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Molly O’Hara, Class of 2012

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French takes Molly O’Hara to the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies for its Environmental Policy masters program

Growing up, I never had a clear vision of the kind of career I wanted to have. However, my experience at Southwestern University taught me the difference between waiting for the right answers to appear and learning to know the right questions to ask.

As I progressed at Southwestern, my concentration formed around my love for nature and my love for the French language. While I often had doubts as to how I could combine these two interests into a career, my passionate professors and the intimate SU community constantly motivated me to get proactive and keep an open mind.

Through particular encouragement from my French and Paideia professor, Dr. Mathieu, I decided to upgrade my French minor to a double major in both French and Environmental Studies, which allowed me to focus on moving to France after graduation while continuing my studies on the environment.

Additionally, the hands-on research experience that I developed through the Environmental Studies Department was as much fulfilling as it was challenging, which is not always the case when tackling environmental issues. For fun, I devoted most of my time to the Southwestern dance team and to Judy Thompson-Price’s dance repertoire.

After graduation, I moved to Paris to teach English in a French elementary school. Because I did not have previous teaching experience, I reflected on some of the qualities that I appreciated most about my Southwestern professors, such as patience and devotion, in order to adopt similar relationships with my students.

Before completing my year of teaching in Paris, I applied and got accepted to the Environmental Policy two-year masters program at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, also known as Sciences Po. So far, the program has been wonderful, and I have been able to continue dancing through university courses.

During my first semester, a professor of social politics used my liberal arts background as an example for the class, claiming that such an education is necessary in order to create innovative, flexible workers. The high expectations that were set for me at Southwestern taught me how to set high expectations for myself and take advantage of opportunities.

In the next year and a half at Sciences Po, I have a lot to look forward to, including two academic semesters and a full-time internship. I will not only be taking classes taught by environmental advisors, scientists, directors, and researchers from all over the world, but I will also have the opportunity to work and network with them as well.

The older I get, the more I realize how privileged I am to have had, and to continue to have, such a rich education. Nonetheless, I have also come to realize that nothing can replace the feeling that I had at Southwestern, where everyone knows your name, where professors are always available to answer questions, and where a small community fosters a great sense of unique pride and friendship.