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Bridging the Gap: Stories from Hoyas who’ve been there

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August 26, 2013


Lifestyle: Calling it quits

Dearest Frosh Emlyn,

Wow, you’re still carrying around that Paul Frank toddler backpack from Target? Huh. Wow. I mean, that’s fine. I guess. You’ll get beer spilled on it at the very first college party you go to, but you’ll find that out yourself in due time. Anyway, let’s talk advice. I know from experience that you’re a real hardworking, determined sumbitch. Good for you and all that. But listen, there’s such a thing as being dedicated in a bad way. Your high school job at a news station that had you working 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays? You shoulda quit that one, bucko, and I know you know it because I am you, and also that’s a terrible job, objectively speaking. There are groups and clubs in college that you’re going to get involved with that don’t end up being a perfect fit (or a fit at all), and that’s fine. Quit things unabashedly. That’s the only way you’re going to have the experience that you want, and you’ll be so much happier afterwards that there will be no point in feeling too bad about it. Join ten things just because and quit six of them. Quit until your heart overfloweth. In a way, that’s what college is all about!

– Dearest Junior Emlyn

P.S. I was trying to sound cool earlier when I was talking about your toddler backpack, but you know how I really feel about it. That’s between us.

—Emlyn Crenshaw, COL ’15

***

Friendships: Accept your inner nerd

It’s people that will make your Georgetown experience, not securing an internship on the Hill or getting into Madeleine Albright’s class. You’ll find your best friend in the writer with the loud laugh in your group project or the runner with the Jack’s Mannequin tee across from you in Arabic. As an incoming student, your first priority should be finding your people, your community. Find the community in which you can be the unadulterated, raw you. The secret? Be unapologetically you, and you’ll attract people who like you. Be anyone else, and you’ll develop superficial connections with people who like whomever you are pretending to be.

You don’t need to wear Vineyard Vines or join the Corp to “fit in” at Georgetown. Sure, there are reputations and mutual friends on Facebook, but your community is malleable and strictly your own. So aggressively pursue meaningful friendships, and don’t be afraid to fangirl out over your favorite young-adult fiction series at 3 a.m. or take a controversial stand over casual coffee. Don’t pretend to be indifferent or too-cool-for-school. We go to Georgetown, and we are all a wee bit nerdy, overachieving, and passionate about our own causes.

It’s important to fill your life with a rainbow of individuals, including people who challenge you. However, that doesn’t mean being friends with everyone. You are going to be busy—bouncing from classes to internship to practice to a pregame to late night pizza doused in ranch. Haters are inevitably gon’ hate, and don’t deserve your time. So don’t ever compromise yourself to be liked. Be you, and you’ll be able to look back on your time at Georgetown without a hint of regret.

—Kat Kelley, NHS ’14

***

Breaking the Bubble: Run baby run

Two things freshmen notice within 48 hours of arrival on the Hilltop: Lau resembles a building that survived Chernobyl and loads of people run.  The running fever that grips the District perhaps stems from the dangerously high concentration of Type-As within 68 square miles.  Or maybe it’s the ridiculously breathtaking public parks and trails.  Whatever the reason, my message for all you doe-eyed first-years?  Slap on some gym shoes and go run.

So why now?  Your college career has begun, and there are 903 other things you have do.  After four years of high school cross-country, I hardly ran the summer after senior year.  But once on the Hilltop, I dove back into running. Besides building rippling pecs under the mesh tank for those wild Friday nights, running dramatically improves the Georgetown experience.

To the running virgins out there, don’t be afraid.  It hurts a little at first, but then it feels good. I promise.  And stamina improves quickly—my first time I lasted only eight blocks, but with each run I could go longer and harder.  In all seriousness, the learning curve is steep, and the human body is capable of amazing things. The “freshman fifteen” remains a myth for runners, as does the miserable flu season. Running radically changed the appreciation I have for my body, and made me strive to treat it well.

Running is the cheapest and most effective stress reliever out there.  You won’t understand until you lace up after an Econ exam and head for the streets.  Muscles invariably tense when under pressure, and typically you’re oblivious.  That tension effortlessly translates into physical power on the pavement.  Running also offers mental space for you to unwind, a space which won’t be found in your Harbin common room.

Running bursts the infamous Georgetown bubble.  D.C. is full of treasures, but most baby Hoyas rarely leave the front gates.  A pair of kicks and rocking playlist is your ticket to the District.  The Mall and Dupont Circle are a mere two miles away, while Rock Creek Park trails will take you to the National Zoo.

Running creates control in a new environment.  College will bring foreign situations, new people, and many challenges.  Like me and all fellow Hoyas, your highs will be complemented by lows.  When you feel life as you know it slipping, running can offer refuge.

Running is truly addictive.  After a fantastic first semester , I ran my first half and full marathon in my second semester.  Both races made the top ten moments of my year—the rush really is unmatchable. Moreover, within 24 hours of both races occurred two pretty fantastic developments in my love life.  I can’t say if I believe in karma, but I know running makes for good vibes. By no means am I telling you all to go run a marathon in six months.  I’m just saying go for a run.  See what happens.

—Laura Kurek, SFS ’16

***

Health: Sleepless on the Hilltop

In high school, I discovered I had an amazing super power—I didn’t need sleep. It normally started the same way every time. I had a little too much on my plate, a little too much on my mind. I could easily spend a restless night studying or with friends and be my typical energetic self the next day.  But, back then, my average was only three or four days straight without shut-eye. And then I’d exhaust myself and the pillows would start calling me again.

College was different, and my sleepless nature was an asset to my packed schedule. I was a rowing recruit taking far too many classes, had a long-distance boyfriend, and tried to commit to the myriad of clubs. Through my commitments, I was an environmental blogger, Filipino chef, graphic artist. And insomniac.

Freshman spring was when I started unravelling. Though I had quit crew on the recommendation of my doctor, my busy schedule had me beating my sleepless record—it was three weeks before I could admit it was a problem. By this point, I had stopped functioning. I couldn’t think past vague, watery intuitions, making my once-easy coursework nearly impossible. Now, instead of thoughtful decisions, everything I acted upon was instead spurred by a Neanderthalic need. Hunger. Thirst. Sex. Impulse. Otherwise, it wasn’t in my capacity to care.

My assignments were behind, to say the least.

I had to request extensions. But in order to do this properly, I needed to be honest with everyone involved in my academics, including myself. First, I had to legitimize my insomniatic crutch. A doctor needed to confirm my obvious state. The Student Health Center wasn’t the place to go. Instead, I made the terrifying two-minute trip from my dorm room in Darnall, down the stairs, and around to the back of the building. To Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services.

It’s always been a firm belief of mine that mental health is something all people should keep in mind. If you take care of your body, you should take care of your mind. My first experience with counseling was positive, though I quickly got turned over to psychiatric care. Wary of sleep medication but aware that at this point, I’d run out of milder options, I began treatment.

At some point, we all learn our limits. And I’d never hit that wall. I was still awake. But it was an imaginary line I had to draw. Otherwise, I don’t know what would’ve happened to that zombified person I was. To this day, I struggle with staying healthy. It’s never been something that was clear to me. Other areas make sense, such as having healthy relationships, staying fit, eating right. Respecting sleep in order to maintain my sanity? That has always seemed optional.

I was a superhero, after all. But I was using my powers to focus on external issues: deadlines, friends, classes. In the end, no one cared that my strength was also my kryptonite. I had to decide that I was more important than the things that kept me awake. While others may have dealt with more obvious addictions—alcohol, smoking, food, exercise, etc.—and needed to learn to self-parent themselves on fun-time and work-time, I had to overcome my addiction to red-eye and start believing in bed-time.

—Kathleen Soriano-Taylor, COL ’14

***

Boundaries: Intimacy issues

The third weekend of my freshman year, when everybody in the dorms was still rather unacquainted, I discovered I was a sleepwalker.

After saying goodnight to my roommate, locking the door, and stripping down to my boxers, I tucked myself into bed at 2 a.m. The next morning I was awoken by obtrusive shoves and equally unwelcome complaints, “Get up! This isn’t your bed!”

I responded from under the covers, “Of course it is, fuck off!”

The shoves continued. I popped my head out, and scanned the room. Strangers and girly decoration.

“Get outta here!” the chorus repeated. A red haired male started to pull the sheets off. I realized my dick was far from flaccid so I held the sheets to me tight.

“One second, please?” I implored.

“No, get out!”

I made up my mind. I had to go for it. I threw off the covers, jumped out of the bed, and power-walked out of the room hunched over in shame. Then I flew down two flights of stairs and back into my room.

So apparently, I had sleepwalked into another bedroom in the middle of the night and hopped right into the bed with the girl and all. Her response was to climb over me and start doing homework. In fact, she didn’t tell anyone until 11 a.m. when she walked into the common room and announced that a strange, half-naked man was in her bed. That’s when the mob came and got me. And yes, they did see the morning wood. After that night, it’s taken me a while to get over the infamous nickname, “The Boner Bandit”.

If there is a moral or some sort of lesson to be found here, it would have to be that it probably couldn’t hurt to sleep with a shirt on.

—Cannon Warren, SFS ’14

***

Social: Take your best shot

It was probably a month into freshman year. I heard all the cool kids were covertly having a pregame in their New South dorm room, and thought, “Hell yeah, college!” I remember dressing up and thinking that I looked sexy as shit, ‘cause “Yay! college boys.” In all the excitement, I guess I didn’t really stop to think that these “college boys” just got out of high school, too. Whatever.

So I go to this pregame and everyone is packed in. I’m totally in the zone, schmoozing like a professional. Nobody else there could possibly know that I’m barely talking to anyone of the opposite gender, or anyone I don’t already know. That’s when I decide that going shot for shot with a six foot tall dude would be the best way to show what a badass I am—let’s not talk too much about the fact that I was a five foot three girl with an eating disorder. As if I could handle the five shots of Burnett’s I consumed in under thirty minutes. Or well, I only remember it being five shots. Rumor has it that I definitely had more, and that I’d also grabbed the guy’s crotch. I’m a little saddened that I don’t remember the first time I touched a guy’s junk, but it is what it is. My only memory from that night after those initial five shots is having an incredibly spiritual experience puking on the bathroom floor. I could have sworn I saw the light at the end of the tunnel—but that might have just been me coming-to in Georgetown Hospital.

So yeah. Freshman year. I learned that maybe I should eat more if I want to drink more. I learned to always say no to Burnett’s, ‘cause GROSS. I also learned that if I want a man-friend, maybe I should take him to dinner before I just go ahead and grab his penis.

—Madhuri Vairapandi, COL ’14

***

Balance: Captain everything

To my dear overachieving first-year self,

Take a big breath. Exhale. Now, chill. In a few days, you’ll be going to the Student Activities Fair, and will be overwhelmed by the number of tables with overly enthusiastic students trying to convince you to sign up for their club’s listserv. Georgetown is a rollercoaster of extracurriculars on which you will most probably be dragged, either by your eagerness to try new things or by the ubiquitous Type-A student culture. You’ll think that you want to sign up for all of those clubs, but trust me, you don’t.

Two years ago, I came to Georgetown fresh off the boat from Argentina, eager to dive into the college experience. Excited with the prospect of meeting new people and landing leadership positions that I could show off, I signed up for far more clubs that I could handle.

At first I loved it. Receiving all those emails, going to meetings, and having trouble scheduling lunch with friends because I was so busy made me feel fulfilled, even important. When my on-campus organizations started to seem too small for me (and my résumé), I decided to search for bigger opportunities out in the city. By second semester, I was taking on two on-campus leadership positions, a 20 hour-a-week internship in Columbia Heights, in addition to five classes, which I packed into just two days of the week.

Before I knew it, I had stopped exercising, eating healthy, seeing my friends, and sometimes even sleeping. I had also stopped participating in class, and finding myself spacing out during lectures that, were I not tired, I would find completely engaging. There were weeks when my roommate and I, inseparable all of first semester, wouldn’t see each other for days. I was isolating myself in a bubble of work.

Eventually, I was able to figure everything out and ended up having an unforgettable first year. As a junior, I’ve finally found a way to balance schoolwork, extracurriculars, and friends. But most importantly, I’ve learned that college is not about how much you can cram into your résumé, but about honestly enjoying each moment and each undertaking.

The next four years have the potential to be the best of your life. Don’t let an overcrowded schedule be your only memory of them. Sometimes you just need to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

—Lucia He, SFS ’15

***

Music: Being a treblemaker

In the spring of my freshman year, Georgetown’s radio station WGTB enlisted jazzy hip-hop band Kids These Days to campus to headline their annual spring concert. I had barely listened to Kids These Days before the show and wasn’t really expecting much from the performance but decided to tag along with some friends anyway to see what was up. And I’m glad I did, because Kids These Days killed it that night. From their trippy instrumental opening jam to their stirring closing song “Bud Biliken,” the band delivered an electrifying, personal performance. Even though there weren’t more than 50 students there, Kids These Days played for nearly an hour and had everyone losing it—and at one point, even moshing—during the show.

I had never done anything like it before—the only concerts I’d been to before coming to Georgetown were in huge stadiums with assigned seating. But after the Kids These Days show, I had a new appreciation for live music performed in a small, intimate venue. I spent the following summer going to countless punk shows back home in New York, making sure I didn’t miss any of my favorite bands when they toured nearby. Looking back over my freshman year, I’m disappointed it took me so long to participate in my favorite kind of music.

Getting involved in a small music scene takes a lot of courage. It means going out at odd times, sometimes alone, to seedy venues or weird bars. It also means being surrounded by strangers, some of whom probably have some crazy tattoos, multiple piercings, or alternative hair. But, what I’ve realized is that once the band starts playing, none of that matters. The music brings everyone together. And after going to enough shows, you start to notice the same people and even start to feel like part of the community.

I wish I had taken advantage of D.C.’s abundant local music scene during my first year in the city. There are lots of great bands in the District, and there is something for every kind of music fan. Local music is one of the few, and probably the most artsy, ways to get involved with a D.C. community completely outside the infamous Georgetown bubble. So get out there and get stoked on it.

—Ryan Greene, COL ’16

***

Family: GU phone home

When I began college, I thought I was ready to be an adult, someone who was in control and could do anything he wanted to. My entire college career was already planned: I was going to major in International Politics, join the Model UN team, get involved with the College Democrats, and go on to attend law school. I thought I had control over my life.

Then I found out my mom had cancer.

The doctors diagnosed her with stage four gastrointestinal cancer.

They told me that completely curing her was not realistic.

Suddenly, the only thing that matters to me is my mom. I don’t care about much else anymore. I would gladly fail every single one of my classes for the next three years if that would cure my mom. But I don’t have that kind of control over my life.

Right after I found out about my mom, hanging out with friends was the worst experience for me. I felt like I was just wasting my time with them. Even if I felt happy for a moment, I would think of my mom and only feel pain.

I want to go home, but my mom obviously won’t let me. I’m all that my parents have left, so they want me to be happy and build my future. But I wouldn’t have a future if it weren’t for them.

My life felt meaningless. After living for nineteen years, what did I have to show for it? So what if I go to a good school? My mom is dying from cancer and I can’t do anything to stop it. I thought of all the opportunities I might miss, all of the meaningless fights I had with my mom, and all the things I’ve wanted to tell her.

The day I found out my mom had cancer, I learned the most important lesson a kid can learn before becoming an adult. Life, like cancer, sucks. Life just kicks you off the building when you think you’re on top of the world and then runs you over once you hit bottom, but you have to live with it.

You have to find what is important to you, what is truly important to you; and cherish it.

I would like to tell my freshman self this: to hell with parties, drinking, and hooking up. Give your mom a call. Skype with her for a few minutes. She’s spent almost all of her life making sure that you have a future. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year.

Make sure that the people closest to you know that you love them. Give them a call, hug them a bit tighter, and be nice to them. Yes, tomorrow everyone you love might be dead. But at the very least, your last words to them can be “I love you.”

—Jeffrey Lin, SFS ’16



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