To all the high school students near and far, I invite you to meet Mount Holyoke. Especially those of you who are not aware that women’s colleges even exist — as was the case when I began my college search process. The schools I was initially interested in were mainly co-ed, on the west coast and definitely housed more than 2,200 students.
It was my mother who first found Mount Holyoke. She raved about how it would be the “uncommon but impeccable choice,” and how she was absolutely certain that she could see me here. As I began receiving college acceptances, there was only one that made my mother cry — the one from Mount Holyoke. When I flew up to experience campus for myself during MHC Preview weekend, an event for admitted students, I was ecstatic. I had never been to the Northeast before, but I soon realized I had an opportunity to enjoy a life I had never imagined.
The Moroccan sun was blazing outside, lighting up Rabat, the city that would come to feel like a second home to me. In the maze-like medina, the oldest part of the city, women were bargaining for fish and bread. Pastry chefs were selling fresh almond candy to children who were leaving school for their afternoon break.
Old men sat in cafes on the side of the road — smoking cigarettes and sipping espresso for hours, talking to old friends. Fishermen were hauling their daily catch in the bay next to Le Dhow, a traditional Arab wooden boat with a bar inside. Businessmen were catching trains and university students were cramming into trams. And in the middle of the city was me. Sitting alone in McDonalds, eating french fries and crying my eyes out.
In my final semester at Mount Holyoke (I graduated in December 2018), I’m hit with waves of nostalgia as I see the places and people that have become important parts of my journey — that from a naive, timid first-year student to a pretty bold senior. But if you had asked 17-year-old me if I would get to this point of nostalgia, or even get through these four years, I’m pretty sure I would have scoffed. Loudly. That’s how unfathomable the idea once seemed.
After my first year as a Mount Holyoke student, the thought of being back home for anything longer than 20 days was unsettling. Not because I wasn’t happy to go home, I was. But merely because my first eight months on campus had impacted me much more than I had anticipated. Here’s why.
When the weight of a global topic feels too big — too daunting, too insurmountable, too entrenched — people often feel too small. Too small to effect change and too small to lead the way forward.
When the weight of a global topic is tackled via a movement of audacious individuals — who are open and willing to share their stories of successes and struggles, collaborations and innovations — a palpable shift can begin to unfold. The shift from “this feels impossible” to “this feels possible” requires a spark. A spark in energy, in mentors, in collective thought and momentum.