By Beverly Bostwick Mulherin
I was 15 years old. My big sister was looking at colleges, so we went to UCI to see if it was one that she wanted to consider. While we were there, we stopped at Mesa Court to evaluate the dormitories. There in the parking lot was a young couple locked in a very romantic embrace. They weren’t kissing, just standing in the midst of that parking lot lost in each other’s arms.
I was sold.
My sister ended up at UCLA, but I was determined that when the time came for me, it would be UCI.
It was 1971 when I started my adventure. While living in Mesa Court, I had the usual college fun. One of my dormitory pals, Sue, became my best friend. We had so much fun doing crazy things, including streaking. Hey, it was the 1970’s, and that’s what serious college students did back in those days.
I’ll never forget when one of the “Planet of the Apes” movies was filmed on our campus. There were apes running all over, attending classes, socializing with students, and generally attracting an enormous amount of attention.
I majored in Social Ecology. I learned so much. Besides Social Ecology, I took many other classes. My world expanded – in fact, enormously. What I learned in my undergraduate days shaped my way of thinking and really changed my whole life. It was invaluable.
I loved the friends that I met at UCI and the fantastic professors, whom I will not forget. Not ever.
After I had been at UCI for a couple of years, I felt like something wasn’t right. I went to the UCI Student Health Center, and they sent me to a doctor. And then to another. And another. But the doctors could find nothing wrong with me. It seemed that I must be OK. I was getting good grades at an excellent university. I was working part time in Newport Beach, and I had a pretty active social life, too. How could I be sick?
But I knew something wasn’t right. I had occasional nausea, horrible headaches and nightmares. At times I felt that I was going to fall down. My vision was getting very strange – as if someone had pulled a shade down; I could see around the edges, but not what was right in front of me. When you are driving on the San Diego freeway and a shade is pulled down in front of your line of vision, it can be a problem. In fact, it can be a major problem.
I finally went to a psychologist. I told him that I wasn’t sick. After all, my doctors had confirmed it. But I felt terrible in spite of it all. So I had come to see a psychologist because well, I needed help. I must need a shrink. That psychologist listened to my sypmtoms and said, “You don’t need a psychologist. You need a neurologist.”
UCI Student Health Center set me up with a neurologist who advised me to go to the hospital as soon as first quarter finals were over. So the day after my last exam, I checked into Hoag Hospital for a battery of tests. And by day’s end, a diagnosis was made: brain tumor.
I was assigned to a neurosurgeon named Dr. Hope.
The next two months of my life were spent at Hoag, which had a strict two-visitors limit per room. But on my 22nd birthday, my roommate from UCI got some other students together for a party. That night there were 15 visitors in my room. The wonderful nurses at Hoag looked the other way.
I had surgery after surgery. I could no longer walk, or write, or feed myself. I was so sick. I had physical and occupational therapy to regain lost skills. And I had so much support from students at UCI and other friends and family. After two months I was sent to another hospital where they specialized in my particular type of tumor. Again I had therapy. Still I could not walk or write.
Finally I went home. For a third time I had therapy, this time as an outpatient. By now, I was feeling better. I learned to walk and use my hands again. I loved therapy so much, especially occupational therapy.
A year passed. I still didn’t walk or write well. But I was determined to return to UCI and finish my education. It was really nice to be on my own again, and especially back at a place that I had come to love so much. I used a tape recorder since my writing, although improving, was still too slow to take notes. My professors gave me a little extra time for writing exams if I needed it. So I succeeded once again at UCI.
I graduated and with my social ecology background as an excellent basis for rehab work and my personal experience providing empathy, I master’s in occupational therapy at USC. I have been a therapist now for over 33 years, and have loved every single day of my career!
If you’re wondering about Sue, my streaking pal, I can tell you. A lifelong friendship developed in Mesa Court. After earning a social ecology degree at UCI, Sue received a law degree, and was valedictorian of her class. She practiced law for a few years, and then raised two beautiful children. Now she and her significant other own a magic shop in Los Angeles called “Whimsic Alley”, which sells all things Harry Potter.
I’m married and have two beautiful children, also. The oldest is a brilliant Berkeley graduate, and my talented younger child sings and acts and currently attends a high school art magnet.
As I look back on it all, I see how valuable my experience at UCI was to everything in my life. You gain so much at college. In addition to learning specific skills that you will use in your future career, many lessons come your way. Your vocabulary expands. You meet many diverse people. You gain ideas and have insights that would not have been possible.
I am so lucky that I was able to attend this wonderful university!
*Images provided by Beverly Bostwick Mulherin