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Amanda Duckwall

These past five years at UMSL have been more of an adventure than I ever imagined college could be. Moving to St. Louis from South Bend, Indiana, I had no idea what to expect. I am the first in my family to earn a Bachelor's degree, I didn't know anyone in this area, and basically had to figure out everything on my own. But along the way I have had some amazing experiences and have truly grown to love the university, the faculty, and the St. Louis area.

The Honors College faculty was the first people to really make me feel welcome and comfortable in the scary new world of college. My first class ever was an Honors freshman seminar, and I was so nervous I would say that wrong thing-or worse-say something so stupid the entire class would laugh at me. Although I love to discuss a good book, there was something intimidating about doing so in a room full of smart people who also love to read books. But the only memories that stand out now from that class, and my other Honors classes, are the friendly debates and laughter. Looking back, that class was a wonderful way to start my college experience.

As a Biology major, my classes have at times been overwhelming. It seemed like, at first, I would just spend hours memorizing information and diagrams and chemistry equations. It wasn't until the end of my second year when all the information started to flow together in my head, and I suddenly realized how everything I had memorized was connected. In my third year I began doing undergraduate research in a faculty lab, and got to see firsthand how the information from my classes applied to scientific research. As I have continued into another lab (the Marquis lab), my passion for research has grown. It is because of my experiences in the Biology department and in the labs that I have decided to pursue a PhD in Physiology this fall.

UMSL has fulfilled my needs for intellectual discussion, scientific research, and also for travel and adventure. The semester that I studied abroad at the National University of Ireland, Galway, was the best time of my life. I kissed the Blarney Stone, travelled frequently, had a Guinness or two, and occasionally found time to study. Without the study abroad office and staff, I never would have made it onto the plane and across the Atlantic.

And that is what has made my time here at UMSL so memorable and special-the faculty and staff who truly care about the students and want them to succeed. People will ask me why I moved from Indiana to come here, instead of going to Notre Dame or Purdue. At first it was the allure of moving to a bigger city that was not too far from home. But I stayed because of the relaxed atmosphere and wide range of opportunities available on campus. Truly, I am sad to leave UMSL and my home in St. Louis to move to Illinois. Although I know there are great things awaiting me in the future, part of me will always want to stay here, in that room at the Honors College where I had my first class, and remember all the good times I have had these past five years.