Michael Bennett '19: Head First into Global Learning

Michael Bennett '19: Head First into Global Learning

There exists a few select moments that I can recall with impressive detail. From the color of my shirt to the hue in the sky to my scattering thoughts — everything replays with great clarity as if an old cassette player demanded it.

One such instance followed the sight of my parents driving off in the rental car that had just carried a sizeable haul from Target into my freshman year dorm room. I remember the red shirt I had just bought because this was my first school in 14 years of Catholic education without a uniform requirement. I remember the welcome retreat of the afternoon sun — conventional wisdom at USD asserts that move-in weekend always coincides with a heat wave. And I remember feeling lost.

The reality of my exciting solo move across the country finally smacked me on the side of the head. By the time my parents would reach our home back in Delaware, I would not know a soul beyond a polite introductory conversation within the next 2,000 miles.

In the face of this alarm, I set out on a walk across campus and found my way to its edge: the surprising greenery of the loading dock next the Shiley Center — site of my upcoming science classes and labs. I peered out over the edge of the railing perched over the whole of San Diego. The hurry of evening traffic along the interchange between the 5 and the 8 freeways was halting. The bays were busy with boats and barges. I noted a towering set of islands in the distance that I later determined to be los Coronados off of Mexico.

The vivacity of this place was tangible. Most importantly, this moment reminded me why I set out to attend a university so far from my friends and family. I demanded to see the world and to learn from it.

The first semester that followed went as well as I could imagine. With my renewed commitment to USD and its plentiful offerings, I launched myself wholeheartedly into a diverse course load, nascent friend groups, and the nightly caloric conquests necessary to make the freshman meal plan economical. I knew I had landed in the right place.

My days featured expositions to molecular structure theories, the Milankovitch climate cycles, and the harsh geopolitical world of Morgenthau. Each night I could look forward to gathering with friendly faces at the dining hall to chat about our respective days and to dive deeper into the exciting knowledge-filled world into which we had entered. Those talks often stretched into the early hours of the morning, but cut short by the requests of Public Safety officers to clear the building for the night.

For the first time, I was a member of a community which could passionately share in learning. Although always a strong student, I seldom ventured beyond the class rubric under the structure of high school. Now here, surrounded by bright individuals seeking to find their footing in a confusing world, I was engaged in active learning which transcended the classroom.

What followed from this awakening was a remarkable sequence of opportunities seized. I joined Model United Nations, and sat on the floor of the General Assembly in New York among peers intent on reshaping our collective future. I left the U.S. for the first time, participating in four months of development studies and research with my study abroad program in Bhutan. I secured internships with a refugee resettlement agency in Philadelphia and the office of U.S. Senator Tom Carper in Washington, D.C. I traveled to Jerusalem with the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering in an exchange centered on water technology. And most recently, I presented my honors thesis on cross-border water management in the San Diego-Tijuana region at a leading academic conference.

Each of these opportunities, although presented as footnotes in my time at USD, has broadened my view of the world and reshaped my goals as an actor within it. However, despite the appeal of these highlights on my resume, the most impactful experience was much more grounded. On a sweltering August afternoon in 2015, I found myself alone in an unfamiliar place. I walked across a campus and, in time, I turned it into a community.

When I look back at my four years as a Torero, the spirit of this community is what I will remember most fondly. I was fortunate to find myself surrounded by individuals that sought to catalyze change through nuanced understanding and relentless drive. USD is truly a light that calls out to changemakers.

As I embark on a world beyond this lovely campus, its bountiful gardens, and its cheerful faces, I will keep this spirit.

— Michael Bennett '19 has been an intern with University Communications at the University of San Diego this year. As a graduating Honors Program senior studying Environmental Science and Economics, he loves talking about water diplomacy, American politics, and the role of social media in our lives. Following graduation on May 26, he departs for the Republic of Moldova with the Peace Corps, and he is definitely not panicking about it.

Graduating senior and 2018-19 University Communications intern, Michael Bennett, reflects on his four-year journey as a USD student. His next stop is the Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova.Graduating senior and 2018-19 University Communications intern, Michael Bennett, reflects on his four-year journey as a USD student. His next stop is the Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova.

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