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Authentic Eagles: Maimouna Sarr on Embracing Change

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working toward being more authentic individuals.

Maimouna Sarr, LSEHD '23

Change can be daunting. At its core, it uproots us from what we know and allows us to question new possibilities. While the anxious anticipation that is often accompanied by change can bring about feelings of worry and self-doubt, I often have to remind myself it is human to both seek out change and also resist it. Understanding that change is inevitable and necessary for growth is something I have found myself coming back to more recently than ever, as the internal questions of what I’ll be up to in the next 2-3 years continue to occupy my brain more often than I’d like to admit. In what feels like a chapter plagued with such questions and anxieties, I have come to acknowledge that part of accepting change requires embracing it. To embrace change means that to some degree, I must continue to learn to find ways to accept not fully knowing how my next chapter will shape out and find solace in this uncertainty.

When I arrived at Boston College for Orientation, I resisted change. I had come from a large public high school, and as someone not very religious, I was nowhere near familiar with attending a Jesuit Catholic institution. I paid close attention to the outfits of the other girls during my session, hyper-fixated on the number of APs everyone had seemed to take in high school, and thought that being undecided at the time meant that I was behind my peers who seemed to have their next four years mapped out. What I wasn’t aware of at the time, however, was that my own resistance to such a rigid timeline meant that I was slowly breaking out of the exact expectations I yearned to hold on to. During my class registration session with my academic advisor at the time, I had learned that a class I really wanted to get into was full, which essentially feels like a recipe for disaster for most incoming freshmen. The rigid expectations I had set for myself no longer seemed to be a possibility that fall, but rather, led me into a direction I hadn’t envisioned for myself but was indebtedly grateful for. 

It was in the crowded chaotic depths of the Rat that I registered for “Social Oppression & Change in the US,” an Enduring Questions course that fulfilled my first-year writing requirement and one social science. As a joint class for first-year students taught by Paula Mathieu in the English department and Lisa Goodman in the Lynch School, I was able to engage in critical discussions about the various factors leading to oppression in the lives of others, and more importantly, write about my own experiences and learn from those of my classmates. I not only found a class that I did not believe would exist at BC, but also a community of individuals whom I continue to call some of my closest friends.

Embracing this change served as a catalyst for both my studies and extracurricular involvements, where my learnings for a class I hadn’t expected to take my first semester allowed me to explore this passion in new ways. By the end of the second semester of my freshman year, a time fueled with much global uncertainty and uproar, I officially made the decision to transfer into the Lynch School and declare a major in Applied Psychology & Human Development and later a minor in Women & Gender Studies. I was able to lean into discussions I had begun in my Enduring Questions course, and put this work into action in my time as a staff member at the Women’s Center.

I later got consumed in both my work and classes, and soon my summers were filled with the goal of ensuring that BC felt like home to everyone. Whether that be speaking about my experience on a SAP tour or panel, or spending a memorable summer as an Orientation Leader, I entered my senior year in what one may describe as feeling “BC’d-out.” While I had allowed those around me to take in this institution with new eyes, I began to lose steam and questioned the intentions behind my actions in the first place. I knew I wanted to ensure my senior year held reminders of the ways in which I had learned to love a place I had entered with resentment, but I wasn’t necessarily sure how to gain that spark back.

I was told by my friends who graduated the year before me that senior year would bring new and unexpected friendships, opportunities, and plenty and plenty of full-circle moments. I wouldn’t say I necessarily believed them at the time, but later I learned that it would become a year I had to experience for myself. One that I couldn’t calculate nor anticipate, but was required to lean into amongst all the joys, anticipations, and uncertainties that came with it.

Little did I know, my decision to invest my time in new things during my final year would help me regain the spark I was so desperately seeking. I first learned about the Arrupe International Immersion Program while studying abroad in London my junior year. I applied in my small single that semester and interviewed on Zoom in what felt like an even smaller coffee shop. I initially applied to the program with the intention of experiencing international travel again, something I had grown to love in my time in London. In the hopes of re-experiencing this sense of euphoria, I eagerly accepted my spot on the South Africa trip. While I found importance in the Jesuit Catholic values of BC from afar, engaging in Campus Ministry programming was something not only I had never envisioned for myself, but also scared me. I worried that it didn’t align with what my first half of BC looked like, but I also knew that I didn’t want to feel stuck any longer.

In preparation for the trip, we engaged in discussions surrounding the Apartheid movement. Through reading Trevor Noah’s, Born a Crime, I was able to learn more about social justice issues in an international context. The most surprising aspect of Arrupe I learned was that the integration of faith and what it looked like in my own life was something I had full autonomy over. I found that the ability to take a step back and reflect is not only crucial for discussing heavier topics, but also for one's own mental health and well-being. I learned to embrace what once felt like uncharted territory for me, and make meaning of it for myself in ways that made the most sense. So I journaled, took way too many res walks, shared parts of myself in my decision to lead Kairos after Arrupe, and found myself leaning into the many old and new conversation partners I had as the time between the last day of classes and graduation dwindled.

It was through the challenge of both prioritizing my involvements and relationships in my final year at BC that I was able to regain the spark I had felt like I was losing. I have continued to learn the value of moving with intention, but also recognize that not one experience will ever look or feel the same as it did when I first entered it. There is both beauty and uneasiness in this, a feeling I knew all too well on graduation day and have continued to process this summer. While I have had time to reflect on the ways in which change has been both good and necessary for me in four years, I continue to struggle to make sense of it outside of the structure college has provided me. 

So I have found myself yet again going on way too many res walks, not passing up a coffee date with a close friend, and finding ways to recharge when I feel overwhelmed. While this does not eliminate the changes that both have and will occur since graduation, it allows me to focus more on taking everything day by day. I’ve learned to let both the beauty and uncertainties of next steps speak for themselves, and hold onto the memories and lessons my time at Boston College has forever afforded me. To embrace change requires an acknowledgment of growth. Without growth, we could not possibly move forward.

Maimouna Sarr