Wow…here I am after my short lifetime of homework, tests, studying, drinking, crying, reading, running, swimming, cramming, and sleepless nights. It is surreal in every way you can imagine, especially because it has not hit me yet and I am not sure when it will. In writing this, I’m attempting to shake the reality of graduating into me (but I don’t think it’ll work).
I am sharing some reflections on the college experience with a particular focus on what it’s been like to go to school near home, in the Bronx/NY, and where your father works and what it has been like to have a jesuit education, to transition from being a student-athlete to not, and what it’s been like being a student leader and student activist of sorts.
1. You can be the happiest or the saddest where you are / Give it a chance
- I’ve always made a point not to dwell on this but I do want to mention that I was fairly bitter about going to Fordham. But, the summer before I started my freshman year, I breathed and decided that this was my chance for a fresh start and I needed to fully embrace being a freshman, a student in New York, and a business student. I knew I needed to give Fordham a chance and if I really hated it, I could always transfer, right? Ironically, most people know that I truly so happy I came here. I got deeply involved, made incredible friends, and learned. I’ll always stress that I’ve never felt such a sense of belonging until I came to Fordham and I am so grateful for the time I’ve had at Fordham and in the Bronx.
- But….interestingly enough my “happy” place can very much be a place of discomfort. I’ve seen people transfer in and out, never leave their room, not find the right friends, or never linger on campus, and much more. Similar to this, at other schools I’ve seen many drop out, hate it, and transfer. I’ve ultimately come to recognize that you can be the happiest or the saddest where you are, you just need to be open to the new and uncomfortable experience (ik this is a major generalization but I am speaking from my own experience).
2. Say “yes”
- Where has saying yes taken me? To a wild road trip to Canada, running the New York Marathon, to multiple entrepreneurship conferences, to working four jobs in one semester, taking 20 credits in one semester, to dating a wonderful man, to securing my dream job, and much more. I have some more thoughts on saying yes over here. But I really want to underscore that while I’ve learned a lot in the classroom, it really doesn’t compare to what I learned outside the classroom and I would encourage to to take fully advantage of what your university, its’ network, and location can offer.
- Keep an eye on flyers because I’ve seen Lin Manuel Miranda, Junot Diaz, Dante Basco, and Ezra Klein speak at Fordham because I happened to look at my email/see a flyer and they were amazing.
- Get involved early! The best and easiest advice to find your niche, friends, passion, hobby, and leadership opportunities. Through my involvement I’ve gotten multiple jobs and internships, made amazing friends, and learned a great deal. So don’t be afraid to be busy because you are capable of achieving a lot more than you think (I swear!).
- Reach out to your peers who are older and younger than you. They have a lot more to offer than you realize.
- You can make a difference in a big or small way in college. It doesn’t have to be by being president, or winning every leadership or academic award. You can make a difference by reaching out to someone who is silently struggling, volunteering with children, mentoring others, being an ally, passing any opportunity you hear about to someone you know would excel in it, and raising your hand and adding nuance to a class discussion. In some ways or small ways you can help change your university and those around you for the better and that’s pretty cool.
- Additionally, I want to remind you that learning is a life long trend and should never end once you’re handed a diploma. The world is continuously changing and you need to remain competitive personally and professionally. Plus, the online resources to do so are infinite at this point.
3. The hookup culture you hear about…it is real and very alarming
- Hi folks–sexual assault and the hookup culture is alive and well on college campuses nationwide (even if you go to school without greek life!!!) After witnessing and experiencing it firsthand, I can say that it is truly alarming. And what is more alarming is how many people are normalized to it and are truly unaware of what qualifies as a sexual assault. I would like to encourage you to be a good ally, to trust survivors, and to look out for your friends. I don’t need to tell you the stats to make you care but please reference resources like It’s On Us and Know Your IX and stay aware.
4. Be prepared; things don’t go as planned
- You’ll change majors, friend groups, schools, clubs, and hopefully you’ll change as well. You’ll fail a quiz, a test, a final, a class, a semester. You’ll be .10 away from making Deans List. You’ll miss the bus or it’ll breakdown. You’ll drink too much and have to go to the hospital (maybe more than once). You’ll breakup and then meet the next love of your life this semester. You’ll hate it at school or hate coming back home after awhile. You’ll be missing a class to graduate or to fulfill your minor. You won’t get the job and the internship. You won’t know if you want to move back home or go to NYC like everyone else. You’ll study and get a 60% on that exam or the essay you spent days on gets a hard B. You’ll be depressed and won’t want to leave bed for times. Or be so anxious that you cannot breathe or think straight. Your university will make decisions that will anger and frustrate you. Some of your peers will disappoint you with ignorance. You’ll be passed over for that big award. Change and difficulty is inevitable and it’s scary and tough times are certainly tough. But this is a time to build resilience, to learn, to grow, and to be flexible enough to realize that things don’t go as planned because sometimes they shouldn’t. That’s how you learn sometimes. Learning can come from pain, or facing your ego, or losing everything you loved at once. Or even realizing that pre-med isn’t for you. That is all okay, and honestly, it is preferable to experience this in the safety of the bubble of university. College can sometimes be like a tutorial for real life and it offers you the lessons of failure, struggle, and discomfort while your only priority is going to class and you are still somewhat dependent on your parents (ik this is a major generalization but I am speaking from my own experience). So hang in there–it’ll be more than okay and when you look back you can realize that it was for the best.
5. Be open
- Honestly, I’m not too sure about my overall/general reputation and I sincerely never do want to know it. (Thankfully, college doesn’t force you to confront your reputation or really salacious gossip about yourself on a daily basis like high school really forces you too..). But I’ve tried–for the most part–to be as nice and open to others as possible. To say hi to everyone. To be open for friendship. To reach out to people I don’t normally encounter. To attend random events of random groups by myself. To go to networking events by myself. To reach out to alum and ask for advice. To put myself in varied and different groups of people who have pushed my learning edge. To take classes you never thought you’d be interested in. To study abroad with a group of people you’ve never encountered (more reflections on that experience here). Be open to a change of mind and spirit. Be open to other people because they are a lot more than what you can ever anticipate. You need to be open to change and different experiences because you definitely don’t want to spend these four short years not growing and changing.
6. The university system is messed up
- Yeah, this is an obvious but after experiencing college I do want to assert the U.S university system is messed up in more ways than one. Nationwide there are administrators that are not representative of the student body in gender or demographic, a student body that is mostly white, universities being concerned about publicity, non-welcoming spaces to marginalized people and a lack of gender neutral bathrooms, a superfluous amount of money spent on nicer buildings and sports facilities and not on improving the quality of education, creating sustainable spaces, providing faculty with healthcare, and better incorporating technology in classrooms, how poorly sexual assault is handled on campus, poorly trained security and public safety officers, the mere price of going to university, the free speech issue on both sides of the spectrum, the loss of money and priorities, the lack of job opportunities for humanities majors, hate crimes on campus, how inefficiently most departments are run, and this list can go on and on.
- I really do think that this system is a bubble that is going to burst and I still sincerely believe that I might be part of the last generation to attend a tradition four-year university because in a lot of ways universities are failing to do what they claim to do. I am constantly frustrated by issues at Fordham that go under the rug but…it is (somewhat) comforting to know that most universities from the most elite to the least genuinely suffer from similar issues. Maybe that is not actually comforting but as easy it is to condemn your own university without realizing that this is currently a nation-wide problem that should (will) be addressed.
7. That transition period
- The fact that I have to stretch to think about my freshman year still blows my mind. Going from high school to college can sometimes be a stressful and overwhelming experience. You’re without your family and home friends in a new place, with new faces, only new places, and suddenly the freedom to stay up all night drinking or to never attend class. It is easy to forget to study (oops) and take care of yourself (get enough sleep, food, mental and emotional rest and space, and exercise). So, it’s fairly important to go into your freshman year with some sort of a game plan where you keep all of that in mind. Because I was no longer a student athlete, I was fairly determined to get involved in as many clubs as possible because I didn’t really get the chance to in high school but then I forgot that I needed to balance working out and studying. That transition period is rough and first semester as a freshman is tricky but with time, iteration, learning, mistakes (ya live and learn), and patience you’ll figure it out and figure out your place and rhythm in college.
8. Fordham Only / JesuLIT / The Bronx
- I had to make a bad/punny joke at some point!! I know that I can confidently assert that I’ve enjoyed my Fordham/Jesuit education even if it’s forced me to take horrible classes like philosophy. I’m not sure if I can truly credit any class I took on improving my understanding on Jesuit education but the people I’ve learned from and with and seen exemplify Jesuit values have made me realize what it truly means to be a woman for others and to work towards the greater glory of God.
- Ah, the Bronx. What a really remarkable, lively, and unique place that I’ve been allowed the opportunity to share and temporarily live. Got a lot more to say and cherish about this amazing borough so check out my ode to the Bronx over here.
- Also…going to a smallish, private, Jesuit, city-school with a campus, with no Greek life, in the Bronx has been a truly unique experience that isn’t necessarily for everyone. I know I’ve enjoyed it, particularly for being so random and sometimes weird.
9. What it’s been like to go to school where your parent works
- Definitely a unique and special experience. I grew up at Fordham. As a child I came to give candy to students on Halloween, shadow my dad on bring-your-kid-to-work-day, and learned how to swim in that pool. I knew a ton of people here when I started but even more when I graduate. I felt as if I could leverage what I already knew for my advantage. But I also was conscious about being careful about how I present myself and what I say–especially when you go to a small-ish university with a fairly distinctive last name. But overall, it’s been really special.
10. And yeah it’s true…
- College really does go by so quickly. I swear I was just 18 and nervous about starting school and now I am making graduation and post-grad plans without even blinking. As simultaneously does it feel as if it went by so quickly, I do feel so different than the bitter and sad 18 year-old I was. I am so thankful for this change of heart and spirit. I feel as if I am as truly bothered by the world that I was once so numb to and I do feel as if I have a better grasp on my place and what I can do. I feel equipped with the language to take appropriate and effective action. I also feel as if I finally know what it is like to have friends who deeply care for me…who saw me looking gloomy one day and texted me later making sure I was okay, who showed up without asking, and stayed all night long. I’ve never felt such a deep sense of belonging and love and understanding and I have all of my friends to thank for that.
- But all good things do need to end. As much as I’m sad that it’s over, I’m so aware that it needs to be. I feel that when I do come back to Fordham to help out as an alum, to visit my dad and my sister…it really won’t be the same. My friends have truly illuminated and made Fordham such a special and real home for me. But luckily, I know that they won’t be too far away going forward.
- I’m pretty excited to live the rest of what I hope to be a continuously passion-driven, fulfilling, and successful life for others. As much as it’s hard to go, all good things have to end and I know that while these past four years have been (lit) I know that life still has so much to offer beyond college.