Alexander Brown/The Hoya
ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA

On Saturday, May 17, I will receive my diploma exactly four years to the day after I received my acceptance letter off the Georgetown waitlist. It doesn’t get more full circle than that.

In hindsight, it would be almost impossible to enumerate the things I’ve learned here. At first, when I was thinking about writing this, I felt as if I weren’t qualified. My Georgetown experience is certainly not typical, and I’m not sure that I could capture it in 600 words.

The Hilltop, for me, has been a place where, Velveteen-rabbit-style, you “become real. … It doesn’t happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges.” So instead of attempting to list the things I’ve done, or the ways that Georgetown has become “home,” or how the people here have become my “family,” I want to talk about late nights.

If there’s anything I’ve discovered about myself here, it is this: I am a night owl. This was something I’d never given much thought to but suddenly became quite the revelation. It wasn’t until the second semester of my freshman year when I embraced a later bedtime and saw the endless possibility of the softest hours of the day. And, as weird as this sounds, many of my most formative Georgetown experiences have occurred after sunset. Before you jump to conclusions, allow me to explain.
There are a couple of different types of nights that exist on this campus — ones that become ingrained in your psyche and shape your thoughts for days and years.

There’s the conversation type of night, where you find yourself in Village C West, sitting on some unwashed carpet floor, passing around a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. It’s in those late hours when you learn the most about people who become your friends, where you hear stories about past relationships, hometowns, familial issues, when you really start to know them through tears and laughter. It’s these nights where people get the idea to go run and sit in John Carroll’s lap, jump in the Dahlgren fountain or go on a long walk to the monuments. When you wake up the next morning, it’s these nights that make you smile because you feel like something is happening.

The other type of night is the Tombs night — an era that begins with the stamp on one’s 21st birthday, and then all of your friend’s stamps on their birthdays, or rather the night before (pro tip: they’ll let you in at 11:50 p.m. sometimes if you beg and plead). These nights have dancing; they have music that you’ll probably never remember and a photo or two to Instagram. And then there’s the clean up, the walk back, the glass of water, the full analysis and evaluation of the night as an event, the label that follows the phrase “that night when.”

Then there are work nights — ones that we all know too well. These happen in the library or at your kitchen table when you start to hear the birds chirp and reach for another cup of coffee. But these nights can take other forms, too. They can be in the form of painting a Georgetown University Student Association campaign banner, waiting to hear election results, practicing debate presentations or finishing up a documentary production binder. These are short nights, but ones where you discover the stuff you’re made of, in addition to how quickly you can finish a paper.

There are some things about the Georgetown experience that are immutable. And although we don’t join the same clubs, or have the same friends, or all go to Tombs or Lau like Jane and Joe Hoya, we have our own experience shaped by four years of meaningful “nights,” of becoming a person through thousands of moments that collage into a diploma. We all fill in the blank differently when we reflect and choose where or when we learned the most. But no matter what embodies the experience of the Class of 2014, we all owe Georgetown thanks for the nights and days that taught the things we never even expected we wanted to know.

Maggie Cleary is a senior in the College. She is a former chair of the Georgetown University College Republicans and the D.C. Federation of College Republicans.

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