Posted by Joanna Haug
Santa Fe is a magical city, full of cool dry air and mountain ranges where strangers become friends, and friends becomes families—the 2015 McDermott Scholars can attest to that.
Throughout our trip to Santa Fe, I was constantly amazed. “This is my life,” I repeated to myself over and over again in disbelief. Judging by the similarly awed faces of my classmates, they often felt the same way. I could feel myself expecting to go home and return to normal, but now there was no “normal” to return to. I moved straight into my dorm and my new life and found myself missing my fellow scholars already, wishing they were around to make plans and talk about anything and everything. Because of Santa Fe, I feel changed but also prepared, even if I am unsure of my future. I have a strong community and support system that I learned to trust within days of being together. We bonded quickly, in part because we all really and truly wanted to be close. We threw away formalities as we talked, sang and danced late into the night. We trusted each other quickly, resolving old insecurities and giving each other the confidence to do our best in everything we tried.
Apart from becoming a cohesive group, we also became more mentally prepared to begin college together. We listened attentively to lectures, took part in discussions, toured museums, and hiked mountains — even when we didn’t think we had it in us. I never thought I would climb a mountain. I could look at them all day — and believe me, I did — but climbing one was a completely different story.
Throughout the trip, I did many things that were outside of my comfort zone, but this was the farthest I had ever physically pushed myself. On the way up, there were moments that I was sure I couldn’t make it. But when I reached the top and looked around, I was faced again with overpowering disbelief and gratitude. I had made it up the mountain because of my own strength, but more importantly, because of the people around me who checked on me and made sure I was alright (shout-out to Justin Raman for all the motivation!). When my group reached the top of the mountain, it felt like we had conquered uncharted land. We celebrated, and then spent a few moments in quiet reflection. To be honest, I mostly thought about mountains, and realized that I liked looking at them more than climbing them. But more importantly, I reflected on the strength of community and resilience.
There will be times when each of us believes that we can’t make it up the mountain, or can’t swing dance, or sing, or win a game of basketball against faculty members. We will not succeed every time we try, but when we do, it will be because of the support group that we began to form in the magical land of Santa Fe. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses, but each of us also powered through and achieved things we weren’t sure we could (I climbed a mountain and didn’t fall off of it!). I returned from Santa Fe knowing that my classmates and I are stronger together and more capable than we think.