An opportunity to integrate different subjects

“It was the enthusiasm of my professors that really captured my interest.”

When Michaela Phelan first stepped onto Mount Holyoke’s campus, she was unsure what her academic path would be.

“I had so many different academic interests that I wasn’t sure which was the right choice for me,” she said.

Mount Holyoke doesn’t require a major declaration until the end of sophomore year, so Phelan decided to focus on general education courses. After taking international political economy, she felt she had landed on a major that offered her just what she wanted: an opportunity to integrate different subjects. 

“You have to take classes in history, geography, politics and economics as a requirement of international relations,” she said. 

Phelan spent her junior year at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was there that she got to know her second major while fulfilling an international relations course requirement: economics.

The two fields were perfect complements to each other and deepened Phelan’s interests in both.

“It was the enthusiasm of my professors that really captured my interest,” Phelan said.     

While she was navigating the world of academics, Phelan was also active in athletics. She had been on the track team at her high school, and the opportunity to participate on the track team as a sprinter at Mount Holyoke led to some of her favorite memories at the College.

“On meet days when the whole day is spent competing, you get back to campus, and we’re at the dining hall, super tired, eating dinner together,” she said. “It’s such a good time because we all knew we left everything out at the meet, and we’re laughing and having fun being super loud.”

Even during the pandemic, Phelan and her teammates had virtual practices over Zoom to keep the camaraderie alive.

“Working out and running felt lonely at times, but later in the day, we would have check-ins with one another, and it was really nice to have that connection,” she said.

Being an athlete not only helped her to find a community of support throughout the pandemic, but it also helped her to be a better student by teaching her the importance of time.

“I am a very big procrastinator, but track has really helped me be a better manager of my time,” Phelan said. “Our meets last the whole day, so I need to be more productive with my time throughout the week. [That] way I know I will have enough time to do all my work.”

While at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Phelan was able to stay close to her Mount Holyoke community online. She attended virtual movie nights and game nights and wrote for the College’s web page where she shared her story and connected with other students living away from campus.

“I wrote about my time being an online student,” she said. “Reading other people’s stories was also really nice.”  

When her fellow students returned to campus the following fall, Phelan spent the semester away, participating in the MHC Semester in D.C. program, where her internship with the U.S. Department of Commerce provided her with a post-graduation plan.

Phelan is currently finalizing her applications to both the Department of Treasury and State. 

“That experience helped me realize working for the federal government in some capacity is what I want to do after graduation,” she said.

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