Post-Election Gratitude on Campus

Since the presidential election on Tuesday, I’ve been hearing a resounding chorus across campus of the same sentiment: “I am so glad that the election is over.”

Most people have similar reasons for this gratitude, but they all seem to stem from over-exposure to rude, uneducated, and even hate-filled postings on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets.  I have heard friends and strangers alike bemoan this sad phenomenon, and even The Greyhound has tackled the touchy topic of the political atmosphere on Facebook.

Here’s the interesting (and redeeming) part of all this though, and the reason why this is even worth writing about.  Though I have seen countless postings on Facebook about politics, candidates, and the election that have caused me to log off in disgust, I am happy (and slightly surprised) to say that very few of the postings come from my friends at Loyola.  From what I’ve seen, these posts are largely made by people I know from home or those I grew up with (which is still a sad commentary on the youthful electorate today), but it gives me faith in my fellow Greyhounds that most of us have more sense than that.

What I have seen around campus and in the social media atmosphere during the election season is a good amount of support for different candidates and policies, and most importantly, a whole lot of respect.  Even after President Obama was reelected on Tuesday night, while there were the obligatory statuses from Romney supporters about moving to Canada that caused me to roll my eyes, there were also those that read: “I love our country and I support the president in hopefully moving us in the right direction these next four years” and “Congratulations, Mr. President, make good use of these next four years.”

I also enjoyed seeing the statuses of many Loyola students, conservative, liberal, and in between, educatedly describing why they voted the way they did, or simply expressing gratitude to have been able to participate in democracy for the first time in their lives.

What do I credit with all of this?  Well I certainly don’t think it’s all a coincidence.  I truly believe that the “Loyola Votes” initiative, sponsored by SGA, CCSJ, and Green & Grey Society, and “Rock the Vote” have made the political atmosphere on campus respectful and open-minded, encouraging listening and discussion, rather than closed-mindedness and argument.

Throughout the election season, various groups across campus have hosted student panels on hot election issues, guest lectures, and debate-watching gatherings, including one with an introduction by university president Father Linnane on respectful political discourse.

SGA, through the “Loyola Votes” initiative and “Rock the Vote,” worked for months registering students to vote and to send for their absentee ballots, while educating non-partisanly on the issues.  And Loyola’s “Election Examen” encouraged students to “be civil, be informed, be inclusive” when discussing politics on campus, even providing resources for students to learn and discern before voting in November.

It’s possible that I’m reading too much into into what I believe to be a stand-out campus as far as respectful political discourse goes, only seeing the good and not the bad, but somehow, I don’t think so.  I admit the bad with the good, but still believe that Loyola’s efforts, as a Jesuit institution, to ensure that its students are informed and politically active this November have paid off.

I know that on Halloween, as I stood in line for early voting in Baltimore City, I was brimming with excitement prior to exercising the right to vote that I have been anxiously awaiting for years.  Completed sample ballot in hand, the long line didn’t phase me, as I knew that this was a day I would remember for the rest of my life, and that many of my fellow Greyhounds felt the same way.

The Life of a Service Coordinator

Service, social justice, education, preparation and reflection.  Without a doubt, these are the words I use the most when describing my job as a service coordinator at Loyola’s Center for Community Service and Justice.

Most often, I find that it’s difficult to truly express in words what it is that we do at CCSJ, and my mom still can’t get all the letters straight, usually asking me, “So how is work at CSJ, CCS, oh, something to do with community service?”

A lot of people might be really unfamiliar with the work CCSJ does, which is most simply described as “educating through service,” since we are officially an academic division of the university.  The cool part about my job specifically, though, is that with my good friend Jenn, I am a service coordinator for HoundServe, the umbrella for all of the one-time service opportunities that CCSJ offers.  This means that a lot of the students I’m interacting with as part of my job are either new to service, or new to the CCSJ approach to service, with an emphasis on education and preparation before and reflection after action.

The Center has a full-time professional staff as well as about 40 part-time student staff members, including service coordinators working with specific community partners that Loyola students do service with on a regular basis, creative assistants who imagine and create our beautiful posters and ads, photograph events, and manage our online presence, and student assistants who greet visitors to the office at the front desk and keep the office running in ship shape.  We’re a tight team and absolutely every member is crucial to our success throughout the year.  I love walking in the office after class every day, catching up with my friends and co-workers, and knowing that I’m part of something meaningful, doing work that I’m passionate about.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

This semester, Jenn and I have held information sessions to orient students with service and HoundServe, which is a new organization this year within CCSJ.  We have also coordinated and supplied, trained, and reflected with volunteers for the Red Cross Fall Blood Drive, trick-or-treating through the residence halls for community children, and bingo nights at a local senior citizens center.

Next semester there are a lot of new exciting adventures in store for us as well, such as the Special Olympics, Easter egg hunts for community children, a carnival with Best Buddies, a program for adults with intellectual disabilities, and a stream cleanup.  We never run out of things to do when we’re running around in the student staff office, usually four or five days a week.  Whether it’s planning an introduction to service presentation for a first-year class, getting supplies together for an evening reflection, or hounding (get it, hounding?) our volunteers with emails on service opportunities, we love every minute of our job.

I’ve been working for the Center for three months now, since I moved-in early on Aug. 19 for our two-week staff training, which included time for bonding as a family and a team on retreat, and sessions on social justice issues and education as well as how to be an effective and good service coordinator.  I’m regularly identified on campus as a CCSJ service coordinator, and I’m proud that this is now one part of my Loyola identity.  My friends, professors, and people in various leadership positions that I don’t even know see me as a representative of CCSJ, and because of that, I strive to work for justice in my everyday words and actions, not just when I’m in the office.

Loyola offers countless opportunities for on-campus jobs like this one, including interning at Campus Ministry (like my roommate, Meagan), tutoring at the Study (like my roommate, Jen), being an RA (like many of my friends), working at the FAC, being a desk assistant, and countless others that are far too many to name here.

Many of my friends have found on-campus jobs that are perfect for their personalities, interests, and schedules, and this couldn’t be more true for me.  By becoming involved in weekly service during the first month of my first year at Loyola, who knew I would stumble upon a new passion?  All I can say is, thank God I did.

Living Deliberately: Fall Break At Its Finest

Fall Break: Apparently to Loyola, these words mean giving us one day off of classes. One. Day. While many of my friends are enjoying week-long fall breaks, I was given a long weekend.

Okay, rant over. We all know how much I love Loyola, and to be honest, when you know you have Friday off from classes, the entire week just seems to go by that much more smoothly. It’s really amazing what only four days of classes in a week can do for your ambition, and your desire to get to fall break as quickly as possible.

A lot of students go home for fall break, which I suppose is what it’s intended for. Some go on OAE trips, and others just stay and chill on campus, which I quite enjoyed doing last

With Meagan and Jen at the farm, in a field, on the back of a pick-up truck.

year. But Jen, Meagan, and I stuck with out Thoreau-inspired sophomore theme of “Living Deliberately” and ventured to my cousins’ farm in Pennsylvania for the weekend of fall break.

The three of us are adventurers at heart, and once we made our fall break plans for the farm over the summer, it was all we talked about for months. We left early Friday morning, fueled up with some Dunkie’s, and began the three-hour drive through western Maryland into PA.

For the drive we had our country-inspired playlist and of course, the cooler and snack bag no road trip can be without. Meggy fell asleep in the backseat (what’s new) while Jen and I had deep conversations about life in the front, driving through fog and mountains. The highlight of the journey up to PA (and any road trip of ours through the country for that matter) was Jen screaming, “COW!” every time the city girl from New Jersey saw her favorite black and white farm animal.

Near the end of October, it was peak time for the changing of the leaves, and we stopped at Sideling Hill in western Maryland to look out over the vast expanses of deep red and

With Meagan at the lookout at Sideling Hill.

orange hues in the endless valleys stretching out below us. We then continued to climb the mountain, pausing at our favorite western Maryland pit stop, Sheetz, and the Mason-Dixon line (dividing PA and MD) for pictures, and made it to the farm in Somerset County, PA, by early afternoon.

My dad’s cousin Debbie, her husband Marshall, and their 16-year-old grandson Sage were sitting on the porch, ready to welcome us as my Jeep pulled into view. We unloaded our bags, severely over-packed for a weekend trip, gave Jen and Meagan a tour of the huge farmhouse and new log cabin additions, and climbed in the old pickup truck to head out to the fields across the way.

I had been shooting at the farm before, but it was a new experience for Jen and Meagan. My cousin Sage, being the country boy that he is, gave them a thorough lesson, and we

Jenny enjoying the country life.

took turns, aiming at milk cartons and Dr. Pepper cans. We had been at the farm for only a couple hours and already we were all in love and at peace. An hour later, on our way back to the house, Sage scooted over in the cab and let Jen take the wheel (did I mention the girl has never driven stick shift in her life?).

That evening we enjoyed a home cooked meal of chicken and rice before retiring to the living room (read: log cabin), which is only my favorite place in the world. I love to sprawl out on one of the oversized brown leather sofas by the ever-glowing fireplace and cover up with a quilt, either reading a

I'm a little bit country.

book, doing homework, or relaxing while I gently nod off. The cabin is decorated with stuffed animals, old firearms, horse-themed items, and old plates and urns, and to me, that room is as country as it gets.

After relaxing and doing a little homework for a few hours after dinner we brought cookies and milk into the cabin and broke out Sorry!, our favorite board game that makes us all much more competitive than we truly are.

The next couple of days at the farm allowed us time to go into town for a nice lunch at the

With the girls on the John Deere tractor.

Mansion, take walks through the fields and the woods, and most importantly, look at the stars.

It was Saturday night and nearing midnight as we were all getting ready for bed. The three of us girls were all sleeping in the same bedroom and Jen looked out the window and said, “Wow. Look at all those stars. I could never see the stars like that in Baltimore or at home in New Jersey because of all the streetlights. I wish we could go outside and look at them.”

Then it hit me, in my flannel PJs and all. “Well, why can’t we?” And we bundled up, knocked on Sage’s bedroom door, and went outside for at least half an hour to gaze up at the stars. As we huddled together and looked up at the twinkling sky, we saw two shooting stars, something I had never seen before. At that moment, I made a mental note that I wanted to remember the peaceful calm and beauty of that night once I got back to my hectic life on campus. Sometimes, I have found, you just need to take a moment like that.

A view of the farm from the front porch of the house.

Once a Greyhound, Always a Greyhound

Last year, one of my best friends, who basically became like another roommate, was Brian. He lived across the hall from me and Meagan in Flannery (or the Big Flan, as Brian liked to call it).

Brian, his roommate Tommy, Meagan, Jen, and I spent many hours discussing everything from religion and the meaning of life to the dining hall options and the infamously sporadic Baltimore weather. We had regular meals together sitting in a circle on the fuzzy blue rug in our room, usually from Sghetti’s, which was never really as good as we thought it was.

We went out to Baltimore restaurants, movies, and neighborhoods together (not gonna lie, the group definitely benefited from the presence of me and Tommy, two native

Brian, Tommy, Me, Meagan, and Jen, celebrating Meagan's 19th birthday in February.

With Brian, Tommy, Meagan, and Jen last February, celebrating Meagan's 19th birthday.

Baltimoreans), and celebrated birthdays like it was nobody’s business.

We played pranks on each other, including, but not limited to when the girls found a random sock in the laundry and put it on the boys’ door with masking tape, then it went back and forth between our rooms for about a month. For some reason, we thought it was quite humorous.  And then there’s the giant cardboard spider the gang took from the hallway around Halloween and tucked it in-between the covers of my bed. Needless to say, I had quite a surprise one night.

Brian and Tommy were very different, and yet very similar.  They were brought together for no reason other than a random roommate pairing, and from that, grew a lasting and

Brian and Tommy, a bromance of the first degree.

unbreakable bond, quite like the bond Jen, Meagan, and I have. Together, the five of us had a special dynamic, and we became the best of friends throughout freshman year (even if it was really only so we could borrow Brian and Tommy’s famous Scorpion vacuum … haha just kidding, of course).

In January, Brian and Meagan started dating, something we all saw coming and couldn’t have been happier about.  But in June, I got a phone call from Brian. He had gotten into the University Notre Dame, and his dream had come true.

Though Brian transferred his and Meagan’s relationship has been stronger than ever, and the five of us have remained just as close, even if a lot of it has to be through Skype, texting, and Facebook chat. For his birthday in September, Meagan sent him a gift and

Brian and Meggy.

homemade card, and he opened it while the three girls watched on the other end of a Skype chat.

For a couple days this week, we have all had the enormous gift of hosting Brian here at Loyola while he’s on his fall break from Notre Dame. He stayed with Tommy (who lives three floors below us now), but we were all together in the girls’ room frequently, as per usual.

When Meagan and I picked him up from the airport on Sunday afternoon (which shows just how much I love this kid because I had to listen to the end of the Ravens game on the radio), he ran out to greet me with a big bear hug, wearing his Loyola Superfans t-shirt, of course.

Throughout the next few days, we all had some of our famous late-night conversations, ordered out from Sghetti’s, and cooked a dinner with a group of friends and enjoyed a game night together. But somehow, some things seemed to be vastly different from the

Brian and his girls.

times we all spent together in the Big Flan. Our late-night conversations were less about the meaning of life and more about the meanings of our lives, and what we were planing to do with them. Sghetti’s wasn’t quite as good as we remembered it being last year, and for some reason we ate it around the dining room table like civilized human beings instead of on the rug in our bedroom.  And cooking a meal actually meant preparing vegetables, garlic bread, and pasta and sauce, not throwing Easy Mac or Soup at Hand in the microwave in the dorm.

Tommy, Me, Jen, Meagan, Brian, Jamie and Theresa, during our dinner and game night last week.

After we took a group picture on the last night, Tommy, always making wise observations said, “Wow, we all really look like adults in this picture … so much more so than we did last year.” I guess he was right. It’s only been a year since we were all becoming comfortable with each other and getting to know each other’s quirks and oddities. But now I’m comfortable knowing that these are best friends for a lifetime, and change of school or change of residence can have no effect on that. We’ll always have each other, and we’ll always have the Big Flan.

With Meagan and Brian at the airport, saying our farewells on his last day.

Birthdays in Baltimore

Having a birthday at college is exponentially more fun than having one during the school year in high school.  Why, you ask?  Well, my friend Kayla just celebrated her 20th birthday on Monday and I can think of a number of reasons.

Baltimore’s Fun Eateries

On Monday we went to Paper Moon Diner, near Johns Hopkins University and only about a five-minute drive down N. Charles.  The birthday girl picked it, of course, and it’s definitely a favorite among Loyola students.  Surprisingly, though, I had never been!  It’s quite the eclectic little establishment, with an assortment of odds and ends, collectibles, and children’s toys hanging from the walls, ceilings, and just about every available surface.  The menus are even cased in old hardcover picture books.  The cuisine is definitely diner-style, but with a twist.  My roommate Meagan and I both enjoyed the BBQ chicken wrap and we shared fries and onion rings among the table.  A nice treat on a Monday night before our workload got too crazy.

Interior of the Paper Moon Diner, photo courtesy Jen Navatto.

I’ve been to many other Baltimore-area favorites to celebrate birthdays with my Loyola friends, depending on the tastes of the particular friend.  In February I went with four of my closest friends to Tapas Adela in Fells Point, my personal favorite for Spanish tapas (small plates) in Baltimore, for Meagan’s 19th birthday.  It has since become a favorite of our group because you can really find something for everyone there.  It’s also where Meagan tried crabcakes for the first time! (*so proud of my little Massachusetts girl*)

Celebrating Meagan's birthday with our friends.

Last month Meagan, Jen and I went to the Ambassador Dining Room to celebrate Jen’s 19th birthday, which was in August.  Jen has interesting taste in music and clothes, so of course, food is no exception.  At the Ambassador, we enjoyed upscale Indian food (the lamb was honestly the best I’ve ever had) and dined in a renovated garage, complete with fireplace.  Very cool, and very Baltimore.

When my birthday comes around in March, it always has been and always will be the same request: Chiaparelli’s in Little Italy.  It’s been my favorite since I was a little girl, and a birthday of mine just isn’t complete without their traditional house salad, fresh-baked bread, and fettucine alfredo.  Then we walk down the street to wrap up the evening with some desserts from Vaccaro’s.  Mmmm….I can’t wait till March.

With Meagan and Jen on my 19th birthday at Chiaparelli's.

Friends on Campus

When it’s a friend’s birthday on campus, one of two things will usually happen.  Either the person will text or Facebook message his or her close friends and ask who’s available to go out to dinner to celebrate.  Or the friends will plan when and where to take the birthday celebrant for a special evening.

This is such a cool fact of college student existence because it seems like everyone

Celebrating with my friends and the birthday girl, Kayla, in her apartment in Campion last week.

recognizes the sacredness of birthdays.  Yes, we didn’t do anything to deserve being born and yes, they come around every year, but everyone wants their birthday to be just a little extra special than any other day of the week.

When you get a text, message, or call from a friend to celebrate his or her birthday, if you’re available and don’t have too much work due the next day, you go.  And you love every second of it.

An Excuse to Have Fun and Celebrate During the Week

In high school, I would dread my birthday falling during the week because I knew it would mean nothing more than a balloon and cupcakes in school with my friends and then a dinner at home with my parents.  At college, though, days of the week tend to blend together anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if your birthday falls on one.

Kayla cutting her cake.

Actually, I would propose that it can be even more fun if your birthday falls during the week because it gives you and your friends a much-needed break from school and an excuse to eat some good food that you don’t have to cook yourself, catch up with each other, and enjoy the best things in life, like friendship and conversation.  My birthday falls on a Monday this year, so I guess we’ll see if this hypothesis proves true!

The Greatest Gift College Has Given Me

Okay, so maybe it’s not the greatest, but it’s pretty close.  It would be near impossible to formulate a comprehensive list of the ways in which college has changed my worldview or made me grateful for the small things in life, but there is one thing that for me stands out from all the others:

Newfound appreciation for family, specifically, my parents.

I’ve always been close with my family, growing up as an only child but with an older half-brother who I’m just as close to as I am to my parents.  But as I neared the end of my high school career, I was…..umm…..okay, I’ll be honest: taking them for granted.  I’m embarrassed to admit this now, when I think about the fact that I wouldn’t even be here at Loyola, as a first-generation college student, if not for the sacrifices that my parents have made.  But boy, has a year at college changed my mindset.

I’ve yet to get seriously homesick, though I hear it happens to everyone at one point or another during their college careers.  Yet, while I’m at school (which, granted, is only 35

At a men's soccer game at Ridley Athletic Complex with my mom and our friend Florence, two weeks ago on family weekend.

minutes away from my home in Pasadena), I’m given the opportunity to actually miss my parents.  You might think this would make me sad, but it actually makes me really happy.

When I was in high school, yes, it seemed like my parents were around too often and wanted to know too many things about my life and ask too many questions.  But now, I kinda like calling home every few days to check in, update my parents on my life here at school, and hear about what they’ve been up to (yes mom, I definitely need to hear every detail about the cute thing the dog did today).

Now that there is some distance between me and my parents, I’m able to think about missing cuddling with my dogs on the sofa while the family watches a Hallmark movie, or watching Gilmore Girls or Downton Abbey with my mom while we drink tea and snack on licorice, or discussing family history with my dad.

And I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that I sometimes miss my family when I’m at school.  Actually, I think it’s a really good thing.  I talk about them a lot, have some pictures in my room, and look forward to stealing the [very rare] trip home on the occasional free

WIth my parents and our friend Florence, after my Spring Jazz Ensemble Concert last semester.

weekend.  Fall and spring jazz ensemble concerts and family weekend are also great excuses for my parents to visit me at school, which I know they love.  And I’ll admit, I love it too.

When I went home this past weekend for the first time in two months, I sat around the dining room table with my parents for over an hour as soon as I walked in the door, just talking about life, study abroad, school, and my recent articles for the Greyhound.

All of my friends miss their families at home at one point or another, but we’re grateful that we have each other as family too.  So when I’m at school and want to cuddle with my dog while the family watches a movie, I just have to opt for cuddling with my roommate on the couch instead.

Proud to be from Baltimore, Hon

I’ve said this many times in the past year, but the greatest decision of my nineteen years was going to college in Baltimore.

Of course I’m from Maryland and the Baltimore area, but for the longest time I thought I wanted to go far away for college.  Well, long story short, after much debate, looking around, college visits, and summer programs, I decided that the right choice for me would be to stay in Baltimore for college.  Then I fell in love with Loyola, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I could seriously talk ALL day about what makes Baltimore such a unique, fun, and interesting city, and why it will always be the place I call home.  The funky wall murals, ethnic restaurants, and distinctive neighborhoods are all snapshots of this great city and are sure to be part of my future blog posts.

Wall mural in the Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore.

Today, though, I share with you my love for a Baltimore tradition: baseball. Specifically, the Orioles.  We’ve never been the statistically greatest team in the MLB, or even near the top of the American League East, but I grew up with a passion for the Orioles instilled in me, and learned at a very young age to say: “How bout dem O’s, hon!”

My parents used to have season tickets, and I was at a game with my mom when I was around seven years old when Cal Ripken, Jr., broke the record for home runs in a single season.  When I’m home and there’s an O’s game on TV, no matter what time of day it is or where they’re playing, you can bet my family will be watching it.

So when I came to college and made new friends, most of whom are not from Maryland, it was really cool for me to see so many of them opening themselves up to this Baltimore tradition, even those who were not really baseball fans at all. I have friends from the New York area who will root for the O’s (though maybe not so much right now…), and even friends from Boston (like my roommate) who will do so as well.

It was easy enough for me, a Baltimore native, to continue to love my O’s, but to see my classmates cultivate an interest in and supportive attitude toward our hometown birds was to make me proud of my classmates, and my city. In a small way, my classmates are taking an interest in and role in the city they will call home for four years.

I’d be lying though if I said that the very successful season the O’s have had this year didn’t invigorate me to be a tad bit more of an O’s fan than I normally am.  It’s true that I grew up around the O’s, but I’ve always been more of an [absolutely crazy] Ravens fanatic (more on that later…).  This year has made me really appreciate what the O’s do for our city.

A much-more packed than usual orange stadium!

I’ve been to two games this season, one in May on my last night at school with a group of friends, after completing our final exams, and one last Friday night with my roommate Meagan!

With my roommate Meagan at the O's game on Friday!

Let me just say: there is no greater Baltimore experience than going to an O’s game.  From the “Ooooo” everyone shouts during the National Anthem to the tradition of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the seventh inning stretch, an game at Camden Yards ensures a true Charm City afternoon or evening.  Plus the new video of the Bird doing “Gangnam Style” when we score a homerun is delightful.

The Orioles Bird doing the viral "Gangnam Style" dance.

Meagan and I with Alex and Jack from All Time Low on Friday, outside of Camden Yards!

This is the third O’s game Meggy and I have gone to together; it’s prime roommate bonding time.  We love $6 upper reserve student tickets on Friday nights, ballpark hotdogs, and big ice cream cones.  We even love parking out in the county (just kidding) when we don’t take the bus down.  If we wouldn’t have parked so far away, though, we never would have randomly met the band All Time Low on the way into the stadium on Friday!

The Orioles, of course, won on Friday and all weekend long, wrapping up our last home series of the year and securing our first winning season in fourteen years! It’s quite an exciting time to be an O’s fan, a Baltimorean, and a student in Baltimore.  Rounding out our Friday evening with some post-game fireworks wasn’t bad either.

So maybe we’re not the Yankees with 27 pennants, or the Red Sox with an inspiring history and backstory. But love for our Baltimore Orioles is something that bonds our city together and makes me forever proud to be a Baltimorean, born and bred.

Gonna put the world away for a minute …

And that’s exactly what I did this weekend at the Zac Brown Band concert at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va.

First of all, mad and endless props go to SGA, Loyola’s Student Government Association, especially sophomore Dom Proto, for organizing such a fun and much-needed stress-alleviating event. It was just a few weeks ago that my roommates and I were freaking out when we received the email telling us SGA was selling tickets to the show and seats on a bus down to Virginia for only $40 a pop. Not only did Meagan, Jen, and I decide to go, but I also invited one of my best friends from high school, Becky, to come for the concert and spend the night in my apartment. She’s studying film at George Mason University in

With Becky at the concert.

Fairfax, Va, and I haven’t seen her since earlier this summer!

So of course I was the one elected to wait in line at Student Activities the day tickets went on sale to buy them for the four of us. I’m glad I did because the event sold out in only 45 minutes!

Becky came to Loyola on Friday afternoon and we had a few hours to pass before it was time for the buses to depart, so we walked up Cold Spring Lane to the Evergreen Cafe. Afterwards we returned to the apartment, changed into our plaid flannel, and Meagan and I were more than eager to slip on our cowboy boots. Country concerts are one of the many things my roommate and I obsessively bond over (we’re going to see Eric Church in two weeks!!!).

The bus ride to Bristow may have taken a god-awful three and a half hours, but that was to be expected on a Friday at rush hour. No worries, though. Becky and I passed the time listening to her iPod together and showing each other pictures of our summers and the semester. By the time we reached Virginia, we were completely caught up on each others’ lives, a department we had been seriously lacking in. Oh yeah, and we took creepy pictures of Meagan and Jen sleeping across the aisle from us.

Becky and I on the way to Zac Brown Band!

We made it to Jiffy Lube Live in plenty of time to get food and to scope out our spot on the lawn for Zac Brown Band, and I of course was religiously checking the score of game 5 in the American League Division Series (O’s, you are forever in my heart). Highlight of the night: When I filled some guys in on the score and runners on base as we waited in line for pizza and one says to me, “You’ll make someone a great wife one day by keeping up with the O’s scores like that. My wife would never do that.”

Once the concert started we were on our feet the entire time, singing along to our favorites like “Knee Deep,” “Toes,” and “Chicken Fried,” dancing, and making complete fools of ourselves. But hey, it was the perfect end to a week that was chock full of exams and a nasty head cold for me.

With my friends Sara, Kayla, Becky, Meagan, and Jen at the concert.

Everyone was complaining about the cold, but to be fair, SGA had warned us to dress in layers and it was the last concert of the year at Jiffy Lube Live, an outdoor venue. To me, though, the crispness of the air, the cloud of breath in front of my face when I spoke, and the brightness of clusters of stars overhead made for the perfect country concert atmosphere. A beautiful, cool, clear fall evening, good friends, and the best music. What more could a girl ask for?

I didn’t want the concert to end, partly because I wasn’t looking forward to the bus ride home, even though I wasn’t anticipating traffic at 11 o’clock at night on the Capital Beltway. LOL JK. Construction. Lovely. Not that it mattered much to me, because as it turned out, Becky’s shoulder is pretty comfortable, and so was the comforter we brought with us.

Keeping warm at the concert!

When I finally did wake up though, as we drove through the streets of Baltimore in our final descent to Loyola, my long legs were telling me that they were not made for three hour bus rides in crammed seats. Becky told me the next day that I woke up for a moment, looked at her, and said, “My legs … don’t have room to be legs. It’s like, if you own a greyhound and live in an apartment. The greyhound doesn’t have room to be a greyhound.”  Then I fell back asleep. Leave it to me to be thinking about greyhounds … even when I’m half-conscious.

It’s More than Just Homer and Plato: Loyola’s Honors Program

Before Loyola

When I was a senior in high school, once I decided that Loyola was the school for me, the next question was whether or not I wanted to apply to the Honors Program.

In high school I always took honors and AP classes, but applying to such a selective and competitive program as I entered college seemed a little too risky to me.  I remember attending one of the Learn Loyola programs on a saturday during my senior year; my mom and I chose to attend an information session about the Honors Program.

I was fascinated by the idea of intensely studying and actively discussing the great texts of the world, spanning from ancient to modern times, but I was intimated by the small number of applicants the program admitted from such a large entering freshman class.

After some discernment, I decided not to apply.  It wasn’t worth my time, I concluded, not when senior year was already so busy with endless commitments and responsibilities.

But at the last minute, I changed my mind.  And I am forever grateful that I did.  The program has been completely revamped this year, beginning with the class of 2016, so that seminars are a little bit different for students and Honors students will take all of their core classes within Honors Program requirements.  But I don’t want to confuse you, so I’ll just talk about why I love the Honors Program and how it works for me.

How the Program Works

Ending with the class of 2015, Honors Program students are assigned to a “section” at the beginning of their first year.  The course sequence that I’m taking within the Honors Program then is Ancient World, Medieval World, Medieval to Renaissance, and Modern World, one of which is taken each semester for my first four semesters at Loyola.  Each of these classes, depending on the department of the professor who teaches it, will count for the first core requirement in either theology, history, philosophy or English.

The coolest thing, though, is that for half of my time at Loyola, I will have a small, round-table, discussion based class with the same group of people, because Honors sections remain the same.

With my Honors section at the Fall 2011 Honors Dinner.

As Honors students we also take our fine arts and ethics requirements within the program, and our upper-level core requirements in theology, philosophy, and English are required to be 300-levels instead of 200-levels, while the upper-level core requirement in History is required to be a 400-level.

Students in the class of 2016 and those entering in the future, I encourage you to check out the current structure of the Honors Program sequence to see if you’re interested.

Perks

Aside from stimulating discussions with fellow students both inside and outside of class, and reading timeless texts such as Plato’s Symposium, St. Augustine’s City of God, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Honors Program also offers students many really cool extra perks to being in the program.

About once a month there are free tickets available to Honors students (and if available, their friends as well!) for concerts at the Peabody Institute and theatrical performances at

With my friends Jen, Meagan, and Theresa before an Honors concert last year.

Center Stage.  Last year I took advantage of both concert and play tickets, and last Friday night I went to see An Enemy of the People, written by Ibsen and adapted by Arthur Miller, at Center Stage.

Each semester the program offers colloquium events to students, engaging our minds in hot topics in the world and encouraging us to use the learning and thinking process we’re taught in class outside of class as well.  Last spring I attended an event facilitated by fellow students, a writing professor, and a philosophy professor, on the topic of what the upcoming election should really be about.

With my roommate Jen, admiring Monet at the Met during last years Honors trip.

The best colloquium though, has to be the annual Honors Program day-trip to New York City at the end of October.  The trip is mainly for first-year students, who explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art and specifically tour the ancient section (which is related to their first course in the sequence), but if space is available on the bus, upperclass students are invited as well.  After a few hours at the Met, students have the rest of the day to explore NYC with their friends.

 

Every September there is also an Honors dinner, for students from every class year, where students share their experiences in the Honors program, some really delicious food is enjoyed, and we all have an excuse to dress up.

With my class and our philosophy professor for Medieval to Renaissance at the 2012 Honors Dinner.

And I can’t forget the option to study abroad at the University of Glasgow, open only to Honors students. This is definitely highly important to me, because I’m planning to go next year! My family is from Scotland and I traveled there last summer after high school graduation, so I’m looking forward to return and study under the Principia Consortium Study Abroad Program.

Ultimately, I’ve made some of my closest friends through the Honors Program: people who challenge the way I think about things and offer me new ideas as well. And the professors I have had are truly engaged with our learning and growing process as well, available to us both during and outside of class hours.  I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to learn in such a unique setting.

Outdoorsy? Me?

I’ve never been one for appreciating the wonders of the outdoors…not really, anyway.

I enjoy a leisurely walk through campus on a crisp fall day, a swim in a lake, or a picnic in Federal Hill Park. But I’m still not willing to give up my bed, shower, and the comforts of home. Part of me is really jealous of my cousin who galavanted all across America this summer, camping, hiking, and climbing. I wish I had that sense of comfort in the natural environment, that confidence in myself to explore without concerns about bugs, dirt, or mud.

I’ve definitely grown some in this sense since coming to Loyola, though. I’ve put myself out of my comfort zone in many ways, and next on my list is becoming more comfortable with the outdoor environment. I can recognize its beauty, read Thoreau, and commit to “living deliberately,” but actually doing it? That’s another story.

This weekend I took the first step. I went on my first OAE (Outdoor Adventure Experience)

With my friends Lauren and Jen, before venturing into the water.

trip on Sunday: sophomore sea kayaking! OAE offers both weekend and day trips, and I decided that a day trip would be a good option to get my feet wet.

The group of six sophomores met our three leaders (one sophomore and two seniors) at the FAC at 8:30 AM on Sunday morning and began the hour-long trip to Perryville Community Park in Perryville, MD at 9. Once there we unloaded the boats, geared up, and learned the different paddle strokes and signals that we would use on the water.

The group of sophomores and our OAE leaders before kayaking.

When one of the leaders launched my kayak into the water I felt completely at peace with the world. Sure, I had a paper for my Interest Groups class sitting at home waiting to be finished and two other commitments once I returned to campus later than day, but for a few hours, none of that mattered.

It was no hotter than 70 degrees with the ideal amount of breeze. I wasn’t cold, but I wasn’t sweating. We kayaked in the relatively still-water for about an hour, enjoying sitings of

Enjoying the beautiful day in my kayak.

wildlife and exploring the area. We stopped on the shore for a brief lunch break: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples. It was simple, but it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Walking back to the kayaks after our lunch break, my roommate Jen, who was on her second OAE trip (she went caving last year), said to me: “Sometimes I don’t think we really realize how lucky we are, with all the opportunities we’re given here. I wish more people would take advantage of trips like this.”

I can say for sure that I’m glad I took advantage of that trip. For $15, I enjoyed a day of challenge but also relaxation, and as we paddled, I had some time to talk with my fellow sophomores about all of the decisions we’re in the middle of making right now. I think that the next thing I will tackle, if I’m feeling up to it, is a weekend-long trip.

But for now, I know that I can try something new (varieties of which, at Loyola, are endless) and be more confident in myself and my abilities afterwards.  No experience necessary, just a willingness and a tad bit of courage.