A Homeschooler in the Harbor

Little unknown or unmentioned fact about me: I used to be homeschooled.

From 3rd through 8th grade I learned from my parents via the Calvert curriculum, took classes with other homechoolers in a co-op, joined homeschool groups for knitting, choir, and even went to museum events specifically for homeschoolers. Oh yeah, and there was even a homeschool prom.

One of my favorite memories of homeschooling was getting to travel with my parents and learn along the way. Whenever my dad had business trips my mom and I would piggy-back along, and I’d become immersed in the city’s history and culture. During the day my mom and I would go to museums (history and art lessons), walk through parks (nature lesson), and visit the churches (architecture and culture lessons). In the evening we’d meet back up with my dad and go to dinner and try new cuisines and local fare.

In a way, this exploration and curiosity about new places has never left me, although at the moment I’m strapped for cash and time to continue these adventures to new places. Which is why when I do get the chance to see something new, even in a city I’ve gone to school in for 3 years, I get so excited and happy.

Just like this past weekend!

My parents came down for the Dean’s List Luncheon and we spent some time at the Inner Harbor, soaking up the sun and history of the USS Constellation.

Dragon boats galore at the Inner Harbor

The majestic sloop, USS Constellation

It was just like old times: learning the history of the ship, going aboard and watching a gun demonstration…The history nerd inside of me was quite content.

Right before he made the cannon go off

Captain's quarters

My dad really enjoyed himself, he’s a big fan of the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey-Maturin books, and got a kick out of showing me all the parts of the ship and which sail does what and where the Orlop deck is and everything. It was so nice to be out in the sunlight, catching the smell of the ocean on the spring air, feeling the slight sway of the deck beneath my feet, and enjoying the time with my parents.

Mom and Dad enjoying their stroll on the pier

It was so sunny!!!

I never thought I would say this, but I kinda wanted them to stay a bit longer. Ever since freshman year I’ve reveled in being away from home and spending a limited amount of time with my parents. But this weekend I was actually reluctant to see them go. Maybe it’s a maturity thing, maybe it was the previous rough week, or maybe it’s just nostalgia. Whatever it is, I’m glad I’m at least able to recognize how thankful I am for my parents. Not just for giving me their time and energy both growing up and now, but also for their constant encouragement in my education.

People always ask if being homeschooled gives me an advantage. I don’t think I can answer that yet. But I know it definitely shaped my love of independence, reading and higher education, and new experiences. So, thank you, Mom and Dad. You’re the best.

*And for those of you who want to know (and I know you’re out there, I got asked this all the time when I was homeschooled): No, I did not wear my pajamas to school. I got dressed every day.

Take a Break Already!

Oh, ow, my eyes. *Puts sunglasses on* That’s better. *Creak, tramp tramp tramp, squish* Ugh, mud. *Looks up at the sky* Wow, that’s beautiful. Nice to see you again, sun.

Of course, the brief spell of warmth Baltimore experienced this weekend departed all too quickly, but we got to enjoy it while it lasted. Admitted students toured the campus, current students reclined on the Humanities Porch, and I rolled up my sleeves to feel the breeze across my arms. But then I looked down and was blinded by my own paleness. You win some you lose some.

A taste of spring is so very welcome right now – it’s midterms. Everyone is getting cabin fever, especially as break is less than a week away!

Ah yes, Spring Break. A time for reveling, relaxing, and revamping for the second half of the semester. I will be having a pretty low key time at home, you know, doctors appointments, summer job search, museum visits etc. Yeah, not exactly the most thrilling or adventurous activities, so I asked around my friend group to find out what other Loyola students planned to do with their week of freedom. I got some pretty cool responses!

My roommate, Erin, is planning to spend some quality time with family and friends and, drumroll please, boyfriend who’s visiting from Ireland! She’s very excited – she’s been counting down the days all week.

My friends Victoria and Katie will be in Florida – one visiting her dad and the other  kicking back in Disney World with fellow seniors – definitely a smart idea since the North is supposed to be getting more snow!

A trio of my friends, Ben, Alex, and Allie, are planning to camp in Pokomoke River State Park (I’m kind of super jealous, the last time I went camping was freshman year of high school).

Many friends and acquaintances will also be working – my roommate from Ireland is currently interning in Vienna and another friend from study abroad said that he would be working in a music shop most of the time.

There are of course my more lackadaisical (SAT word of the day meaning lacking in enthusiasm or carelessly lazy)* friends like my roommate Claire informed me that she will be sleeping for the majority of break and pro-active friends who will be going on SBO (my previous roommate Mary will heading off to the Appalachian region of VA to tutor and promote cultural awareness).

In short, spring break isn’t so much a “break” as an opportunity for adventures. Preferably sunny adventures.

*Edit from my roommate Erin

Changing the Lightbulb

Pretend you’re in class, or maybe at work, or heck, just doing something you enjoy. And you’re listening to someone speak, whether that be the professor, your boss, or just the thoughts in your head. And they say something that makes a lightbulb go off. Not the Eureka! kind of lightbulb that worked as soon as you screwed it in. I mean the lightbulb that you had to replace two times because first it broke and then you grabbed the wrong wattage.

The lightbulb scenario is my life right now. I’ve spent the past two and half years getting confused, turned around, and generally stressed. But since this semester began and I switched my major to Interdisciplinary Comm and Art, things are starting to make sense. The lightbulb is finally working.

It’s not like I understand life, the universe, and everything, that would be a bit much. I just mean that in my advertising class we talked about targeting and stereotypes, which came up the next day in my sociology class, when we discussed the importance of understanding culture and observing social interaction more carefully.

In my graphics class we’re learning about the elements of design and all the things that go into making posters, logos, and ads. I’m finding out that almost all of it is intuitive and I’m even able to apply techniques to my flyers for the Knifty Knitters. I never thought I would feel so comfortable in class.

I even feel more confident in the subject that has always been a constant in my college major choice. Landscape painting is proving to be a joy, and I’m starting to see how I’m influenced by my favorite artists while developing my own unique style. I’m feeling more creative out of the classroom than I have before, and I. Love. It.

To be honest, sometimes I still feel overwhelmed. I still feel like I don’t know what my future holds and please don’t ask what I’m doing after I graduate. I know a lot of my peers feel the exact same way; I know they’re under an extreme amount of pressure to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives when they don’t even know what they have planned for next Saturday. Success is expected and failure is not an option.

This is why the lightbulb is so important. It might not work first time, or the second, or the third. Maybe it’s a bit dim, or maybe it’s way too bright and you can’t stand the fluorescence. Sometimes the lightbulb breaks and after you pick up the pieces you stand there and think Why Me? Why Now? But when that lightbulb works, when you screw it in and it makes that connection and things begin to fall into place and suddenly life seems a little more manageable, that’s when you know you’re onto something.

And that something can lead you anywhere.

And that is where I end this analogy.

Last night I fooled around with charcoal pastel

I recently made this for Poetry Club

Give New A Chance

Ba-bum Ba-bum Ba-bum
Heart pounding, eyes wandering, ears straining
Shuffle feet, adjust shirt, smile nervously
“You wanna go in?”
“Yeah, I mean, I think so. I’ll just be…following you around. You know this better than I do. This is your world more than mine….I have no idea what to do.”
“Oh honey. You’ll be fine.”

And with that reassurance, I step over the border of General Nerdery and join the ranks of Table-Top, Role Play, and Comic-Con Enthusiasts.

Also known as The Awesomeness Of Meeting New People Who Have More In Common With You Than You Think.

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I’m a bit on the nerdy side, but I contain my fan-girling and rants about certain shows and hobbies for the most part. You know I love to read, cook, listen to not-your-typical-pop-music, and knit. The posters on my wall range from painted dinosaurs to Monty Python, and you don’t want to know how many postcards I’ve amassed at this point. I’d like to think of myself as an intellectual, or at least someone who enjoys learning for the sake of learning, not just for getting a passing grade.

But when people think of “nerd” or “geek” I generally don’t fit the physical description, and until Thursday night I was sorely lacking in the social experience of gaming. That has since changed.

Now, you’re probably wondering how this has anything to do with Loyola or studying abroad, or some other reason you’d be reading this post. Well. Let’s just say I’m practicing what I preach:

1. Get Involved!

and

2. Try Something New!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually ok with trying out new things – as long as I’ve seen someone else go first, or it’s absolutely necessary for me to move on with my life (Like adopting the local customs in Ireland because it makes the transition process easier).

But sometimes trying a new activity can be kind of intimidating. Maybe the people who are involved are so good at it that you think they’ll scoff at you. Or what if they don’t accept you because you aren’t One Of Them (yet)? What happens if you aren’t good/nerdy enough for the group?

I know those sound like ridiculous questions, but they were what I was thinking as I stood outside the meeting room of WARPS (UCC’s Wargames And Role Playing Society) this past Thursday.

And even though I was internally freaking out as I followed Erin into the room full of people playing board games, and even as I stuttered when introduced to the guys who run the group, and even when I lost Settlers of Catan because I totally could have made a smarter first move, I am so happy I chose to go.

Between the people I met, the conversations at the pub afterwards, and the plans that are being discussed for the future (Gaelcon!?!), I don’t know what I loved the most. I just hope it continues.

So if this is your third week of class, or even your third year of college, and maybe you missed that first meeting for a club or sport or any interest group in your area, or maybe something caught your eye but you have no idea what it entails, don’t be afraid to get involved.

Put yourself out there, try something new, and just have fun with it. You never know who you might meet, or what new adventures lie ahead if you don’t expose yourself to new ideas and experiences.

Thumbs Up For Fun

Instant Friends: Just Add Food!

Nothing brings people together faster than new, and sometimes intimidating, situations and sharing meals. Going to college means mastering control over awkward situations, learning the skills of small talk, and knowing that eating with new people provides an excuse for contemplative silence. Studying abroad in a new country, well, that puts all of this to the test.

As someone who’s a bit shy when it comes to striking up a conversation, social situations are a bit stressful for me. I’ve never been the best at breaking the ice and keeping up conversational banter has often left me tongue-tied. Coming to Ireland was a bit like freshman year at Loyola all over again. I was in a new city with new people and new professors and new class systems and new everything. Not gonna lie, it was kind of scary.

At Loyola I had a friend group, well, several friend groups, and I had activities outside of class that I knew would be full of “regulars.” My professors knew me by name, and I knew I could have lovely conversations outside class with many of them. Loyola’s small campus provides a very cozy feeling to those who are a bit homesick, and apart from the Humanities building, it’s fairly easy to navigate.

Being at UCC is like transferring to a state school: there are over 20,000 students, the campus is much larger, the classes do not cap at 35, and I haven’t met any of my professors yet, so I can’t really tell you how that’s going. But despite these differences, there seems to be a universal equation for making new friends.

Food + People = Natural Flow of Conversation

During my Early Start course we had a coffee/snack break halfway through the lecture period and after the first day, people started joining each other for tea and coffee. I met a great group of friends who were history, anthropology, archeology, English, and various other majors and we had wonderful conversations that day and during the following weeks.

But I really think a lot of this had to do with eating food. There’s something so communal about breaking bread, or a chocolate croissant, with someone. Now that I have a new roommate, this also carries over. We make dinner at about the same time, so we chat as we cook and our conversations carry on well past our plates becoming empty.

A couple of weeks ago Erin and I were eating lunch in the Chaplaincy and there were some Irish students hanging out there. After a bit, they joined our conversation and we had a really fun time getting their perspective on stuff. We also learned some more of the slang (“Crack” here does not mean the illegal substance like in the US, just a heads up).

This past weekend I had to register with the police (that I was legal, and a student, and would be leaving in December, etc.), and on the way to the station, Erin and I came across a few American Early Start students who were doing the same thing. After a (very) stressful 2 hours, we had a celebratory meal together at a wonderful little bistro. And again, the entire time we were together there was a running conversation.

I’m telling you, there’s something about food.

Speaking of which, I should probably get some lunch now. I bought some fresh bead yesterday and I’ve been dying to make grilled cheese.

For photo-sets of my wanderings in Ireland, please visit roryroamingthegreenhills.tumblr.com. Thank you!

So It Begins (In Ireland!)

There’s something about enjoying food and drink with one of your best friends while watching a hurling game. Maybe it’s just the food (and drink), maybe it’s just my friend’s enthusiasm, maybe it’s just a break from studying for tomorrow’s exam, but whatever it is, I like it.

Me and ErinIf you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, because yeah, it’s been forever (OK, so only 5 months), time for a few updates!

  1. I’m officially installed in Cork, Ireland for my semester abroad!
  2. My Early Start in Archeology is almost over (!!!) – hence the exam on Monday.
  3. The summer was pretty cool, but this school year is going to be AWESOME.

The past 3 weeks have flown by. I’ve seen so much, read so much, and just absorbed everything. Visiting a different country is one thing, but living in a different country is so much more complex (and beautiful).

In some ways, living in Ireland isn’t any different from living at home. I’m in my own apartment, I have to buy groceries and cook, and I have a decent walk to classes. Then again, some things are very different. I’m in a single bedroom with only one other roommate (from Dusseldorf), there is no such thing as bulk shopping and food spoils faster because there are fewer preservatives so I have to shop weekly, and it’s a 20-minute walk to campus. Maybe 15 if you have long legs.

Regardless of the differences, I love it here. I feel like I fit in fairly easily, and except for the American accent I’ve been taken for a local a few times. The Irish are very friendly and helpful if you’re a bit lost, and I’ve never seen a more diverse cuisine in restaurants. When it comes down to being comfortable and safe, I can actually call it home.

Yes, I do miss Loyola a bit, especially last week when everyone was posting statuses on Facebook about move-in. Luckily I’ve got a good friend base started here, and I’m sure that once classes begin next week and societies and clubs start up I’ll be very busy and not missing seeing people from home as much.

UCC Main QuadSpeaking of classes, in case you’re wondering what’s involved in an archeology course and why I would be interested in taking one, here are some of the (super cool) things my class got to see and do.

We visited Trim Castle in Co. Meath

Trim Castle

and Newgrange, the oldest Megalithic tomb.

Newgrange

We also saw the High Crosses of Monasterboice,

High Cross

and Christ Church in Dublin.

Christ Church

Another field trip focused on West Cork, where we saw the Garrannes Ringfort, Ballinacarriga Tower House, and Coppinger’s Court, and the Drombeg Stone Circle.

This kind of gives you an idea of the ring-effectTowerhouse

Coppinger's CourtStone Circle

Our most recent field trip was to North Cork. There we saw (and climbed in) the Labbacallee Wedge Tomb and toured the Rock of Cashel, a truly impressive medieval church.

Wedge TombCashel

I realize that was probably an overload of information, but now that I’ve started blogging again I’m going to keep posts about my adventures more focused.

For now though, I have to go back to studying, and try to get over Cork being tied with Clare for the final!

*Note: For more posts and pictures about my travels in Ireland, please visit roryroamingthegreenhills.tumblr.com.

Farewell Friends

Sometimes there’s so much I want to tell you, but I’m not sure how to start.
Sometimes there are weeks I stare at a blank Word document and have nothing to say.
Sometimes I’m afraid to type into that blank document because not everyone would be interested.
Sometimes I do it anyway.
Sometimes….

There are a lot of “Sometimes” in our lives. Not every one is pretty, and not every one dictates what we will ultimately do. It’s up to us to take those “Sometimes” and make them beautiful, make them count, make them worth our worries, heartache, and even hope.
As this year winds down, I’m left thinking about last year’s adventures and memories and wondering if 5 years from now I’ll be able to remember this year just as clearly. That the “Sometimes” of this year became an “Always” or maybe a “Never Again.” That the “Sometimes” helped me learn, grow, and become a better person. You are part of my “Sometimes.” And I really want to say Thank You.

Writing to you has been an experience I will never forget. It’s this weird combination of a journal entry, a college paper, a note to a professor, a biography, a recipe, and a letter to a friend. You’ve let me be myself in my writing, and for those who know me in person, thank you for letting me be myself everywhere else.

I have to say, I didn’t think I’d open up as much as I have, and I definitely didn’t think I’d write as much as I did. Can you believe this is my 40th post?!? Just..wow. Your encouragement and commentary have truly helped contribute to that.

I’m sure you know where this post is going. This is the end. Finals begin tomorrow. All my brain power and energy will be dedicated to Philosophy, Italian, Microeconomics, English, and Printmaking. Well, there may be a couple movies in there, some hanging out with friends, and a good dose of procrastination on Sunday (I do not want to face the reality of packing).

But I’ll be back! Come August I’ll be in Ireland, by September I’ll be choosing between Geography and Imagination in Antiquity and the Middle Ages and Ireland and the Beginnings of Europe for my upper-level history class. Somewhere in there I’ll start writing to you again, blogging from the Emerald Isle.

So, I guess this is where I say goodbye. I’m really going to miss this though. Maybe I’ll write for myself over the summer, like my friend Ben. Maybe not. But no matter what I do, I’m looking forward to sharing it with you in the future.

To fellow students: Good luck on your exams! To professors: I hope you have a relaxing break and good luck grading all those exams! To parents: Thank you for sticking with me and I hope you also have a relaxing time with your family. To any and all in between: Have a wonderful summer and many adventures!

Got Books?

Yet again, I have to apologize for not writing in a while. Finals are approaching and the weeks preceding them are often more packed than the exam week itself. Between papers, normal homework, projects, art pieces, final club meetings, awards ceremonies, and last attempts to enjoy Baltimore, students get caught in the riptide of life and have to put some things on hold.

But, I’m back now! For a little while at least. I want to write to you guys one or two more times before exams hit and before I know it I’m back in New Jersey.

Ah, New Jersey, home of the nasal “a” and dropped “t”s, pork roll (aka Taylor Ham), some of the most gorgeous state parks and top universities, American Revolution landmarks, and, well, my life for the past 20 years.

When I think about my previous summers in NJ, my most distinctive and pleasurable memories are those when I’m curled up with a good book. I’d find a good spot on the front porch, maybe the lawn if I felt like I could hazard getting some sun, or if it was super hot I’d stay in the air conditioning. And I’d just read. I’d get lost in a different world, become a different person, forget about all the problems and worries I had in the real world for just a few hours. I’d become best friends with the characters. If I read right before I went to sleep, sometimes I’d dream of the ending or the next chapter (though I don’t think my dreams were ever accurate). It was beautiful.

I think it’s amazing when you meet someone who has that connection to books, or a certain character, or anything really, that gets them so excited they can just rant and you understand each other because of shared enthusiasm. Last week I met someone like this, not on campus per say, but in my homework for English class. We just read Mr. Pip, a novel by Lloyd Jones about the life of a village during the political upheaval of the 1990s in Papua New Guinea. The children on the island are read Great Expectations, another book we read in my English class. I don’t want to say too much because it’s a wonderful read and one of those books that makes you see the world differently. But the narrator described that connection with literature perfectly.

“By the time Mr. Watts reached the end of chapter one I felt like I had been spoken to by this boy Pip. I had found a new friend. The surprising thing is where I found him – not up a tree or sulking in the shade, or splashing in one of the hill streams, but in a book. No one had told us kids to look there for a friend. Or that you could slip inside the skin of another. Or travel to another place…”

That. That right there. That’s what the best books have. Friends. Well, sometimes the most brutal enemies, too. I don’t think I’d ever been more upset when I read The Order of the Phoenix, or The Book Thief, or The Hunger Games, or The Fault in Our Stars, or even the Elegance of the Hedgehog. As much as I hate characters dying in books, I think that’s what makes you appreciate them so much more. They had something to tell you, something to share, and maybe they couldn’t share it in their world, but they got through to you. You learn something new with every book you read.

And this summer I intend to learn a lot. I’m compiling a list of books I want to get through, make a schedule plan so I can actually pace myself and remember what I’ve read. So far, I’ve got Beowulf (In modern and Old English), The Canterbury Tales, Gray’s Anatomy (there will be a lot of sketching involved with that), Good Wives, The Beauty Myth, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide, Merlin (started in December, haven’t finished it yet), Storm of Swords, The Help, the list will grow I am sure.

In fact, help me make it longer. If you have a must-read, a cry-your-eyes-out-but-love-it-anyway, a mystery, a romance, an anything, let me know! Comment, message, email. I’ll put it on my list.

This summer is going to be good, that I am determined to make possible, but these books will make it fantastic.

Sisters, Friends, and Study Abroad

I think I made what is to be one of my favorite college memories last night. It was one of those moments when you can step out of yourself and say “This. This is what I’m living for. And I don’t want it to end.” Of course it does, but now you have a snapshot of that one particular moment with that one particular set of feelings and that one particular smile of pure contentment playing on your lips.

Before I tell you what it was that had me loving life, I should probably give you some context before you think all I do is cook and partake in other house-wifey duties. I should also mention that this relates to my future plans for next year.

I know I’ve written that I have a sister, Curran, but I don’t think you know much more other than there’s 13 years between us and she is now raising a beautiful family with her husband Tim in Massachusetts. I didn’t get to visit her very frequently during high school, and I get to even less now that I’m in Maryland. However, since starting college, I’ve begun the practice of visiting her for about a week in the summer and winter. Those visits are truly a change of scene that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

In the winter we sit in front of a crackling fire and sip hot cider while reading books after the kids have gone to bed. In the summer we go to children’s museums in the day and concerts in the park at night. But no matter the season we always cook together. Curran has her own garden and a farm share to supply fresh vegetables and herbs; I swear it tastes different from what you buy in the store. When we start a recipe from her arsenal of cookbooks, I always end up learning something new about the art of cooking. From a faster way to chop onions to the proper order of making pesto, she makes these lessons family memories.

This is due in part to the conversations we have and the music we listen to, but the best thing we share during these bonding sessions is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Yes, I know, I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s something that has become a family past time. As we mince garlic and wash lettuce, we try to guess the Listener Limerick and always have a good laugh when Paula Poundstone is on the show.

And as of last night, I was able to share this experience with my roommate Erin. After an exhausting week we wanted to keep our Friday night relaxing, so I made homemade spaghetti sauce with fettuccine for dinner. Instead of playing my usual cooking playlist and dancing along, or Erin watching Doctor Who in our bedroom, we enjoyed each others’ company in the kitchen. And listened to Wait Wait.

As I stirred the sauce, I looked over to see Erin laughing at Peter Sagal’s commentary while playing her 3DS, the warm light creating a comforting glow, and our future dinner filling the room with a tantalizing aroma. That’s when it happened. That moment of happiness: a sense of belonging based on the trust of friendship and the sharing of interests.

Now, as to how this could possibly have anything to do with my future plans, well…next semester Erin and I are embarking on an adventure. We’ll be leaving family and friends (though I’m sure we’ll make some new ones) to study abroad in Cork, Ireland! We’ve agreed not to be direct roommates for that time, but it’s reassuring to know she’ll still be there with me. To say I’m excited to share new experiences and make new memories would be the biggest understatement of the year. I am beyond excited.

I am impassioned, thrilled, wild, ecstatic; basically every possible adjective that could express happiness at this wonderful opportunity to learn about a new culture and make some amazing memories with one of my good friends.

No Faith? No Problem!

I feel like I haven’t been writing as much this semester as I used to. It’s probably safe to say it has something to do with the increased workload – both in the classroom and in the activities I’m involved in on campus. But, hectic schedule aside, I plan to make more of an effort in writing to you guys. So, I figured, what better place to do so than on the ride back to school after Easter break? A good 2.5 hour drive, a bag of Chex Mix, and the Riverdance soundtrack keeping my mom and me entertained. Yep, even getting stuck in Philly traffic provides an opportunity to admire the multitude of church steeples we drive past.

Church steeples…Church…Spirituality….If there’s one topic I haven’t really talked about on here, it would have to be the Catholic/Jesuit tradition at Loyola and the role it plays in shaping the student body both in and out of the classroom. And honestly, that’s a very complicated topic to address.

Sure, it’s easy to point out that Loyola’s core requires students to take 2 Theology classes, and one of the key community organizations is Campus Ministry, but there’s more to the individual’s exposure to religion than that.

Personally, I was raised Catholic and am currently…not sure. I’ve been told that my moral/ethical values align strongly with Catholic thought, but my societal views cause me to question some of the Catholic teachings. That isn’t to say that I’ve ever felt out of place or uncomfortable at a Jesuit school with the student body being mostly Catholic.

If anything, I’ve felt accepted here.

Both by students and faculty members, no matter their department. Some of my friends are Catholic, some atheist, some protestant, and some are everywhere in between and beyond. I’ve been able to have debates about the existence of God without feeling uncomfortable with them, either during or after. The professors I’ve encountered encourage questioning and a search for meaning in life, even if it isn’t strictly Jesuit or Catholic in the end. In this regard, there aren’t boundaries or restrictions to spirituality at Loyola.

Yes, there’s a chapel on campus, but no, I don’t feel its presence looming over me. At Christmas it hosts Lessons and Carols, one of the school’s well known and much anticipated traditions (good luck finding a seat, it’s packed within 15 minutes of the doors opening). Year round you can see alumni wedding parties arriving or taking pictures on the quad.

But even with a heavy emphasis on religious tradition, I’ve never felt like Jesuit teaching was shoved down my throat. True, it’s a big part of the campus culture: service, core values and classes, care of the whole person, insert school catch phrases here. But these are what make Loyola appealing, and I think define the school itself. Personal spirituality helps the transition into college and the progression through it, but it isn’t required.

So to those of you who wonder (and I promise I’ve been asked this), Is being Catholic required to enjoy the Loyola experience? I say No, But learning about Jesuit values shapes the way you think and interact with the world around you.