I still remember the excitement rushing through my veins as I opened a folder labeled “Loyola University Maryland,” wondering whether my fate was sealed in a single brief letter from the office of admission.
“Congratulations!” I read, continuing to skim the letter, “I am delighted to offer you early admission to Loyola University Maryland.”
My heart rate accelerated. Body heat escaped. Vision blurred. I stood with the letter in my hands, attempting to figure out next steps.
As a high school senior, I thought, “I’ve made it!” All I needed to do now was confirm my acceptance, purchase books, and register for classes…
And there was something else.
Throughout my enrollment process, I was prompted to learn about a program at Loyola that I would be participating in as a first-year student: Messina.
I’ll be honest. My reaction to this news was less than inspired. A mandatory program?
How is this program going to enhance what I was already anticipating as a pretty terrific experience?
Upon immigrating to the United States from Ukraine, I had experienced the “mandatory programs” of public schools, which were implemented almost daily. I still had a bitter taste in my mouth from the Common Core of my high school years.
Messina, as everyone confidently dictated, promised a different way of approaching my first year of college. I was going to be more connected to my classmates and Loyola’s faculty and explore Baltimore city and make connections outside the classroom.
The key was to believe. To give it a shot. To be open and optimistic.
Still skeptical, I registered for a section of two classes. Social sciences have been my ultimate areas of interest—specifically, the disciplines of economics and political science. I selected a Messina course pairing in this area of study, and I was pleased to be placed in my chosen section.
I was enrolled in U.S. History and Political Science. The class on politics was great news for me, but history courses have always baffled me. Textbooks filled with dates and details about nations that no longer exist didn’t really appeal to me. I had imagined myself a free college student, and I wanted to spend my time on subjects of interest. These did not include history.
On my first day of class, a tall man with glasses walked into our classroom. He took a look around, as though trying to figure out each student sitting in the room. The facial expression he carried was wise and soothing. He was definitely a professor. He introduced himself as Matthew Mulcahy, a professor of history specializing in natural disasters. He was the opposite of intimidating. And class was interesting. I was reluctant to admit a developing interest for history. I was stubborn to accept an emotional attachment to the subject.
And then one day, I realized something. I was supposed to feel this way.
Messina is designed for exploration and discovery, to push you outside of your social and academic comfort zone. To get you to open your eyes to things you might have avoided or overlooked before, and to see things from a new perspective. To see everything you learn in college in the greater context of a bigger, broader course of study for your life.
For me, history had represented a field in which age-old concepts and uninteresting endeavors dominated. But one professor and a class I would have never elected to take introduced me to what I have come to know this year as college: an experience where you just have to have faith in the system and trust the people around you. You will land on your feet.