August 28, 2012

Nevin's Story

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I remember my SLU 101 distinctly. It was enlightening, to say the least. I remember sitting in one of your chairs listening to my SLU101 leader deliver an impassioned speech beginning with a memorable phrase: "There's something about SLU."

I remember looking at other students at my table. Most were nodding in understanding and agreement - they got it. For them, there was something about SLU, something that drew them there. For me, the phrase felt empty.

Looking back, immediately after SLU 101, I can only describe myself as one word: lost. Please don't misunderstand this phrasing - this wasn't an uncomfortable state. Instead, it reflected a certain complacency. I started my college career as a biochemistry major because I had grown up with science my entire life. My father worked in biotechnology research and my mother worked in a university lab. For me, my initial choice of major reflected an attitude of ease - adopting an academic route beyond familiar to me. I was lost.

In my first semester, I had the opportunity to take Crossroads, a class centered on the understanding of the Jesuit mission, engaging discussion with peers and participation in learning through service. In it, the principles of the mission were explained thoroughly and I began to understand that my education served higher purpose; that it aligned with these three tenets: the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and service to humanity.

Steadily, I began to question the assumptions I had made about myself initially. Perhaps my calling wasn't in studying something familiar and easy for me. Maybe a different academic route was necessary. And slowly, as these pre-conceived ideas began to crumble, a much greater understanding of the mission began to evolve for me.

These principles gained life as I continued with my career at SLU. In my sophomore year, I decided to change majors, switching from biochemistry to a contract major. For those that don't know, a contract major is an initiative pioneered by SLU students seeking to establish a new academic discipline. My new major was one that encompassed a variety of interests that I thought would best serve me in my future pursuits in the medical field and full of classes that would both challenge and inspire my individual pursuit of truth.

This pursuit, however, did not thrive only in the classroom. I began to apply it more concretely to other aspects of my life and opportunities began to arise.

This past winter, I boarded a plane to Honduras with other members of SLU's Global Medical Brigade. On this trip, students and doctors diagnosed illness and administered treatment in villages throughout the Honduran countryside. While there, I came to grips with a side of humanity that I had never experienced before. A pregnant woman had walked six hours with three small children and waited in the afternoon heat in order to obtain a pack of pre-natal vitamins. Even in trying to understand her actions, I slowly came to realize that the humanity that SLU's mission refers to are very real men and women; that the service it calls for functions as a demand for the repair of a broken world.

In that Honduran village, the mission had come alive. Service to humanity was no longer a simple phrase shared about intangibly in the classroom. It began to represent a motivation within me. It challenged me. The skills I was learning and applying served a greater purpose.

And now, as a senior, I'm entering my final year as an undergraduate. Looking back at these past years, I can truly say that I have grown. But, even now, I must admit I am still lost...happily lost in a community of peers that drive and inspire me, willingly lost in the challenges of a Jesuit education, ironically lost in that "something" that is SLU.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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