Becca Macdonald owes a big thank you to Skype for keeping her up to date on the latest offers from colleges while she was far away from home in Argentina the past five months. The Topsfield resident managed to get her letter of intent back to Notre Dame at the deadline, and is delighted she will be a coxswain on the Fighting Irish champion rowing team.
"I finished up high school in Argentina and stayed with a host family there," said Macdonald, who attended Williston Northampton after going through Masconomet Middle School. "It was a great experience, and I loved the country, but it was tough keeping up with the college process. My parents were telling me all about it over Skype, but I didn't get back home until Saturday (July 30).
"I was exhausted and wound up getting sick right after coming home so I got my letter signed and returned just in time. It came right down to the wire because it had to be in by Aug. 1; I am so excited about Notre Dame."
The Notre Dame rowing team has won eight Big East championships in a row. Macdonald wanted to go to a college with a strong rowing team, but academics came first. She has already made up her mind she wants to be a political lawyer for the government and will major in Arabic.
"A lot of colleges don't offer Arabic as a major, and that was something I definitely needed," said Macdonald. "The fact that Notre Dame is a great academic school and offered Arabic was a huge draw. Of course, having a fantastic rowing program didn't hurt either. That was my No. 1 choice, but I had to keep an open mind because if I didn't get a scholarship or financial aid it would not be possible."
At an early age Macdonald attended foreign language immersion camps. She already speaks Spanish and has taken courses in Arabic and French.
"Now I'm going to start taking Russian, and I'll be able to go right into Arabic 3 at Notre Dame. I want to be an Arabic translator, and the government really needs people fluent in that area."
Macdonald was a soccer player when she went to Williston Northampton, but a serious knee injury ended her career. While she was in the gym doing her rehabilitation work some members of the rowing team recruited her to join the team that rows on the Oxbow of the Connecticut River. The sport has a split schedule with races taking place fall and spring. Macdonald also played basketball for the Wildcats, but will concentrate strictly on rowing in college.
"I'm little and I have a loud voice," said Macdonald. "I guess they figured that was the perfect combination for coxswain. I'm too small to do anything else in rowing and fell into it by accident, but loved it right away. I've been doing it for two years now, and I'll continue to do both seasons in college. You get to run to the river every day so you have to be in good shape."
She is getting some financial aid for academics as well as a Division 1 athletic scholarship. Macdonald has a lot to offer because she is also a talented musician, who has been playing the violin for 14 years and intends to continue in college. Other schools high on her list were Dartmouth, Harvard, Williams, Middlebury, Georgetown and Boston College.
"I went out to Notre Dame two years ago, and I absolutely loved it," she said. "I think it's the perfect place for me, especially since the Arabic program is so strong. In my junior year I think I'll be able to study in Egypt which is very exciting. It all happened so fast I'm still trying to believe it, and I leave for school in a week."