No Regrets

Friday, June 13, 2014 12:00:00 PM

by Monica Kling, Bachelors of Arts in Religious Studies, '14

Around graduation, it is my belief that every graduate has that moment when they sit and look back on their college experience in its entirety. You first have this feeling of, “Oh my goodness, where did the time go?” (which is somewhat ironic since just a month prior you were telling everyone, “I am SO ready to leave!”). Then, you look back at the good, the bad, the noteworthy and the mundane, and you ask the toughest question of all: “Any regrets?”

For me, this moment was on the way to graduation, when I was riding with one of my best friends singing “The Best of Times” by Styx at the top of our lungs, just taking it all in. After the song was over the two of us started talking about the last four years and our shared experience, and I began to reflect on mine.

Monica Kling graduation

From the moment I first toured Stritch, I knew that this school was someplace that I could see myself. When choosing a college, you aren’t just choosing an education but rather a new home: a place where you experience new things, learn important lessons, and have people there to support you along the way. My first impression of Stritch was that it was such a place for its students and the community vibe is what drew me to it. Like any student will tell you, what sets Stritch apart is the people, because it’s not just a building, but a home.

Upon my application, finances were a problem for me, and I knew that without an amazing scholarship I would not be able to afford a full four year degree at Stritch. Luckily my admissions counselor strongly encouraged me to apply for the Honors Scholarship, a full tuition scholarship for the entirety of my degree. I went through the application process, and got a life changing phone call: “Congratulations Monica, you have received the Honors Scholarship!”

Cardinal Stritch University had given me one of the greatest gifts I have received, a debt-free education. While this alone is an incredible honor, Stritch continued to give me incredible opportunities over the next four years.

I came to Stritch with a desire to study religion, but unsure of what exactly I wanted to be when I “grew up.” Luckily, I had the support of my teachers in all of the disciplines, as they were not only there to teach me the material at hand but to support me in my own personal growth. 

Outside of the classroom I was challenged to grow in my vocation by the staff and students involved in the Franciscan Servant Scholars Program (formerly Religious Scholars Vocation Program). Through this program I would be asked challenging questions, have individual meetings to reflect on my experiences, and given field experiences and internships. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and with my own village, I grew from a new, unsure student into an aspiring intellectual with a passion for interfaith dialogue and comparative religions.

Looking back on my Stritch experience, I was able to be involved in many different clubs, organizations, and departments on campus. To name but a few of these opportunities, I was a co-founder of the interfaith group AWE: All Worldviews Expressed, participated in many aspects of Campus Ministry, was on Residence Life Staff, managed the campus coffee shop The Bean, and even coordinated a week-long event to raise awareness for human trafficking through the Red Thread Movement. From all of these experiences, I was given opportunities to not only explore interests and passions of mine, but was also given the chance to display my leadership and grow.

While I learned and gained so much from my time on the campus of Stritch, probably the most influential experiences were the ones in which Stritch showed me the world. My incredible journey around the world started with the Franciscan Pilgrimage, a journey through Italy which not only opened my heart to the Franciscan Tradition but also gave me so much clarity regarding my own life. After that I decided that traveling would be a priority for me and took advantage of the opportunities Stritch provided over my time there. In four years I not only went to Italy, but also Tanzania, New Jersey, Mississippi, Washington D.C., Georgia, and eventually England to spend a semester abroad.

These experiences gave me the opportunity to use what I learned at Stritch in the rest of the world: I served like St. Francis, studied like St. Bonaventure, and embraced community like my Stritch family had taught me to.

Monica Kling semester abroad

My time at Cardinal Stritch University has been nothing short of an adventure, filled with all different people, places, and experiences which I will carry with me for the rest of my life. My adventures will not stop here, but rather will take me to the University of Bristol in Bristol, England where I will study for my MA in Religion.

While the distance will be far between Stritch and Bristol, I think this huge change is a testament to how well Stritch has prepared me for the next stage of my life. When I entered the university, I was a freshman with little desire to live outside of Wisconsin, let alone the country, and had much to discover about who I was and what I wanted to do. Now I am leaving this place to follow my dreams in another country, a self-discovery which I owe to Cardinal Stritch University.

So to answer my question posed at the beginning, I have no regrets. I mean, college always has its ups and downs; times when people let you down and others when life gives you a hand. But to me, looking back, if I were to do it all again I would do it the exact same way. I am amazed at the experience I had at Stritch: wonderful people, an incredible education, and life-changing adventures in just four short years. Moving forward, my hope is that I can continue with the greatest lesson that Stritch has taught me: if you experience life with an open mind and an open heart, you will have no regrets.