New England

Norah O’Brien (’24)

Although the California High School Summer Program continues, the New England program is just three days away! And so the Summer Blog is taking a moment to introduce Head Women’s Prefect Norah O’Brien (’24).

“TAC has always been in my blood,” says Norah, a rising junior. Norah’s parents, as well as two of her nine siblings, attended Thomas Aquinas College in California, and it seemed like only a matter of time before it was her turn. Norah, though, had other plans.

“As I neared high school graduation, I decided I wanted a little more life experience before heading to college,” she says. “So I did the only rational thing: I signed up on a sketchy website to be a nanny and booked a flight to Spain!” Those decisions landed her in Bilbao, a city in the Basque region, surrounded by mountains and overlooking the Bay of Biscay.

If it was life experience she was after, she certainly got some!

“I grew up in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, on a farm,” Norah laughs. “To go from a 500-person town where everyone knows you and what you had for breakfast, to a city with a million people where you don’t know a single soul, was the cliché ‘small town country girl goes to the big city’ — but I’ll tell you, there is some truth to that cliché! Going to a foreign country, where you don’t know anyone and barely speak the language, forces you out of your comfort zone in ways nothing else really can. You can only grow when you’re uncomfortable, when something challenges you and forces you to reflect inward.”

After six months as an au pair in Bilbao, Norah found herself revisiting the possibility of attending Thomas Aquinas College. “The growth I did in my gap year was instrumental in my decision to go TAC, and crucial for my easing into life at the College,” she reflects. “I knew I wanted a school and community that would challenge me in the ways my gap year had, and TAC has done just that. Whether it’s in the classroom or hanging out with friends, or trying to order your spiritual life, there are always hurdles that arise. But once you get over them, the reward and satisfaction are incomparable!”

Norah brought her rich experience to the Summer Program as a prefect last year, and she is thrilled to do it again. “I hope it shows the attendees that, although there may challenging aspects about the program, the same reward I received in my gap and the last two years at TAC, they too can receive in those two weeks!”