Well, here it is. I graduate in less than a month from what has been my home away from home for the last four years. Where has the time gone? Where will I go now? Will I really miss the ’Hurst or will I be too busy in graduate school and, inevitably, my career, to think about it?
When I was in middle school, already deeply obsessed with medical science, I discovered forensic science on television and decided that was the field for me.
Obviously, I began looking for colleges that offered studies in this field and I discovered what was Mercyhurst College at the time.
I eventually had the opportunity to visit this campus during a 40-minute trip from my high school and immediately felt at home with its Catholic environment and the sense of community the property exuded. After finding out about its special program for students with autism, I realized that this was certainly the school for me.
After applying and attending several interviews, I was accepted to both the Forensic Sciences program and the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM).
My life at the ’Hurst began two months before most students as I attended what used to be the Foundations program for high school students with autism, where I met several people who would eventually become my close friends in all four years.
My first bit of time here was quite the transition, and I relished in it. I relished a little too much, though, as my mother had to remind me to contact her more than once a week. I did find myself trying all sorts of different things, finding out very quickly that yes, it is possible to bite off more than you can chew.
I found myself part of the Mercyhurst Athletic Band in its early days, before the days of our current director, Mr. Bob Reid. We were simply a small ensemble performing on the sidelines, but I still enjoyed it.
I could tell, though, that when Bob came into the picture during the middle of my freshman year that Mercyhurst was heading somewhere big. I am privileged to say that I was one of the founding members of Mercyhurst’s first marching band and I will look back at this in fondness.
I found myself switching in and out of different clubs and organizations on campus during my four years here, jumping from Anime club to Campus Ministry to Video Game club to eventually the Merciad, though I still have some involvement in Campus Ministry. With every year, I would also find myself making new friends and saying goodbye to graduating friends. Each year brought something different; yet a lot of it also seemingly blended together.
The spring semester of my sophomore year was when things really started to transition to a more college-like life for me. There was dating drama. There was friend drama. Classes got tougher. I had solidly decided upon my career path as a future forensic pathologist upon starting research in the Chemistry department and passing my sophomore review.
I celebrated the halfway point of my undergraduate education by spreading Autism awareness through Conquer the Canyon. My friends and I trekked the South Kaibab trail after months of training. One thing to know about hiking the Grand Canyon: once you hike down, you have to hike back up, which is even more work.
That summer, I worked as a peer mentor in the Foundations program, offering guidance to future college students with autism and befriending many who would eventually find themselves at Mercyhurst.
Luckily, that summer, I also managed to get my driver’s license, allowing me more adult freedom.
It would be junior year, however, that life would begin to get difficult. Three labs and an additional math class were how both semesters ended up for me.
Between my busy summer, heavy course load, the growth of the Mercyhurst Athletic Band, my recent participation in the Merciad and the formation of AIM’s new Career Path program, I found myself deep in the state of burnout by February 2016.
I ultimately accepted the fact that with all of this into account, I would not always be able to maintain a perfect GPA like I did in high school.
To make up for it, I was proud to have been able to relax more that summer.
I worked one day a week as a lab intern for the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, and then job shadowed a surgical nurse at St. Vincent Hospital another day, further building up my skills in the biological sciences while exposing me to what I may expect in my future medical training.
Senior year was a lot easier for me. Like my freshman fall term, I managed to only need one lab per semester.
Fall semester was where I could consider myself a member of the Mercyhurst Marching Band with us finally performing drill for the first time.
However, to say that senior year has been “easy” is a bit of a stretch. First of all, some of my classes have been a little difficult this semester.
I am expecting good grades, but I am working hard for them. Secondly, I have been filling out quite a few applications for jobs, service corps, and graduate schools.
It appears, though, that these are paying off. I have been accepted to the Organizational Leadership certification program here and I have been invited to interview at LECOM in a couple weeks, giving me at least two options for next year.
However, this being the big one, my third struggle this year is realizing that I will not be seeing many of my friends next year.
Luckily, the options I have will not put me too far from campus and I should be able to visit regularly, but it won’t be the same and I will have my own concerns that will detract from any visits back to the ’Hurst.
As this semester has gone, it seems like the path to graduation is coming faster and faster for me—a little too fast for my tastes.
My friends and I have had several different plans over the years, though the likelihood of being able to do them all are rather slim.
I saw the rise of the Mercyhurst Marching Band and the growth our campus has engaged in under President Michael T. Victor. Many of us in Campus Ministry being able to march in D.C. for the 2017 March for Life with the opportunity to see Vice President Mike Pence in person and the growth of the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst with the launching of the Career Path program.
If there was anything that I wish was different during my time here, it would be for the school to re-establish its Catholic identity and for the restoration of a truly Catholic college.
Regardless of my campus’ lack of authentic Catholicism, I feel there has been more than enough good for me to prize my four years here.
I will always value my life as part of the Laker community, and I am proud to be able to call the ’Hurst on the Hill my Alma Mater.