"Embrace Challenge" by Olivia H.
Dear Georgetown Freshmen & Transfers,
We are told that college will be the best four years of our lives. They often forget to mention that college will also be the hardest four years of our lives. Georgetown is no exception. This magnificently complex institution will challenge you in ways you never imagined. Don’t shy away from it. You’re here. Embrace Georgetown. Embrace challenge.
My story starts in Red Square on August 24, 2013, with tears filling my eyes as I watched my dad walk away. Very suddenly, it hit me. I was completely and utterly alone. Coming from Portland, Oregon, I had few connections on the other side of the country. I stood there and asked myself: what now? For the first time in my life, I had nowhere to be. No one was expecting me. My next steps were entirely my own to determine. It was time to embrace challenge head on.
My first two years at Georgetown were largely punctuated by failure. I applied to activities, and was rejected from them. I made friends, and I lost them. I got a concussion, contracted mono, suffered an allergic reaction, developed three sinus infections, received an asthma diagnosis, and broke my foot.
And I didn’t just break bones – I broke hearts, broke my spirit, fell down, and got up again. I found myself and lost myself and found myself again.
Halfway through freshman year, I thought about transferring. I first chose Georgetown for the robust campus life, access to world-class professors, and proximity to one of the greatest cities in the world. When I chose Georgetown for the second time – when I chose to stay – my decision was driven by the people, by the incredible humans who make up the Georgetown community, who will always be there to catch you when you stumble. It’s the people that make Georgetown so special. And when I look back at my time here, it’s the people that will populate my best memories.
This leads me to ten iotas of “wisdom” I wish I could pass along to my first-year self:
Find an ally who receives a paycheck from Georgetown. Whether he or she is a faculty member, staff member, or administrator, it truly pays to have an advocate who has a sophisticated and seasoned understanding of the institution.
Join everything that excites you. Quit everything that loses your interest. You will grow more in your first year of college than you ever have in your life. Don’t stifle this growth by wasting time in spaces that don’t make you want to set the world on fire.
Your RA and Chaplain exist solely to support you. They are truly some of the most magnanimous people on this campus and will bend over backwards to get you the help you need. They also tend to have snacks.
Go on ESCAPE. Whether you wish to meet new people, want to discuss your transition to Georgetown, or find yourself underwhelmed by your floormates, this 27-hour retreat in the stunning Shenandoah Valley will serve as the break you didn’t know you needed from the frenzy of campus life.
Spend time with Hoyas who think differently than you do. Challenge yourself to befriend people who grew up in parts of the world you’ve never visited, who align with politics across the aisle, and who aren’t afraid of a good debate. If nothing else, you will become even better at defending your point of view.
Never go the Emergency Room alone. Even if it’s 3am on a Wednesday and your friends all have class at 9am the next day (I swear I’m not speaking from experience), it’s always worth it to have company.
Participate in the Alternative Breaks Program. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet new students and to engage with social justice issues that are most salient to Washington D.C. and beyond.
Know that you may not meet your best friends until sophomore (or even junior!) year. And that’s okay.
Get to know older students. Meet mentors. Reach out to people who inspire you and ask them out for coffee. I promise you that these relationships will change your life.
We are told that college will be the best four years of our lives. And they will be. But when it feels like your world is collapsing, when embracing challenge becomes too demanding, it’s the people in your life who will help make sense of it all.
If you don’t know where to start, I’m here.
Olivia Hinerfeld (SFS ‘17)