Last weekend, I went to my first full staff training with 179 other future OAs for this fall’s New Student Orientation. I congregated for several minutes in front of the ICC’s auditorium, made nervous small talk and awkward accidental physical contact with people around me, and, after several more minutes, was ushered into a room filled with screaming, dancing upperclassmen brandishing posters of every conceivable color. There was music, more screaming, more dancing, and in no time I found myself in a group of relative strangers herded by one infectiously friendly captain.
My thoughts, as well as I could hear them over Ke$ha and Pitbull, weren’t thoughts I expected to have. All around me, people were shouting, laughing, talking about how exciting NSO was going to be, and how much fun we were going to have as OAs.
I wanted to have those thoughts. I was chosen be an OA. I should’ve been ecstatic, should’ve yelled and danced and laughed like the others.
But in truth, all I could think of was a short, Asian, 17-year-old freshman, sitting for the first time in McDonough Arena, surrounded by screaming, dancing people and nervously trying to hear myself think over Macklemore and Ellie Goulding.
Had it really been almost an entire school year? Was I really starting OA training no less than six months after I myself had been a quiet, unrecognizable freshman on the other end of NSO?
Six months is a long time. Enough time, surely, to have finally ‘gotten’ what it meant to be a student at Georgetown, finally understood what my place was among its students, and all other assorted enlightenments and “aha” moments promised to incoming freshmen by OAs and captains. Hoya Saxa! That’s what they chanted at my own NSO. I was supposed to learn, over the course of my time here, what those words and being a Hoya, really meant.
But I didn’t feel different from back then that morning in ICC auditorium. The signs, the group numbers, the speakers and the ice-breaking exercises didn’t feel different either. Instead, I felt like I was back in my first week of freshman year, and it made me nervous.
We talked about a question on the NSO application, the moment we realized we belonged at this school, the moment we were Hoyas. We were read our responses to that question; I heard my own among countless stories.
I remember what I had written. I had tried to look over six months of activity at this school … tried to pick out that one moment. This moment had a few recognizable characteristics, as far as I had observed. It was supposed to be a transformative event, complete with laughing friends, family, and a tear-jerking, existential catharsis that looked good written on paper. I found one, and I wrote about it. I thought it was my moment.
That day, I entertained the possibility that I might be wrong. My story didn’t feel as real as the others. There was something different about me, a gap between myself and the dancing, cheering NSO captains, the juniors, seniors and especially sophomores on campus that I had come to know, some of whom were only a year older than I was, who were home at Georgetown and called themselves Hoyas with pride in their hearts.
I’m scared for next year. I’m scared that I might not be a Hoya yet. I worry that I won’t be able to dance and scream and sing the fight song for my new students in the fall with the same pride and gusto as my peers.
But that’s something I’ve learned is okay. We all go to the same school, but we come from afar, with our own families, morals and personal histories. And becoming a Hoya isn’t just a single moment you can press upon every individual who walks through our front gates. For some people, it’s much slower, and something they might not even notice themselves.
So no, I might not have had a “moment” like the ones they talk about all the time. But I know how I’ve spent this year, and I know who I am. I am a student of Georgetown University, but I am also me. My identity, my story, is not something I can shrink down to a fraction of my six months at this school. My Georgetown wasn’t built in a single day.
And I embrace it. Every insecurity, every fear for the future, every step outside the the boundaries of the ideal and socially accepted Georgetown Student, that’s just who I am, and it’s okay.
In four months’ time, I will be the face of Georgetown University to a group of incoming freshmen. Amidst the dancing and the screaming and the “aha” moment sentimentality, this is what I want them to know about me, and what I hope they learn is okay, and not any less “Georgetown.”
Jinwoo Chong is a freshman in the College. He currently serves as Chatter Editor.