When I first came to Georgetown University, I thought the whole point was the classes I would take. I pushed myself to read all the readings, which led me to spend all my weekends on the lovely third floor of Lauinger Library. I thought studying was forcing myself to read every word in the quiet of the library until I was exhausted. Instead, I just confused myself more. I felt swamped. One Tuesday night, I hit my breaking point. With tears running down my face in my Village C West room, I called my mentor, France. I knew her from my preorientation program, and if there was anyone who I felt could explain the mystery of college to me, it was her. She came over, wiped my tears and told me the biggest secret about college: No one does all the readings. She understood my frustrations and pushed me to explore my education outside classes.
Now, as I graduate from Georgetown, I know the whole point is so much more than the classes.
I was overwhelmed going into college. I’m a low-income, first-generation student, so I have been trying to figure out college for the last four years. I struggled hard in the beginning to balance new friends, family back home, a long-distance relationship, working and five so-called introductory level classes. I felt like every semester was a new life to adjust to: new classes, new jobs, new schedule and new friends I’d run into. I felt stuck in the balancing game of college. My education didn’t feel like it was mine.
I tried to remind myself how much I would be able to help my family with my college education and the incredible opportunities laid out before me. I pushed myself to the brink. My extreme budget cut my daily meals down to save money. My packed schedule kept me working past midnight, only for me to wake up at 7 a.m. for my internship in Dupont Circle. My weekly anxiety attacks that became my daily reality isolated me. I tried to work against it. I reached out.
Remember to reach out.
I spoke with my Spanish professor after class one day. He saw the fear in my face. He recognized all I was going through. He told me this education is for me, that its purpose is to help me as a whole person. It was an aha moment. I realized I had organized my education for others when I was the one living it. This was my junior fall, so for the rest of my time at Georgetown, I made sure my education was mine.
Make sure your complete education is completely yours.
When I took a breath and poured my energy into myself, my time at Georgetown changed completely. Instead of hurrying past friends to meet my tight schedule, I started taking a breath to slow down and really listen to my friends. The passing conversations grew into hours full of laughs as I got to know the people who became my dearest friends.
Remember to live.
I changed my last three semesters drastically. My decision to begin medication, push back my study abroad until the summer and drop my senior honors thesis challenged me to listen to all of myself. I had to slow down to listen to what I needed to do to live. This skill was something I learned outside of the classroom in the conversations on a Village A rooftop, during pop-ins at the Georgetown Scholars Program office, in the midst of late-night adventures at the Georgetown waterfront and in the other unexpected and unplanned moments that defined my college experience.
The Georgetown experience was about so much more than classes.
College is a time to really follow the values in our hearts away from our homes. We have a chance to grow not just as an individual, but as a community. The beginning of our time at Georgetown is meeting our new classmates and coming together into this new community. We don’t start with classes; we start with friendships. Being present with the people around you will teach you the most important lessons at Georgetown, and I thank all the dear people who taught me along the way.
Liz Fieschko is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.