Rachael%20in%20London.jpgRachael is a senior CCPA major from St. Petersburg, Florida, who is working for Pants to Poverty:

When the phrase “Welcome to the SMU Family” is heard, it’s sometimes attributed to admissions jargon. But, at SMU, those words reflect the absolute truth. Although tuition is considered a bit pricy, priceless treasures are included in the cost. Still a bit skeptical? Then read this treasured tale that led to a once-upon-a-time weekend.

It all began on a blisteringly hot August Mustang Move-in Day 2006 in a fairytale-type town in Texas, when a bubbly blonde sophomore from St. Petersburg welcomed a bright-eyed first-year Boaz family. The second-year student was volunteering as a 2006 Week of Welcome leader hosting the Boaz Move-In Team. Looking back on the experience, there were bittersweet visions – from scared, homesick kids arriving alone in cabs to entire family units led by frazzled fathers lugging boxes filled with dorm-room decor. On that hectic day, there was one family that seemed to epitomize everything Swedish, from their first-year student sporting a dark tan and white blonde hair to her equally internationally attractive parents.

The vivacious volunteer had a personal goal for that day of learning the names of all the families in an attempt to calm visibily rattled souls. The Stenbecks from Sweden was an easy mnemonic and, coupled with Mr. Stenbeck’s craving for a “cold Caesar salad,” created fun reminders of this sweet Swedish SMU family from the moment they met.

And so the story continued …

There were wonderful random encounters with this family at each of the big SMU weekend events throughout the school year. Semester after semester these meetings were brushed off as happy coincidences, reminiscing about the initial meeting on move-in day and sharing the latest family adventures. When the Stenbecks learned of their buddy’s summer plan to intern in London, without hesitation, Mr. Stenbeck piped up with an invitation to visit their homeland of Sweden! Weeks passed and the kind gesture had all but been forgotten. Until, one Saturday morning while attending the annual sorority Founders Day function at the Park Cities Hilton, there was a surprise Stenbeck sighting while they were in town to attend the Family Weekend festivities for their daughter’s sorority.

Again, an invitation was extended to visit their little Swedish fishing village of Grundsund. As the time grew nearer to the SMU Summer in London internship, the spirit of hospitality couldn’t be resisted and a flight was booked from the UK to Sweden.

From the moment the flight from London-Stansted airport was boarded, the weekend was filled with unforgettable memories. The feeling of friendship was indescribable upon arrival at the Gotenborg City airport terminal, catching a glimpse of the beautiful blonde coed and her amazing mom waiting with open arms and cameras in tow.

Rach_0974-sm.jpgThe friends spent lazy afternoons tanning on Sweden’s sensational West Coast granite rock beaches, eating Swedish ice cream, exploring the harbor piers and boating along the North Atlantic. Mrs. Stenbeck attempted to lure the visiting volunteer to swim by saying, “It will be like touching home! This same body of water touches the coastline of Florida!” The home state reference was tempting, but the 17 degrees Celsius water temperature was a bit too chilly for the Gulf Coast Floridian.

Rach_1060-sm.jpg On the final evening together, they dined at a restaurant on a floating dock enjoying freshly caught salmon while watching the spectacular Swedish sunset. The realization arose that this magical moment was birthed almost three years prior as a result of a simple volunteer duty manning the front door of Boaz Hall on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

Volunteerism has the power to touch the soul. Giving of self through Greek Life philanthropy, campus organizations and local or global civic endeavors enormously enhances academic achievement. Who knows? Maybe your next seemingly insignificant volunteer act will turn into a happily-ever-after fairytale friendship.