It’s Been an Honor

Amid bouts of Senioritis, I occasionally find my mind wandering into the bittersweet territory of leaving SMU after graduation on May 20th. As of writing this, I have spent 1330 days as a student at SMU. There are precisely 35 days until that is no longer true. It’s incredible how quickly time has flown by.

As I think back on my time at SMU, I could think about a lot of things. I could think about my first two weeks here, a time marred by horrible depression and anxiety. I could think about countless hours spent doing engineering homework. I could think about all the friends I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with here. I could think about how many of those 1330 days I’ve spent away from my family. I could think of how many times I’ve laughed during my time here or how many times I’ve cried during my time here. Often nowadays, I find myself thinking of all the good things that have made my time as a Mustang unforgettable and irreplaceable.

A constant on my list of good things about SMU has always been the University Honors Program. Yeah, I can hear you calling me a nerd right now, but hear me out.

My first day of classes in August 2013 was rough. I was battling intense homesickness, feelings of being overwhelmed, and worst of all, the feeling of being surrounded by people but completely lonely. When I walked up to the Honors Welcome BBQ on Clements lawn that evening, however, I felt some of that melt away. That night, I met one of my best friends, Casper, over barbeque and mariachi music. He’s also a constant on the list of good things about SMU. I left the BBQ feeling like even if adjusting to SMU was going to be hard, I could do it.

Ever since that day, the UHP has been my home here. I’ve napped in the Scholars’ Den more times than I can count (sorry for my drool on those beanbags). I quickly joined the Hilltopics staff as layout editor in 2013 and found a new passion in this newspaper. At the start of my sophomore year in 2014, I began my job as Honors Office Coordinator, bringing me closer to the inner workings of the program and giving me a chance to bring some of my visions for the program to life.

In May 2015, the UHP gave me quite possibly the defining moment of my life: a trip to Peru with an Honors art history course. I will never forget sitting above the ruins of Machu Picchu at six in the morning with other Honors students watching the clouds roll over the mountains. The historical and cultural experience of that trip was indescribable. It’s not every day that you meet a potato farmer at 15,000 feet who helps your class climb a mountain then insists on giving you a bag of his potatoes because he feels blessed to have met you. I still get emotional when I think about him sometimes and I wish with all my heart I could find him again and tell him what that encounter means to me.

My other Honors classes have been no less of indescribable and irreplaceable experiences. I spent a semester studying Dante’s Inferno with Professor Brandy Alvarez, who is quite possibly the most interesting and entertaining professor you will ever meet. Her passion for Dante was so inspiring, and I came to class every Tuesday and Thursday excited to unlock more secrets of the centuries-old text.

My favorite part of the UHP, however, is the two amazing people who run it: Dr. Doyle and Sally Spaniolo. I never, ever get tired of coming into work and talking with them or just listening to them. Their passion for this program is evident in how hard they work to support students and provide a truly enriching experience for all of us.

So in this, my final Hilltopics article as a student, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to my Honors professors who have encouraged me to think critically, to question constantly, and to listen endlessly. Thank you to Adam Herring for giving me an amazing week in Peru…and the last of your water on the Machu Picchu trail (I’m still convinced that’s why I didn’t die that day). Thank you to Brandy Alvarez for being an even bigger Dante nerd than me. Thank you to the staff of Hilltopics ever since 2013, especially to my editors-in-chief Tess Griesedieck, Kenny Martin, and now Terisha Kolencherry. Thank you to my friends in the UHP who graduated in 2015 for taking me under your wings when I was at my lowest point in life. Thank you to my friends in the UHP who will graduate with me for remaining a constant source of joy, intelligent dialogue, and support in my life for the last 1330 days. Thank you to my friends in the UHP who still have time left here for always providing fresh perspectives that my jaded senior eyes have overlooked. Thank you to everyone who came to share laughs and discussions at Mad Hatter’s Tea Parties, watch parties, Gartner Lectures, and UHP field trips. And thank you, readers and Honors students, for continuing to support this program.

Lastly, thank you, Dr. Doyle and Sally. I cannot even begin to describe the positive impact you have both had on my life during four short years here. You are both irreplaceable parts of the UHP, and I’m incredibly sad to be leaving you. I’m afraid all good things must come to an end, though, and my time with the UHP has reached that point. Fortunately, endings usually signify beginnings, and I look forward to seeing what the coming years have in store for the UHP. Although I won’t be around to personally witness it, you know I’ll be watching from afar.

To all of you who still have more than 35 days left here at SMU, hold on to every good moment. Our time here is finite, but the memories we make here will last forever.

As for me, my 1365 days are almost up, but my story is far from over.

It’s been an honor, UHP.

This article was written by Camille Aucoin. Click here to see more of Camille’s work.