Moving in and moving on, finding a home on any hilltop

November 10, 2011

The City of Angels was the city I lived in. Maybe that’s why one of the first songs I played over and over was Red Hot Chili Peppers’ hit, “Under the Bridge.” Unlike frontman Anthony Kiedis, though, I never felt like she was my companion.

Growing up north of downtown, I could tell other people I was from Los Angeles, but I always found myself losing the argument with other Californians of whether I was actually from L.A. My house felt like home, but the monstrosity that is Los Angeles County has always been something to drive through to get to a Lakers game, the beach, or the airport. Perhaps the Los Angeles that truly feels like home isn’t real, only to be found in idealized visions such as the music video for “Under the Bridge” and the flattering exterior scenes in (500) Days of Summer. Maybe it exists for other people, but it never existed for me.

Leaving L.A. for college, I was trading a city I barely knew for a small campus packed with a few thousand other teenagers, which hardly seemed like a place I could eventually have the confidence to call mine. Yet somehow, when I walk across the Hilltop, I feel an organic connection with this place that I’ve never felt anywhere else. When I walk in front of Healy or purposefully pause in front of White-Gravenor to glance south across the panorama of the front lawns, I feel like we are one.

Day and night, I feel like I belong here. Though I fortunately don’t have the drug problems or feelings of estrangement that drove a lonely Kiedis into the arms of the City of Angels, this campus loves me. Regardless of my emotional state after a long night at the library, by the time I get back to my apartment, Georgetown has re-energized me. In the calming quiet of the front lawns, in the brooding dark of Red Square, mistakes are forgotten, ideas born, and papers written. When the minutiae of academic life frustrates me, the clock tower that has tolled for generations of Georgetown students reminds me of the inherent grandness of our college lives. The Hilltop underscores my successes and makes lessons out of my failures.

I think this is why, despite my most cynical tendencies, I buy into Georgetown. The feeling that I had when I toured Georgetown for the very first time five years ago has only become amplified. To be sure, the University is aware of the seductive power of that stretch of campus from Red Square to Healy Lawn. I have yet to see promotional material that includes, centers of campus life they may be, the Southwest Quad or Sellinger Lounge.  Still a diverse group of friends happily walking down the tree-lined leaf-strewn path in front of Copley isn’t just the stuff of advertisements (although the brochures may not highlight the prevalence of white, technically Catholic Georgetown students from the Northeast).

Moreover, Georgetown didn’t just become my home; it taught me how to feel at home. When I studied in London last semester, I walked from Leicester Square to King’s Cross, a good two miles, at four in the morning on my last night in the city. I walked through my adopted school’s campus at Russell Square one last time and felt the same attachment to the green walkway between the college’s buildings that I do to Georgetown’s front lawn.

After a childhood of defining home by where my parents are, the Hilltop has prepared me for a post-graduate life that will probably take place somewhere I’ve never lived before. My time at Georgetown has both fed my desire to experience the entire world and empowered me to find home when I get there.

The ability of colleges to mold people should not be underestimated. When I read articles questioning the value of an undergraduate education because of soaring costs or hear cranky neighbors cavalierly suggest that the University build an undergraduate dormitory in Virginia, I think about the intangible things that make Georgetown home for thousands of students. When I consider donating to the Class of 2012 Fund, I don’t think about Leo’s or SAC, but about the person that Georgetown has made me and the home I’ve found on the Hilltop.

Four years ago, I had no idea what I would do after Georgetown. I still don’t have it all figured out, but I know that wherever I end up and whatever I end up doing, I can find a home. My life here has given me the courage to say to the world, take me to the place I love, wherever that may be.

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