pierce head over to a podium on the stage to set up his laptop.

He did look good in his light blue button down and dark jeans, but she wasn't drooling over him.

Once slides for that day's class were projected onto a large screen behind Dr. Pierce, the lecture hall started to grow quiet as everyone prepared for today's opening lecture.

Dr. Pierce strode toward the front of the stage with a warm smile.

"Welcome, everyone, to Psych 101. I'm Dr. Pierce," he introduced himself.

Alyssa thought that he already seemed like a pretty friendly and laid back teacher. She hoped she learned a good bit in this class.

It would help her when she pursued pediatrics down the line. Being able to read people and make informed decisions about behavior and actions were important.

"So, let's talk about what this semester is going to be all about. What is psychology? Can someone tell me?" Dr. Pierce asked as he gazed around the lecture hall.

Either no one knew or everyone was trying to still wake up since this was an early morning class.

Alyssa felt the answer on the tip of her tongue as she glanced around to see no one making a move to answer.

Her anxiety and her knowledge were clashing, but she had one single moment of confidence.

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