A Goodbye to Goodbyes

Guest post by ’11 Scholar Raheel Ata


My McDermott experience began with a pre-freshman research summer. I thought I was going to become a big scientist, but when I heard the words “viscoelastic polymers” and “Young’s modulus” on the first day, I quickly realized how little I knew about science. Luckily, I found refuge from the eight-hour days of polymer chemistry research by doing lunch in the McDermott Office. Those lunches taught me the magnificence of two-hour lunch breaks and began my journey of developing some of my most meaningful relationships:

Kim. From my first day on campus, you immediately took me in and made me so comfortable. While I sat there, eating my fried Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches (drenched with Polynesian sauce, of course), you told me about your life story. You asked me questions about mine. Freshman year, when I was trying to secretly create an iPhone app to takeover the restaurant industry with two other McDermotts, you listened to us. You bounced around ideas with us. You inspired us and encouraged us to take chances. Even though the app didn’t work out, you believed in us. You put so much faith in all of the scholars, and trust me, we all notice that and love that about you.

Eric. Or should I say Ron Swanson? With your thick brown beard, love for steak, and manly manliness, how could we not give you that nickname? We spent hours talking about everything: innovation, public education models, and sports – you name it. You made us laugh. You made us cackle. You told us about your frustrations, and you listened to ours. You gave us your ideas, and you listened to ours. Keep on doing your thing, my friend. Godspeed.

Reena. You may not be with the program anymore, but that doesn’t matter, especially since you’re only a few minutes’ walk away. I spent hours and hours in your office, trying to steal some wisdom from that wicked smart mind of yours. You pushed me to think bigger while remaining pragmatic. You helped me break down large goals into a linear roadmap with manageable steps. Your fluency in seven (plus or minus two) languages, decades of ballet dancing, and endless knowledge about the arts, humanities, and sciences showed me how little I know about the world. You challenged me to find meaning in my life, and through our numerous talks, I finally feel a little closer to doing so. Seriously, you’re the bomb.com.

Nicole. We – often with Kim – talk about everything: girls, fashion, annoying class assignments, smoothie recipes, Macbook options, you name it. You watched me miss shots left and right while playing whirlyball, fall on my face while running on the ice rink in broomball, and plummet to the floor when I got hit in the groin during dodgeball. You laughed at AND with me. You become happy when you see me happy. You are like the big sister I never had. (No hard feelings to my actual older sister…)

Diana. Oh Diana. You’re the Type A person in the office who gets me. We can talk for hours about Elon Musk vs. Jeff Bezos vs. Steve Jobs. We can talk about clothes, but more importantly, about disruptive business models in the fashion industry. We have tiny arcade guns that we use to secretly “pew-pew-pew” at each other, while keeping count. (Btw, it’s 14-3. Step up your game homie.) You got me into running and share book suggestions with me. Your drive and your standards push me to be better, and I love that so much.

Sherry. Although you’ve been working remotely the last year, I never forget you. You’re the person who listens to my sass and sarcasm. You’re the one who keeps our finances in check, while helping us stay on top of our paperwork. You got onto me when my study abroad proposal was only 350 words, not the minimum 500. (Recap: “How do you expect me to give you $8,000 to go to Oxford when you can’t even write me a paragraph about how you’re using it?”) Btw, when is that alumni stipend happening…I heard it’s a great way to reinvest in the program…

Dominic. It’s a shame that I had such little time with you, but it has been an awesome year. As scholars, we always worry if a new employee will fit the office culture. Your fit is above and beyond. Your witty office announcements, fun emails about opera tickets, and sheer bubbly enthusiasm give the office an exciting new flavor. I love that and cannot wait to see all the things you do for the program.

Molly. Your positivity and optimism are contagious. You always look at the positive side, even when things go wrong. You took me seriously, from Day 1. You call me on the weekends for my opinion and legitimize my ideas. You connect me with others whenever I hit a roadblock. You let me sit in your office for hours and talk about how to make the McDermott experience even better. You encourage me to be a leader and allow me to lead.

McD staff. We’ve spent so much time together. When others talk about the awesome friends they’ve made at their colleges, I always realize that some of my most meaningful relationships are not with fellow students; they’re with staffers – the McDermott staffers. Words cannot fully describe the impact you each have made on my college experience. And for that, you all have a very special place in my heart. Although I must move on with life and begin med school, I realize there are no goodbyes to say because we will be friends until the very end. Together, you make McDermott so special. You guys are truly amazing.

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