Lessons from My Sophomore Year

The semester is finally winding down, and my second year at Loyola is coming to an end. I’ve definitely learned a bunch in my classes, but it wouldn’t be a school year at Loyola if I hadn’t learned some life lessons along the way…

While I learned Greek and read Paradise Lost, I learned how to be silent. While I wrote countless research papers and tried to learn physics, I learned patience. I met countless wonderful people and reunited with old friends.

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So, what have I learned this year that won’t receive a grade?

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An Open Letter to All High School Seniors

Euphoria. Freedom. Responsibility. Stressed. Under-prepared. Torn. Contemplative. Excited. Nervous. Joy.

These may be some of the emotions you’ve experienced this school year, first as college acceptance letters start to roll in… then as you started visiting campuses… and especially now, as you prepare to make “the big decision” and enroll.

I remember my senior year of high school vividly, despite being two years past that point in my life. I remember being so anxious for the year to end, but also dreading the end of my high school years. It’s a weird combination of joy and sadness, stress and freedom… but I’m sure you’re quite familiar with this unique emotional flurry caused by the college search process.

You’re in the middle of deciding where you want to spend the next four years of your life.  It’s a big decision.


Since coming to Loyola, I’ve also been a part of the other side, thanks to my involvement with the Classics department and being a Messina Evergreen.

I’ve volunteered to work with a few offices and departments during events for accepted students, answering questions about programs and courses and life at Loyola. I’ve explained the core more times than I care to recall. I’ve answered countless questions about almost anything you could think to ask about a school, and probably even a few you’d never fathom asking.

I’ve seen the stress in a student’s eyes and the excitement in parents’ eyes, coupled with the hesitation and concern that come so naturally to parents. (Sidenote: Be patient with your parents. This is a stressful time for them, too. They’re going to miss you so much!)

As someone who has gone through the process before and has experienced the other side of it, I have a few words of wisdom for any-stressed out senior. And remember, I’ve been in your shoes.

Never be afraid of asking questions. It doesn’t matter how many times you think it may have been asked or how awkward it may be, if you have a question about something at the school you’re visiting, ask it. Don’t be shy; if something is important for you to know, then it’s important to ask questions about it. Ask what it’s like to take a class here. Ask whether or not the food is actually good. Ask about the social life on campus. Ask what the rooms look like if you have’t already taken a tour, physical or virtual. Heck, ask about the height of the beds if you’re curious as to how much stuff you can store under them. If you’re even considering living and learning somewhere for four years, you shouldn’t walk away from a visit with unanswered questions.

Reach out to faculty. If you’re interested in a certain department, reach out to the chair of that department to see if you can arrange a meeting with a professor. There’s no better way to get a feel of the department than to meet one of the people that could be teaching you during your career at that school. There’s no better way to learn more about a major you’re interested in than to talk to a professor in that department.

I was able to arrange a meeting with Dr. Walsh the summer before my senior year, and his passion and excitement about Classics was one of the main reasons I came to Loyola.

Take this process seriously. This is a major decision. You’re theoretically choosing what your life is going to be like for the next four years.. and, not to scare you, but far beyond that. (Ask any Loyola graduate who ended up living in a different place than where they grew up. I would bet nine of out ten times, they did not foresee making a life in that place before their path led them to Loyola!)

To use a Jesuit term, this is a time of discernment. It’s important to weigh all the pros and cons of each school you’re considering. Take the time to research each school. Follow the university’s social media or reach out to current students to get an idea of what life is like at that school: in the classroom, in the residence halls, on the weekends.

Take a moment to really reflect on what you want in a school, and see which schools fit your needs and your wants best. And be honest with yourself. If you want a small, friendly, liberal arts school near a major city (hey, that sounds a lot like Loyola…), then you probably should avoid giant state schools.

Stay calm and carry on. Even though choosing a college is a major life decision, it’s important not to fall into a stress spiral over it. If you’re honest with what you want from a school and earnestly research the schools you’re considering, the choice will be much easier. If one school really speaks to you as the right choice, go with your gut!

To paraphrase something I overheard a professor say, there’s no wrong choice. No matter where you end up, you’re going to be all right.

This is certainly a time of stress, but this should also be a time of excitement and celebration. I hope that you enjoy the remainder of your senior year… and I not-so-secretly hope that you choose Loyola as your home for the next chapter of your life.

About Messina

I still remember the excitement rushing through my veins as I opened a folder labeled “Loyola University Maryland,” wondering whether my fate was sealed in a single brief letter from the office of admission.

“Congratulations!” I read, continuing to skim the letter, “I am delighted to offer you early admission to Loyola University Maryland.”

My heart rate accelerated. Body heat escaped. Vision blurred. I stood with the letter in my hands, attempting to figure out next steps.

As a high school senior, I thought, “I’ve made it!” All I needed to do now was confirm my acceptance, purchase books, and register for classes…

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A Day in the Life: Vitaliy



5:26 a.m.
Yes, I’m up before the sun. Hard for many of my fellow Greyhounds to fathom, I’m aware.

But that’s precisely why I’m writing this, to tell you about a day in the life of a first-year commuter student at Loyola…

Once I’m up, I like to embody a simple Englishman, you know: a cup of green tea (no extended pinkie, though) with an electronic version of morning news. I get my fix of politics, culture, current events, and other highly entertaining stories that run through my mind for the rest of the day, feeding me energy.

My schedule this semester has mostly morning classes, which works well for me because I have work in the afternoon.

Let’s get it started [insert the rest of The Black Eyed Peas lyrics here]

Jacket zipped, scarf around the neck, a Washington Capitals beanie on, and here I go, stepping out into the real world.

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The Best Lessons I Learned in 2015

It’s been a tough year for me.

This time last year, my whole life was flipped upside down in an unimaginable way.

One day, you’re walking about the world, looking at everything a certain way, feeling a certain way, and expressing yourself in a certain way.

Suddenly everything is different. How you think, feel, and see the world can never go back to the way it was before. It’s scary. And it’s so hard. And it’s constantly changing, even today.

On Dec. 26, 2014, one of the best people I have ever had the privilege of knowing left us in a sudden and tragic way.

Colleen was so many wonderful things. A few weeks shy of 21 years old, she was vivacious, she was hilarious, she was kind, she was thoughtful, she was brilliant. She was one of my three best friends at Loyola. I loved her and continue to love her so much. She was one third of my sun at Loyola. And then suddenly she was gone. As a result, my whole world got dimmer.

You find ways to patch together little glimmers of light here and there, but the light you once enjoyed can never be fully restored.

This new world is the one I must live in every day now, and I am trying to live the best life I can without her.

For her.

Colleen and Rachel

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The Ultimate Guide to a Successful First Year: Part II

We live in what can seem like a stressful and competitive world. The tendency is to work hard and play harder, or to burn the candle at both ends until you’re exhausted and can’t do either. Sometimes it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the things we need to do, let alone the things we want to do.

This post is part two of a post in which I share what I have found to be methods to help first-year college students like me have a productive and enjoyable experience…

(You can find Part I of my Ultimate Guide here.)


Even homes is putting some hours in - but is he doing it right?

Let’s be honest: Every college student dreads studying. I can’t think of one person who doesn’t despise the hours spent in the library, taking notes and staring at pages until our eyes glaze over.

More than being prepared for a test, success in life is defined by knowledge, and you will never be able to hold an intellectual conversation without a base of appropriate information.

The most effective way to keep the information locked within your conscience is to study. Here are my top four ways to engage with information while studying…

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The Ultimate Guide to a Successful First Year: Part I

For most, the college experience is characterized by what you learn (academics and experience) and who you meet, forge relationships with, and go on to call life-long friends (social life). But beyond attending classes, studying and preparing for those classes, and making friends and having a social life, there are many other ways to fulfill a successful university experience. I am discovering more with each passing week here at Loyola: recreational opportunities, clubs, service, lectures, events on campus.

We live in what can seem like a stressful and competitive world. The tendency is to work hard and play harder, or to burn the candle at both ends until you’re exhausted and can’t do either. Sometimes it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the things we need to do, let alone the things we want to do.

So I’ve started to pay attention to the following methods and behaviors to help me stay on track—and I’ve found a great improvement in my lifestyle when it comes to balancing my busy schedule, my responsibilities, and my schoolwork…

This post is part one of a two-part series in which I will share what I have found to be methods to help first-year college students like me have a productive and enjoyable experience.

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Why am I learning?

I am starting to find it fascinating how different a student’s attitude towards academics can be, depending on his or her environment, which either dictates exposure to the significance of knowledge—or simply deviates from the holy grail of education.

Mostly every college student with exposure to university standards may testify to a grand distinction between what is known as K-12 or “common” education and “university” academics.

While in most contexts, “education” and “academics” may coexist as synonyms, in the setting of the topic, the objective of which is to uncover the hidden polarity of such concepts, the two nouns are light-years apart.

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8 Tips for Surviving Midterms

Midterms weren’t meant to be fun, but they are important.

And though it may feel like a month of your life, midterms only last a week or two. So take time for studying, for eating, for sleeping, and for yourself, and you should make it through.


Hopefully these eight tips can help my fellow students survive exams…

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The Dos and Don’ts of Family Weekend

I recently experienced my first ever Family Weekend here at Loyola—and just in time, seeing as I’m a senior.

My parents and sister traveled down from Pennsylvania for the weekend in hopes of seeing what my life is like and enjoying all Baltimore has to offer.

We had a lot of fun, so I wanted to share my Dos and Don’ts from the weekend for my fellow Greyhounds…

DO touristy things that you wouldn’t normally do on your own or with friends.

My sister and I explored the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor this weekend. It was so much fun and great for just the two of us to spend a little time together.

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