Two years ago, I made a deal with myself: Transfer or graduate early. I remember the day I spoke to my dean about my intentions to graduate early, initially my backup plan if transferring did not work out. My dean was helpful, but of course he asked me about my motivations to leave. I gave some rambling explanation about finances and a desire to jump-start my career, but those were only the “alternative facts.” In reality, my family could make it work. Law school could wait. I just hated where I was.
I am not going to whine about how I have had it harder than everyone — or even anyone. I have friends who experienced real hardships during their time in college, including homelessness or death in the family. I simply had the quintessentially horrible freshman year: a bad roommate experience, a fake friend, a terrible long-distance relationship and the realization that what passed for smart in my bucolic hometown was not always going to cut it on the Hilltop. I decided that the solution was to leave Georgetown as soon as possible.
I knew that college would be full of both personal and academic challenges. Staring at the Lauinger Library cubicle graffiti sucks for everyone, but it sucks even more when you are 3,000 miles from home, feel like a social pariah and have no clue what is going on in your classes because your high school did not have things like economics, Chinese or textbooks from the 21st century.
The fact that financial circumstances had driven me to turn down my dream school and attend Georgetown in the first place made me arrive feeling like I belonged somewhere else. My lousy year only augmented this sentiment. I did not think there was anything I could do to make myself happy here, so I stopped trying. And that is when everything changed.
I made a new friend. Cheesy, I know. But it’s the most unexpected things that will change the trajectory of your time at Georgetown. Many people have made my experience better since May 2015, but this friend was really the nexus of it all. She became the first person I talked to when I awoke at noon, and the last person I laughed with before I fell asleep at 6 a.m.
She introduced me to her social circle and broke the preconceived notion I had of all Georgetown students as pretentious, affluent snakes. She made me realize that, despite my objections, I did indeed emerge from freshman year with a few friends and positive experiences. The timing of our friendship was pretty amazing, but the best part was that I never could have predicted, forced or expedited it. It just happened.
I am not necessarily the person you want to look to for sage advice. There is a 40 percent chance I will sleep through my own graduation and I have probably eaten stolen dining hall M&M’s for breakfast. Even if I tried to write a step-by-step guide of how to duplicate our serendipitous friendship, I probably could not. Too many sleepless nights on the floor of Alumni Square laughing about Tinder pranks and face morphs has not been good for my memory.
I cannot tell you much, but I can tell you this. If my transformation at Georgetown has taught me anything, it is that, one day, a haphazard, unpredictable decision will change your outlook on life. What sucks is that you will have no idea what it is until long after you have done it.
Please reach out to me if you want to hear our entire loud, annoying friendship story but, basically, I sat down one day to eat the free ice cream that my friend was advertising on her Snapchat story. I had given up trying to force new friendships; I just wanted fattening food. I did, however, make the off-handed decision to eat the free snacks of a Snapchat contact whom I barely knew. The rest of the story fell into place and completely changed my mindset.
Obviously, I ditched the transfer applications, but I am still graduating early — inshAllah. My collection of Georgetown friendships and experiences are not going to vanish just because I have a diploma. Besides, I am no longer worried about the future. I have realized that the secret to happiness is that there is no secret: Just eat junk food and talk to strangers until one of them changes your life.
So whether you are a senior who is dreading graduation, a junior who cannot wait to leave this godforsaken place or a freshman doubting your college decision, there is no definite solution to assuage your apprehension. But one day you will do something random. Then three, seven or 24 months later, you will realize that eating the blueberry cheesecake ice cream was the best thing you ever could have done for yourself.
Matt Palmquist is a senior in the College.