A Year Ago Today

Maybe, one day, I’ll travel around the world.
Maybe, one day, I’ll write a book!
Maybe, one day, I’ll climb a mountain so I can get a new perspective on life.
Maybe, one day, I’ll do everything I’ve ever dreamed of.
Maybe, one day…

All of these “Maybes” are what keep me going in life. There are so many possibilities and directions my life can take, so many day dreams just waiting to unfold. Ok, so maybe I’m a little scared at the prospect of all these options, but overall I have a more positive outlook than last year.

A year ago today I published my last blog post of sophomore year. When I think about how I felt at that time, what was going on in my life, where I thought I was going, all of the “Maybes” and questions I didn’t know how to answer, I can’t help but realize how much of that has changed.

I spent an unforgettable semester abroad soaking up the culture and history of Ireland while meeting some amazing people along the way. I learned so much, both intellectually and about myself. Art, music, literature, history, people, those are my passions. Thirteen museums, a multitude of books, one hand-sewn cloak, countless hours with newly made friends, and over 3000 photos later I’m back home wishing it had never ended. Sometimes all of it feels like a dream, so vivid and yet already so far away.

I’ve mentioned before how I have a better sense of direction, how I now have a (vague) sense of what I want to do with my life. And it’s true, I do. Taking communications courses has created so many more possibilities for my creative endeavors, to such an extent that I’m interning for Loyola’s Communication department on the Timonium campus next fall! (Woo! I’m super excited!)

Oh man, next fall…is going to be interesting. I’m taking 6 courses, a good mix of comm, art, and, ready for this? Morals and Politics of Lord of the Rings. Yep, that’s right. You know when you flip through course catalogues at college admissions offices and you see all the cool courses like “Scandalous Victorians” or “Global Macho: Race, Gender and Action Movies” and you’re like, Oh boy! I can’t wait to take that! But then you get to college and find out those are only upper levels or the professor who taught them is on sabbatical or the courses simply aren’t offered anymore. So you can imagine my geeky joy when I found out Loyola was offering such a course and I got one of the last spots in the class. As demanding as my course load will be, I’m still looking forward to the beginning of my senior year.

How can I be thinking of next year when this one has barely ended?

Great question! I don’t know, to be honest. Call it procrastination, or stress induced hallucinations, or the basic excitement for what’s to come. All I know is that next year contains a whole lot of “Maybes” waiting for me to make them into definite eventualities. And I have to admit, that’s a tantalizing prospect.

And so I bid you adieu, fair readers. May all your wanderings, wherever you are, be fruitful, happy, and full of adventure! Have a great summer!

Thanks for the Memories

Well, I’m back! Yes, the Evergreen campus is my home once more, and I have a feeling this semester is going to be pretty sweet. I spent the past two days in running pants and oversized t-shirts while writing, reading, arting, knitting, and planning for the next week or so. A comfortable and quiet weekend. It’s a nice buffer to the crazy weekdays.

But why does this even matter? Well, the chilling out time has allowed me to think about the past semester. Aaaand also think about what’s to come. You know, like, those questions everyone keeps asking me “What do you want to do with your life?” “What are your plans after you graduate?” (UGH) If you couldn’t tell, I don’t have the answers to those two questions. But I do have the opportunity to thank Loyola for the following Highlights of 2013.

The first thing I have to say thank you for is giving me the opportunity to explore. Not just Baltimore (although that’s pretty great). But also myself. For the past year, mainly through this blog I might add, I’ve been discovering new aspects of myself I hadn’t realized were there. Or maybe I knew they might be there, but I hadn’t taken any steps to access them. Loyola gave me the chance to write freely, in different styles, about unexpected topics, and without fear that my views would be mocked or rejected.

My second thank you goes out to the school’s faculty. This is probably the most obvious acknowledgment, but one that is very necessary. You challenge me to excel, and you expect nothing less than growth and improvement. Thank goodness. Because sometimes I lose my sense of motivation, and remembering the professors who said “You can do better” gets me out of bed and back to my desk (yes, I am very competitive with myself).

Perhaps this is also fairly obvious, but, well, to all my friends: You. Are. The. Best. And Loyola, thank you for hooking me up with them via the Alpha (now Messina) program, clubs, convenient lunch times, classes, and being a beautiful campus that everyone wants to be part of. You guys (and you know who you are) put up with so much of my crazy and I am so lucky to have you as part of my life. For those of you who may not know what this “crazy” is, I still say thank you for being part of my life, no matter how infrequently I get to see you!

And finally, thank you, Loyola, for sending me abroad. Last semester was…unbelievable. People say studying abroad changes you, but I didn’t realize how true that was until I returned. I’ve seen so many new places (and I can’t wait to see more), I’ve found out so much about myself, and I’ve met so many people I would never have encountered if I had stayed here. I’ve become more independent, organized, thoughtful, and open to new experiences. If someone told 13-year-old-me what I would be doing now, who I would become, I wouldn’t believe them. I don’t think even 18-year-old-me would quite believe it.

So where does this leave me? A little nostalgic, going through all those posts to find ones that I could link. But also excited. I’m 21, in a fantastic city, at an excellent school, with amazing people – I’m in control of my life. I have the power to say yes or no, to try new things, to choose where my life is headed. And to all of my fellow Greyhounds reading this: You have it, too. So get excited. Take your highlights from the past year and turn them into something spectacular.

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.

Warming Up and Reaching High

You know those days that are so good that nothing can get you down? Everything is good: the weather, your lunch, the people you see & talk to, the lit exam you had that morning, you even feel great in your body.

Spring is officially here on the Evergreen campus.

I’m in such a good mood I’m even listening to Marry You by Bruno Mars!

Yeah, sure, the weather has a lot to do with it, but I think my very positive view of the world comes from some recent accomplishments I’ve been keeping from you guys (this blog isn’t supposed to be about me so much as the school, anyway). But I figured it should probably be known that Loyola really does honor students who put in a lot of time and effort into their work.

The first of these “nice things” that have been happening the past week is the phenomenal support I’ve been getting from you amazing readers. From a father whose daughter is looking at Loyola and has asked me some great questions to the senior who just told me he enjoys reading my work to the professors who compliment my style and ask if I’ve considered taking a class in their departments. Thank you all. You keep my spirits up and allow me to truly speak my mind. You are part of this blog just as much as I am.

Going along with this theme of recognition is the publication of The Forum, the school’s non-fiction literary book featuring the winners of the First Year Essay contest and other class writings. Last year I wrote a paper on how college campus stereotyping can have a greater influence on future social choices than we expect. As proud as I am to have tied for fourth place, I’m even more proud to say that I know the first place winner, Chandler Zolliecoffer. Her piece on self perception and personal development in the African American community through the role of her hair was amazing. Her mature writing style and combination of personal anecdotes make a riveting expository paper. I was lucky enough to take a photography class with her last year and her art pieces were just as stunning as her writing.

Loyola doesn’t just publish wonderful writers, but also displays student artwork in the annual student show in the Julio Fine Arts Gallery. As I walked by the gallery today to get lunch at boulder, I saw my cyborg piece from last semester’s Life Drawing class front and center. I’m pretty sure I was grinning non-stop for the rest of the walk through the College Center. However, as cool as it is that one of my pieces in the show, I can’t wait to see my fellow students’ work. My friends Christine and Amanda have some spectacular drawings and prints from their classes this year, and as seniors I know they’re going to excel in the art world after graduation.

It’s getting pretty warm out here on the Humanities porch and I’m pretty sure I’m sunburned (even though I’ve only been out here for an hour or so), but there’s one more thing I want to mention about Loyola’s tradition of celebrating students’ successes.

Weekend before last was the annual Dean’s List luncheon, an hour or two of good food, inspiring speeches, and much gratitude given to students and parents alike. To make Dean’s List, a student must maintain a GPA of 3.5 and take 15 credits each semester. Given that most, if not all, courses at Loyola are challenging in one way or another, earning this achievement is a huge confidence booster. As I looked around at the tables surrounding me at the lunch, I saw many familiar faces: friends, classmates, even students I see on my breaks between classes. It’s comforting to know there are so many people here who care about the intellectual spirit of the school and dedicate so much of their time to learning not just for the grade, but for the sake of knowledge itself.

So now that it’s about 75 degrees and my computer is uncomfortably warm on my slightly pink legs, I think it’s time for me to cool off with a cold drink inside. I’ll make sure to end this beautiful day with a bang though!

Creatively Serving

First, click here.

Now, envision yourself cooking a delicious meal. You wash the vegetables, peel, dice, sway to the music. Spinning expertly to get a new knife, you pull open the drawer, 1, 2, 3, pick it up, conduct the orchestra, close the drawer with your hip, spin, slide, resume chopping onions. Brown the meat, spice it up with thyme and lemon pepper, shake shake here, shake shake there, Oh fly me to the moon!

Or, if cooking doesn’t suit your fancy…

You’ve got a blank canvas before you, paints to your right, paper towels and water to your left, paintbrush in hand. Closing your eyes, you let the music paint a picture for you: an explosion of color, the voices of trombones and trumpets, lines and zig zags, the steady beat of the drums. You conduct the musicians with your brushstrokes. Dab, swirl, dot dot, loooong stroke, dab.

For me, part of the creative process involves music. From cooking, to painting, to writing, my concentration is aided by background rhythm and pure instrumentals. But not all creative processes are the same.

For instance, I know that when I paint with my friend Elissa on Friday, we will not be listening to my study session music! It’ll be something to get us through painting mural pieces for her senior project.

Which is actually what I wanted to talk about tonight (though music is cool too!).

Let me start by saying this: Part of being an art major or minor means putting together the equivalent of a senior thesis, but instead of it being a giant paper, it’s a gallery show, or in Elissa’s case, an instillation mural on York Road.

She and another friend of mine, Christine, have spent the past few months assembling the pieces of the mural and with the help of various friends have started to paint it. The mural itself is on six 5’4’ plywood boards that will be set up in the windows of the Verizon building.

Last week the Urban Art club helped prime the back of the boards so they wouldn’t warp.

This week, I’ll be helping paint the mural (can’t wait to break out my painting pants!)

I’m actually really excited to work on this, because 1) I love painting (on any scale) 2) I don’t often have time to do service, so it’s nice to have something that I can fit into my schedule for once 3) This will be me one day, so I’m gaining a new perspective in how to plan my future project.

But most of all, I’m looking forward to doing this because of the people. Working with fellow students on something like this adds a new dimension to your understanding of them and the people it will eventually affect. No matter what Elissa and I end up listening to, or talking about, when we paint, I know I’ll enjoy her company and the simple act of spreading color on a blank canvas.

The unveiling is on April 26 at 5 p.m. in front of the Verizon building.

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.

Defining (and maybe accepting) Vulnerability

Remember that group of friends I meet up with to talk about authenticity? How we’re working on a program for first years to talk about the questions we all face in school about self-awareness and acceptance? How hard it is to ask someone questions and be willing to answer their own?

Well, we had another meeting last week. But beforehand we watched a video that not only reaffirmed our plan of action, but for me, led to deeper thinking and reevaluation of how I see myself.

For those of you who don’t want to watch the talk by Dr. Brené Brown (it’s a bit long, but I promise it’s worth it), I’ll give a few quotes that have been floating through my head all week:

“Courage…is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. Courage is to be imperfect. It’s the compassion to be kind to yourself and then to others.”

“Authenticity is letting go of who you think you should be to be who you are.”

“Vulnerability is the ability to be seen. It’s the willingness to do something that has no guarantees. It’s the core of shame and fear and our struggle to find worthiness, but it appears it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

Those three words, courage, authenticity, and vulnerability, plagued me after watching and discussing the video. It seemed that everywhere I went, everyone I listened to, those words popped up in the conversation. It was like a radio had been turned on in my head and I kept picking up one clear signal. The other stations in my life were staticky and only came in when one of those words or phrases were used.

I’m not saying I was getting a divine message or anything, it just so happened that I watched the video during a week full of self-doubt and questioning of my future.

Take Dr. Brown’s idea of courage, for example. To be imperfect. To be kind to yourself. Now those are two very hard tasks. It’s so easy to be down on yourself and strive for perfection. There’s a stereotype at Loyola that the perfect student has a 3.5+ GPA, is president of at least 2 clubs, does service on a regular basis, maintains healthy eating habits/works out at the FAC, gets along well with all professors, earns high achievement in their major, and somehow always looks composed. Sadly, there’s a ring of truth to the image, even if an individual only qualifies for some of the above. I know I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to do well in school and in the community. But sometimes the amount of stress that leads to is more negative than positive.

I know I’ve talked about authenticity before, but Dr. Brown phrased it perfectly. Authenticity is about knowing yourself and accepting yourself, no matter the imperfections, fears, and doubts you face every day. It’s not about thinking so much as being. It’s taking down your walls to be who you are, even though you might risk everything.

Taking that risk is being vulnerable, and man did Dr. Brown get me with that one! I hate being vulnerable. I hate showing I’m weak. When I was little I taught myself to not be ticklish because, in a sense, it showed weakness.

Today, as a young adult, vulnerability is my greatest adversary, but I’m learning how to make it work for me. This blog is a way I get over my vulnerability. I’m allowing myself to be seen, sometimes by people I’ve never met before, and maybe never will. I’m opening up on paper, which is one step closer to opening up in person. I’m trying to do things that have no guarantees, like studying abroad for a semester and getting into a relationship. Well, there are certain things I know will happen with both of those cases, but I don’t know how they’ll change me in the end.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing about this in the first place, I have two reasons. The first: I write about what happens in my life, specifically ideas and things I’m passionate about. This is one of them. Second: I think these topics can be explored more fully at Loyola, and the discussion is necessary to create a stronger community.

Dr. Brown closed with this:

“How do we fix this [disconnect]? Let ourselves be seen. Love with our whole hearts. Practice gratitude & joy in those moments of passion. To feel so vulnerable means we’re alive. To believe we’re enough.”

Making The Loyola Investment

As you walk around campus in this nippy February weather, you’ll notice here and there signs of spring popping up from the earth. Along with the new blooms follow a new crop of students, coming in droves to tour the school and attend information sessions with their families. Pretty soon the quad and bridge will be clogged with newcomers on Saturdays, and you just might get asked by a lost parent where to find Boulder.

Sometimes, if you’re really lucky (and I’m being serious, this is pretty cool), you’ll be asked what you like the most, what you don’t like, and the most personal question, why Loyola at all? What was the deciding factor? What was in the balance?

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning, you already know some of the answers. But not all!

To give you an idea of where I was by this time senior year of high school, I had heard back from a few schools, was still waiting on others, but had more or less narrowed it down to Loyola, Fordham, and Rutgers.

After taking the tour and seeing the freakishly large campus of my state university (and learning I’d have to take a bus to get to classes), I crossed out Rutgers from my list. I had already visited Fordham before I applied, but after I went to the accepted students day, I just wasn’t feeling it. I loved the programs they offered: their History, Women’s Studies and Irish Studies departments were very strong and they, too, had core requirements. I loved how it was in the city with the world at my fingertips. It was tied with Loyola, until I got their financial aid letter.

Suddenly I was faced with two schools I wasn’t very keen on and and third I had visited multiple times, but hadn’t had that “This is it” feeling which everyone talks about.

Don’t get me wrong, Loyola was on my Top of the Top List from the first time I took a tour! I really liked the campus, the students were nice, the department representatives I met were so friendly and open to questions, and the emphasis on service and core classes drew me in tenfold. But between the first time I visited to merely consider it and the second time for my interview, I still hadn’t been able to say “I can see myself here.”

February passed, and then some of March, while I watched my friends make their deposits to their dream schools. Then one bleak and rainy day (I’m not kidding, it was downpouring on the walk from my bus stop), I received a letter from Loyola saying I’d been awarded a merit based scholarship, which added a new factor to my interest in the school.

I attended the accepted students day in April, which included a breakfast for scholarship and honors program students, along with the crazy amount of activities to keep you busy. And that’s when something changed. There was no Eureka moment, no fairy chanting Abracadabra over my head to result in a poof of inspiration.

It was a gradual acceptance.

As the day wore on, I saw more that I liked, I heard more challenging and simultaneously appealing ideas, and I met more people I saw as like-minded peers. There was a sense of community I hadn’t felt at other schools, a deep grounding in the Jesuit teaching of core values. There were so many ways I could get involved on and off campus, I just had to know where to look. Even the dorms and living-learning communities were calling to me (give me a kitchen and I’m happy). I found myself being able to say that I could truly see myself as a Loyola Greyhound.

And that was more or less it. By the end of the day I had submitted my deposit and triumphantly called my sister to tell her the news. But there was a moment during that afternoon that’s always stuck in my memory and is one of my biggest motivators to do well.

My parents and I stood outside Boulder and figured out the financial difference between Loyola and Rutgers (I may have taken it off my list, but that didn’t mean it was off my parents’). Loyola was a stretch, even with financial aid and the scholarship. But my dad put it into these terms, “This isn’t just a monetary investment. It’s an investment in you.” And honestly, it’s an investment in Loyola.