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Looking back, looking ahead

Megan O'Neil | Friday, May 19, 2006

Like for so many other people connected to the College, Saint Mary’s has been a tremendous gift in my life.

It came first in the form of friends. When I stepped off my flight from California in August 2002 I felt more than a little skeptical about attending a Catholic women’s college in the Midwest. I was quickly embraced by my roommates and neighbors in Le Mans Hall, however, and invitations for Fall Break and Thanksgiving came within weeks.

Indeed, at Saint Mary’s I would meet the friends who keep me laughing until the early hours of the morning. These are the women who, sophomore year, filled my mailbox with cards after the death of a family member. These are the same friends that spent long nights with me in Trumper as I labored through my senior comprehensive and other such grueling projects.

The gift of Saint Mary’s came in the shape of professors. The classrooms of this College are blessed with individuals who are passionate about their area of expertise and the quality of the relationships they maintain with their students. Every office visit I ever made over my four years here included not only solid advice about the course work but also genuine, personal conversation.

Further, I will never forget the emotions of hearing a professor’s voice crack in the middle of a Pablo Neruda poem. Nor will I soon forget, I imagine, the experience of writing to a death row inmate as part of a lesson on capital punishment.

The gift also came through classmates. At an institution the size of Saint Mary’s it is not unusual to find yourself in a room wherein you are one of only a handful of students. This changes the dynamic of the education experience as you learn from your classmates as well as from the instructor. I was continually amazed at the intelligence and hard work put on display during discussions and peer editing sessions. I have no doubt that the women I studied with here will go on to be the trailblazers in their fields’.

The gift came by means of teammates and coaches. Even after the most stressful day of classes or in the midst of a really tough practice they succeeded in motivating and energizing me. It was always with a strong sense of pride that I braced myself at the starting line of my cross country meets with the French cross emblazoned across my jersey. In addition, long rides to competitions in the Belle Mobil was the setting for some of the most hilarious and some of the most heartfelt conversations I had as an undergraduate.

At 22 it is difficult to know exactly what impact my four years at the College will have on my future. I can say without a doubt, however, that when I am handed my Saint Mary’s diploma Saturday I will have received a gift that I will carry with me forever.

Megan O’Neil is the graduating Saint Mary’s editor. She can be contacted at onei0907@saintmarys.edu