Nicole O'Connell

Nicole O'Connell '16, Student Trustee
Convocation Remarks
August 31, 2015

Thank you Dean Gallouet for that introduction and special thanks to you, President Gearan, for inviting me to speak today.

To the members of the Classes of 2019, you may recognize me from the Orientation Spirit Squad. We had a great weekend and I offer my congratulations on making it through your first day of classes.

I hope you are afraid and I hope you all cry at least once this week because you have multiple roommates, your professor already assigned homework, you miss home and you are constantly getting lost! Guess what?  I was in your shoes and look where I am now… Somehow I’ve convinced all of these people to trust me with a microphone!

When I was a first year, every day before class I would look at my campus map and pretend to not be overwhelmed.  I would slap a smile on my face and a flower in my hair even though I wanted to just talk with someone about how hard everything was.

What I learned is that it’s okay to feel lost, to not know what you want to do with the rest of your life, to fail and make mistakes. It’s okay to miss your family, your friends, your athletic teams, and your favorite teachers. It’s okay… It will all be okay. This is just the first step in your journey at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, one that will make you question your assumptions and expectations.

I thought my future was over when my perfect life plan began to crumble, when I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore! I also remember when it all started to be salvaged within the comforting office of Dean Lisa Kaenzig, across the kitchen table from the first lady of HWS, Mrs. Mary Gearan, and on the beaches of Australia while studying abroad.

I learned the most about myself when I quit something I thought was my dream and  switched my major from Biology to International Relations during Spring Semester of my Junior year (the very last semester that you can declare a major, people).

But here I am, an example that it still all turned out okay. It is because of HWS, the faculty, staff, administrators, and most of all my fellow peers that I have been able to accomplish all that I have.

My advice is to find your place here at HWS because there is one if you genuinely attempt to find it, and do not give up when your first try does not go as you planned. Challenge yourself to try again, to even try something completely outside of your comfort zone.

I dare you to take a course in a subject area you have no idea about, try out for a sports team that you think you will just warm the bench for, go up to a person you think you have nothing in common with and genuinely try to get to know them, join a club, heck start a club you gogetters! ALWAYS SAY MAYBE!

You never know what lies ahead and instead of being afraid of disappointing someone else, not fulfilling someone else’s expectations, embrace the unknown, take risks, and most of all stick up for what you love and what you believe in!

You got this, people and the only person that will ever hold you back from loving and embracing all this institution has to offer is YOU!

Enjoy it all and cheers to you, students of the Hobart and William Colleges Classes of 2019!