My four years on the Hilltop as an undergraduate student are coming to an end on Saturday. Georgetown has fundamentally changed me as a student and as a person. There have been ups and downs along the way, but overall, I am incredibly grateful for my experience as a Georgetown student. I would not change anything — even the setbacks — because it is those painful moments and key decisions that shaped my time here, making me who I am today.
One of Georgetown’s greatest assets is its location. In some way or another, our decision to enroll here is influenced by the allure of the nation’s capital — whether it is national politics or international relations, the jazz scene or art galleries. This city is truly a vibrant and cosmopolitan community. Capitol Hill, the various government agencies and executive departments as well as nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits provide endless opportunities for internships and employment.
While the allure was there, I stayed mostly away from it in the end. Many of my friends held internships and I respect them for it, but I knew it was not for me. I worked too hard in high school to get to Georgetown to not enjoy my time here and really immerse myself in my undergraduate career.
That is not exactly how things worked out, though. By spring semester of freshman year, I was hired as an associate with a political consulting firm. I was attracted to the dynamic nature of my project-based work in a fast-paced environment (the presidential campaign of 2008) and the pay. At this point, I was also working in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions interacting with prospective students and their parents; this constantly reminded me of how truly lucky I was to be at Georgetown.
Moreover, I was incredibly lucky when, in July 2008, I was elected to the board of an international nonprofit organization that exposed me even more to the world, specifically through diplomacy. It was the perfect commitment to complement my School of Foreign Service education.
However, all of my off-campus commitments distracted me from my coursework. It seems most of us at Georgetown make this calculation to balance school and outside activities.
The challenge, however, is in finding the appropriate equilibrium. I did not fully gain a handle of my time until junior year. This is when I decided to re-engage myself at Georgetown. A deliberate shift was necessary in my life. Before I knew it, I had become exactly what I did not want to be. I was over-committed and living a life outside of Georgetown. My schedule was filled with endless meetings. Simply put, I was not happy. I was not enjoying my time on the Hilltop and was missing out on formative experiences.
If my first two years as a Georgetown student were characterized by my time off campus, my last two years have been about embracing everything about Georgetown. I joined THE HOYA as the community member on the editorial board and later as the community member on the board of directors. I also continued to sing in the University Chapel Choir and even served a term on the SFS Academic Council. I finally felt that I had found my place at Georgetown.
Around this time, I also solidified my group of friends. I never really struggled to meet people on campus, but it did take some time to build trust. Moreover, I really came to appreciate the vast support network Georgetown has in place. I really made an effort to develop a strong relationship with my dean and professors. This made a typical semester far more rewarding. I also took advantage of the professional staff at Residence Life, Counseling and Psychiatric Service and Campus Ministry to truly enrich my personal experience on campus. All of these resources were incredibly helpful when I finally came out and later when life confronted me with serious challenges. I do not know how I would have gotten through Georgetown without their support and encouragement.
Looking back at my four years on the Hilltop, I am forever indebted to the entire experience. I definitely appreciated Georgetown’s location but also learned to look on campus for growth. The clear highlight of life as a Georgetown student, though, is the lifetime friendships forged and tested here. I leave a transformed person because of the people I encountered. I leave a better person because of the challenges I overcame. I am prepared for the next step as uncertain as it may seem right now. Regardless of what happens, I know that the Hilltop will always be a home, that I will always be a Hoya and that Georgetown will always be where I defined myself.
Carlos Reyes is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and a former community member on The Hoya’s board of directors.
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