Although athletics can be time-consuming and occasionally cliquish, Hannah Rehak ’15 has found a way during her time at Mac to take a break from her studies and volleyball duties and get involved in extracurriculars. Rehak is completing a double major in English and American Studies, two topics that could get her talking for hours on end if you let her, and is a member of Fresh Concepts, Macalester’s improv group.
Coming from an interfaith family with a Jewish mother and Catholic father, Rehak and her two older siblings were exposed to religion at many times and from multiple angles while growing up. Rehak gained a respect for organized religion and now considers herself spiritual but not religious. This accepting lifestyle also informed Rehak’s life because she never felt pressured to know what she wanted to do by her family. The main lessons she learned from her family were “to be kind to everyone, not to let God get in the way of humanity, to care about humanity and let yourself figure out what you want to do.”
The freedom to be herself and choose her own path led her to where she is today. Although her family emphasizes the arts, she chose to play volleyball in high school and has played ever since. Before committing to Mac, Rehak experienced some of the typical woes of the college application process but found that she was wanted at Macalester by the coaches and administration, which was really enticing to her. This is why she chose to play during her first year at Mac, although she continually reevaluates that decision.
After her first year at Mac, Rehak decided to continue playing because she had a lot of friends who were athletes and she knew she would be able to contribute to the team during matches. This year, Rehak played in part because she felt a responsibility to the team, to be one of the team’s leaders and to bridge the gap between players and coaches. Even though she keeps reevaluating her decision to play everyday, Rehak said she still does not know exactly why she plays.
According to Head Coach Annie Doman, Rehak has become more confident over the years and brings experience and versatility to the team. “She wants to learn and improve and appreciates the feedback we, as coaches, give her,” Doman said.
Doman described Rehak as compassionate, original and funny. “Hannah cares a lot about others and makes a strong [push] to be inclusive. She is creative and truly one of a kind. Hannah has a great sense of humor and has the ability to always make people laugh,” Doman said.
Her first year at Mac, Rehak joined Fresh Concepts. “It’s my favorite thing,” Rehak said. Having never done improv before coming to Mac, Fresh Concepts was life changing for her. One of her favorite comedians is Bo Burnham. “I aspire to [be like] people my age because, scary as it is that he’s 24 and already that amazing, it’s fun to think ‘Wow. This is my peer and I can be as cool as him,’” Rehak said.
During spring break of her sophomore year, Rehak traveled to Maryville, Tennessee with Habitat for Humanity. “I would love to do that type of work consistently,” Rehak said. She enjoyed being out in the sun, working with her hands, and working alongside Mac students as well as the people whose house they were building. Putting a name to the face and seeing that what they were doing was actually making a difference stood out to Rehak.
Studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco was a highlight of Rehak’s career. “I didn’t know I could be so elated so consistently,” Rehak said. She loved the people she met, the opportunity to speak French, and the project she worked on while there. For the independent project component of her studies, she worked alongside Will Matsuda ’15. Her article about Moroccan marriage with photography by Matsuda was published. “As a child, I wanted to be a journalist because you talk to people all the time, and that came full circle in Morocco. As a journalist you get to be in politics and activism but you are sharing the knowledge, not acting as a certain role,” Rehak said.
The hardest part about being in Morocco for Rehak was having to slow down after thriving off being busy since the start of high school. “Time doesn’t matter there in the same way it does here,” Rehak said. “Now I know that I don’t have to be busy to be happy.”
It was also hard because she was constantly faced with ethical questions where Moroccan and American culture clashed. At one point, her host sister referred to the Star of David as a sign of the devil. This sort of positionality was hard for Rehak to adjust to.
Rehak has a clear vision of what she wants her life to look like in some respects, like having a beautiful apartment with big windows to let in sunshine, but there are many unknowns like what city she will live in or the job she will have. She lives in the moment and rarely thinks far into the future, which serves to her advantage at times but also leaves her uncertain. “I’d like to be famous, not in that actressy way, but if you are a cultured person you’d know my name,” she said.
Rehak’s family is very involved in activism, which has led her to be called to a moral compass throughout her life. This feeds her interest in American Studies because it is both a personal and political department. “It’s about doing good work and being conscious of what your actions mean,” Rehak said.
The classes at Mac that have been the most memorable for Rehak include Black Feminist Thought, a course about Jane Austen and Literature and Sexuality. “Any classes that taught me something I already knew but did it better and dove deeper have been the most enriching classes,” Rehak said.
One regret Rehak has is not immersing herself into all of her classes as much as she could have. “It’s all reading I want to do and there’s something really sad and really happy about not being able to do all of it because I don’t have the time,” Rehak said. Sometimes Rehak has regretted not having the time to commit to Mac Yarn or reaching out to more people. Ultimately, she stands by her decision: “I really have to give myself credit for deciding it was worth it to play. It’s nice to be empowered by my size, to be with strong women, to exercise. I really owe volleyball a lot and I haven’t given it enough credit,” Rehak said.