Honors Graduate Reflects on the Gifts of a UConn Education

Guest post by Rebecca D’Angelo ’14 (CLAS). Rebecca, currently a university specialist with UConn’s Honors Program, has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to serve as an English Teaching Assistant in Norway from August 2015 – June 2016. Her time will be split between serving as a TA at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and as an instructor at the Byåsen Upper Secondary School in Trondheim.

Rebecca D'Angelo '14 (UConn)
Rebecca D’Angelo ’14 (CLAS), pictured by a Kalafa tree in the Dandenongs, Victoria, Australia. (From her collection)

When I traveled to Australia during the summer of 2013 to conduct research for my senior Honors thesis, I was asked a lot of questions about America from the young Europeans and Australians I met there. They were very curious about American food, specifically Pop-Tarts: what do they taste like, why are they frosted, and can you really toast them?

Australia has an established backpacking culture, with young travelers on break from “uni” frequenting Australian hostels year-round. Naturally, we swapped notes about the colleges we came from, so even 2,100 miles from home UConn was never far from my mind.

My time spent in Australia is one example of why I feel grateful I chose to attend the University of Connecticut as a scholarship recipient. In May of 2010, I graduated from Wheeler High School in North Stonington, and spent my senior year documenting my college selection process for my local newspaper. Though offered admission to an Ivy League university, I chose to attend UConn because I was offered the Nutmeg Scholarship with my admission.

During my four years at UConn, I was active in the Honors community, receiving the Holster First-Year Grant in my freshman year to conduct research on whaling and sealing in the sub-Antarctic.

Three years later, a grant from the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) made it possible for me to continue this research in Australia for my combined Honors and University Scholar thesis in History.

The academic and financial support I found at UConn was galvanized by the talented group of scholars and friends I found upon arrival. Outside of classes, I served as a senator and executive member of the Undergraduate Student Government, was welcomed into the Leadership Legacy Cohort, and later helped plan the very first TEDxUConn conference.

Each year at Open House, when asked by prospective students about my favorite part of attending UConn, I would point to friends who were my colleagues in each of these initiatives. I’d then encourage admitted students to look around the room. “Do you see the people standing around you?” I’d ask, “They’re going to change the world.”

In my May 2014 commencement address for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I reflected on the gifts bestowed by my UConn education: critical thinking, a talented network, and boundless energy to accomplish nearly anything, including staying up all night to celebrate a basketball victory. Without scholarship support, these gifts would have come at a much greater cost.