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Waking up to Big Ben

AUTHOR: Nina Welding

PUBLISHED: May 10, 2017

International study opens a whole new — but often very welcoming — world. London, England, is a long way from Brighton, Mich., but Mary Kate O’Leary felt right at home.

A chemical engineering major who is also pursuing a concentration in biomolecular engineering, O’Leary spent a summer studying in London. Her classes — sustainability and business fundamentals — took a lot of her time but she was still able to explore the city and much of Europe with her classmates.

“The sustainability class was an eye-opener,” she says. “We learned how much humans consume and studied some of the most pressing issues society will be facing. We also got a firsthand look at what London is doing to reduce pollution.”

As demanding as the course work was, O’Leary felt that the people — her fellow students as well as those she met during her visit — helped her learn the most. From the real-life problem solving involved in international travel to the discussions about Brexit or just catching the tube at King’s Cross Station. “It reminded me that we’re all on the same ‘spacecraft Earth’ as Father Hesburgh said — that everything we do affects others. That’s what I want to take with me into my career, the idea of environmental responsibility for the betterment of all humankind.”

O’Leary describes her time in London as “the best experience of her life,” which is quite a statement considering she is heavily involved in a local tutoring program, the Right to Life Club, the ChemE car team, campus ministry, Welsh Family Hall council, and intramural sports. But it’s all part of her philosophy of travelling, learning, and growing together.