They conveniently placed a graveyard under my window. You know, just in case I want to jump in – something I was more than ready to do at the end of move-in day and the start of New Student Orientation.
Two unintentionally ordered microwaves and one boiling mother later, I lay on my bunk bed, loathing the Hoyapalooza’s pop music mix that blasted until 2 a.m. I expected the worst from Georgetown. But everyone else, from my floor mates to the chipper orientation advisers turning the campus neon green, seemed so happy.
I was raised in a Russian culture, which after its extensive history has adopted a sort of pessimism and suspicion about anything that seems too joyful. I couldn’t even imagine that people could seriously and genuinely be this excited about “embarking on an intellectual journey” and “improving their person as a whole.”
Sure, a small part of me believed this notion when submitting my overly optimistic college essay, but mostly I wrote what sounded good but wasn’t totally accurate. For example: “From my challenges, I have gleaned such-and-such and have become devoted to set off on many more personal journeys during my time at Georgetown.” (Don’t revoke my acceptance, please!)
But in my first few days, I have strolled onto the path less traveled. In my Prelude program, during dinner with my orientation group, and especially throughout Pluralism in Action, I realized something: People here truly believe these maxims of cura personalis and nurturing the human inside.
I was surprised by the absence of professors, or adults in general, at most NSO events. Why would so many upperclassmen put time and effort into something for which they weren’t getting much recognition? The answer, as I reluctantly have accepted, is that they truly care.
Skyping with my friends, who are peppered throughout colleges across the country, from Pomona to the College of William and Mary, I felt unique in my confusion. They kept telling me that any upperclassman attention sans organized adult supervision was considered exceptional, and that they mostly bonded with other freshmen. None of my high school friends mentioned in-depth discussions about using the college experience to improve the world. My Ivy League peers didn’t relate stories of political debates or heated discussions on the implications of global warming. At best, they told me that during their “Welcome Week,” a group of sophomores took them to the local 18 and over clubs.
It occurred to me that Georgetown truly stands out from other schools. The notion that Georgetown graduates enter the world as whole people rather than lawyers and doctors from the prep school-Ivy League conveyor belt rang true in the words of my Pluralism in Action breakout discussion.
We sat, the 15 of us, in a loosely arranged collection of chairs in a dim ICC classroom. The self-declared party boy stared across at the Greek international student already infamous for his culturally loud demeanor. I wasn’t prepared for the fascinating questions ahead: We asked how we can learn, not only to grow in our mind, body and spirit, but also to expose our cura personalis to the rest of the world.
We recalled the words of University President John J. DeGioia at the New Student Convocation, who reminded us that in the world, represented by a full McDonough Arena, we represent but two small freshmen. How can two make a difference? So, we began to brainstorm.
As a freshman, this was something I didn’t expect. Reading the NSO booklet’s description, I came into Georgetown convinced that I would meet new friends and maybe, at this Pluralism thing, talk about my life’s past and get to know other students’ personal histories.
y NSO experience, however, filtered the grains of reservation out of my mind. As a Hoya, I will connect with people by our ideas and personas, not merely by our similar backgrounds or by coherent music tastes. My college experience at Georgetown will truly be different, because I’ve embarked on a journey at a place where people are earnestly devoted to becoming admirable people.
Our version of success is ethical rightness; our wealth is intellectual richness; our status is how much we’ve done for others, not how much others do for us.
Masha Goncharova is a freshman in the College.