Hello From the Other Side

Posted by Joanna Haug


Dear Finalists,

Remember that girl who had way too much energy, constantly reminded you to breathe and shamelessly plugged the McDermott Blog? Well… Hello… It’s me.


I have a lot of things to say to you, but first of all, congratulations! You made it through Finalists’ Weekend! Take (another) deep breath; you did it!

Now, enjoy these strategically interspersed behind-the-scenes pictures as I talk to you about my feelings and, of course, the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program.

About a year ago, I was napping on the floor of Love Field Airport, and my mother nudged me to ask what I thought about McDermott. I paused and my mind filled with a million possibilities. I could travel the world! I could learn another language! I could find my passion! I could help people! I could fulfill all my wildest dreams! I looked up at my mom and said, “I think I could do it” before falling into a deep, deep sleep. Prior to that fateful moment, however, I went through the same exhausting experience that you’ve just been through.

Throughout Finalists’ Weekend 2015, I wondered enviously what it would be like to be on the other side of this process. I wanted to naturally have a confident handshake, to own a pair of broken-in heels, to have all of the answers and, most of all, to have had even a small taste of the McDermott experience. Well, here I am. The handshake comes with practice, the heels still give me insane blisters, I like to think I have most of the answers (even when I don’t), and the McDermott experience is the best part. I have become part of a close community and, even now, am preparing for the next steps in my educational experience. Strangely enough, though, I was still nervous this Finalists’ Weekend. Obviously, I no longer felt the pressure of receiving the scholarship, but I had the nagging fear that something would go wrong, and it would be my fault.


Luckily, I managed to succeed in my immensely difficult task of knocking on doors during interviews (and got complimented on my knocking skills by multiple professors– no big deal). When glitches occurred, though, I remembered some valuable lessons I had learned during my own Finalists’ Weekend. Namely, to just roll with it. Last year, that “it” was the ice and snow that delayed flights and kept us from touring campus. This year, any missteps were minor. They were incredibly insignificant compared to the energy, intelligence, and camaraderie I witnessed throughout the weekend.

If it seemed like I was literally bouncing up and down at any point during Finalists’ Weekend, it’s because I basically turn into the Energizer Bunny when I have the chance to talk about what I love to interesting people. And I love McDermott. I love that I was pushed out of my comfort zone as soon as I arrived in Santa Fe. If we’re being completely honest, I love that I was pushed out of my comfort zone at my own Finalists’ Weekend (yes, I was that girl who was asked to sing in her interview). I love that I came to college and gained a built-in family. I love that I am becoming a better, kinder, more intelligent person because of the program I get to be a part of. I love that we get to expand our family even more after this weekend.

Being on the other side of Finalists’ Weekend isn’t exactly like I imagined. I don’t have my life entirely together, and my four year plan changes every other day. I haven’t accomplished crazy impressive things yet, but, strangely enough, this past weekend reminded me of why I’m here. You, Finalists, are a passionate, energized group of people who are ready to take on the world. Talking to you reminded me how glad I am to have found my home here.

No matter what your future holds, know that you have shared an awesome experience with hundreds and hundreds of incredible people. You connected with a group of strangers, had countless interesting conversations, ate lots of good food, and stayed awake through the symphony. You worked hard to do your best this weekend, and now you’re on the other side. Congratulations, and many thanks for letting us be a part of it all.

Best whooshes,

Joanna  (’15 McDermott Scholar)

2 thoughts on “Hello From the Other Side

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