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I visited UMBC along with a few other potential schools in my junior year of high school. To be honest, UMBC looked like one large construction site. I ended up going to Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD for my freshman year of college--a school I chose for its beautiful campus, yes, but mainly because my best friend was going there.

After an unfortunate experience with some students at The Mount, I realized how passionately I felt about women's rights. A new calling rose inside of me and I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in Social Work and/or Gender & Women's Studies. However, upon searching for a major to fit my interests, Mount St. Mary's came up short. Soon, I was revisiting my second-choice colleges and looking into their class offerings.

UMBC had the widest range of majors and classes in my areas of interest, and--like The Mount--it was also close (but not too close!) to home. I was immediately drawn to UMBC's Gender & Women's Studies Program, incredibly curious and excited for the broad range of class offerings it provided.

Transferring to UMBC was hard. Finding friends on a campus full of mostly commuters was hard. I very often felt isolated and alone. But as my classes progressed, I fell into somewhat of a rhythm. I had class friends, and one or two good friends who I could eat and study with. It wasn't much and it wasn't really eventful, but it was something. No matter how much we complained about our workload or our professors, without UMBC we would not have been brought together in the first place. The Albin O'Kuhn Library, The Commons, and my classes themselves---these places were host to some of the most insightful, hilarious, and crucially important conversations of my life. It is also where I met some of the most hardworking, intelligent, and inspiring people I know.

UMBC presented me with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as interning for The Women's Center, and leading the Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL) student organization as President. UMBC was host to my greatest academic and personal struggles, and my greatest achievements. The Gender & Women's Studies Major utterly changed and shaped my academic and personal consciousness--constantly pushing me to think critically and deeply about the world around me. I would not be the person I am today without the Gender and Women's Studies faculty's inspiration, guidance, and teaching.

My time at UMBC was ultimately very challenging, in more ways than one. I lost a year of college to non-general education classes at The Mount, and I took classes at UMBC every single summer and winter break in order to graduate on time. My last two years at UMBC were heavily affected by depression and anxiety, making everyday tasks sometimes impossible. Despite these obstacles I am here today, an official alumna of UMBC. I'm incredibly proud of the work I've put in to get where I am now, and I'm excited to see what's next for me.

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Julia C. '13

We've just added your story to the Commencement 2016 homepage collection! Congratulations, from one Julia to another!

Richard B. '86

Congratulations from all of us at Retriever Stories!

Meredith P.

Congratulations, Julia!