Love and Villanova

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, you run into individuals with very different opinions of the holiday. For some, it’s a day to celebrate with their significant others. For others, like myself, it’s a chance to go out to dinner with the girls and pick out a rom-com to watch. I think Valentine’s Day has become a chance to celebrate love in your life, no matter what form it takes. At Villanova, I’ve formed some of my greatest relationships with roommates, friends, sorority sisters and fellow tour guides. I’ve found that I’m surrounded by love every day, often evidenced by something as simple as a phone call with my parents or when one of my roommates gives me advice.

Villanova has gifted a lot of people with relationships that have lasted long after graduation. One of my family friends, Rachael Ponge, graduated in 2011 from Villanova. This past December, she married TJ O’Donnell, who she met through mutual friends during their first weeks at school. They have since relocated to New York City, but more than 70 Villanova alumni attended their wedding in Syracuse, New York. One of her bridesmaids, Kate Wroblewski, got married just two weeks before to Ryan Verfurth, who also graduated from Villanova in 2011.

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TJ and Rachael O’Donnell got married in Rachael’s hometown of Syracuse!

One of my favorite aspects of Villanova is how genuine the friendships I have made here are. I think Kate and Rachael’s stories are no exception to this idea. Since graduation, Rachael and Kate’s friend group has been able to keep in touch, and their memories have managed to extend from exciting times as college students to memorable moments as working professionals. I got to talk with both Rachael and Kate, and they shared a lot about the awesome adventures their friend group has experienced since graduation. Not only did they talk about how grateful they were for the friendships they’ve made, but the education and experiences Villanova gave them as a university.

I think Villanova is special for everyone in different ways. For me, It was a great group of lifelong friends, a husband and the base for a great nursing career.” – Rachael Ponge O’Donnell ’11

Rachael and Kate’s friend group has managed to get together as often as they can, despite being spread out between New York, New Jersey and even Chicago. From getting together to watch Villanova win the 2016 NCAA Championship to rotating apartments for “Friendsgiving,” they’ve traveled as far as Las Vegas and Puerto Rico together.

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Ryan and Kate got married here at Villanova University!

“Villanova will always have a piece of my heart, not only because I got married there, but because I got to meet the most wonderful people and received an incredible education. I will always be thankful for the experiences I had at Villanova that have helped shaped who I am today.” – Kate Wroblewski Verfurth ’11

I actually got to know Kate through her younger brother, James, who was one of my first friends here at Villanova. It’s funny how making friends with one person can open doors for that many more opportunities. It’s been inspiring to talk to Rachael and Kate, seeing how Villanova has given them not only the great education of a well-respected university, but friendships and even relationships that have been genuine, long-lasting and fulfilling.

Thinking about Valentine’s Day this year, I might not have the same experiences as Rachael and Kate, but their stories just make me appreciate the people I have gotten to know at Villanova thus far. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but the people I have met and the experiences I have had at Villanova lead me to believe that it couldn’t look any brighter. As another Valentine’s Day passes, I’m excited to see what life will be like next year, but until then, I’m happy spending the night with some great friends wondering what incredible adventures we’ll have after our graduation day has passed.

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Inside and Outside the Classroom

One of my biggest fears going into Villanova was that I wouldn’t be able to stand out in the classroom. At a small high school, I got to know all of my teachers easily. Every student was able to participate often, and I felt like I was able to really develop my own voice. As I headed to my first class of my first year, I was nervous that I wouldn’t feel as confident as I did in classes back home. To my surprise, however, my time in classrooms at Villanova quickly became just as engaging and comfortable as my time outside them.

As a student at Villanova, of course I am challenged to succeed, but I also feel encouraged to use the knowledge I write down in my notebooks and apply it to everyday experiences. My professors have enjoyed getting to know me, as well as other students. I feel that the professors and advisors I have worked with genuinely want me to succeed, both during class discussions and also in the field I hope to work in someday. My time at Villanova has allowed me to explore classes I may not have originally wanted to take, and many professors have not only made those classes easier to understand, but quite interesting as well.

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a great place to visit.

Outside of the classroom, my professors at Villanova have supported and even organized trips to different areas of Philadelphia to see our PowerPoint lectures and discussions come to life. In my Augustine and Culture Seminar, a foundational course for all first-year students, we saw the words of Jane Austen come to life during a class trip to a local performance of “Sense and Sensibility.” My art history class recently visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I was able to study the characteristics of Medieval and Islamic art and locate examples of both throughout the exhibits.

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I loved my ACS class during my first year at Villanova! 

I remember introducing myself my first day of my first year, and immediately wondering if I would want to participate in each of my classes. While no two professors teach exactly the same way, I have learned that the best way to learn is to speak up. If you don’t understand, ask a question. If you have something to say, raise your hand. My time in Villanova classrooms have been rewarding in the sense that I have not only learned more about subjects like astronomy, the Italian language or news writing styles, but I have overall developed a new-found sense of confidence.

While not every day is perfect, and of course, assignments can be challenging, I appreciate my time spent inside and outside of Villanova’s classrooms. I’ve learned to explore subjects I once thought to be far too outside my comfort zone. I’ve met some of my best friends and greatest inspirations through my time at Villanova. I respect that everyone’s academic goals are different, and each professor has the choice to teach in a way that he or she sees best. In doing so, I try to find the positive aspects of each course and run with them. As I progress through my third year here at Villanova, I remind myself that I am very lucky to attend this university, and when that seems like a lot to handle, it’s the small moments that make it the most worth it. It’s seeing your professors and saying hello while waiting in line for coffee. It’s raising your hand and nailing a question you remembered from your reading. 

I may not remember the details of every course I take here at Villanova, but I will remember the great relationships, the enthusiasm and the successes I have taken away. With the help of knowledgeable professors, eager students and a variety of programs, I know I am walking away with an education derived from both equations and experiences alike.

If I had an Extra Hour…

If I were given an extra hour in the day, what would I do? As a college student, my initial reaction would be to jokingly say I’d get that extra hour of sleep or look over my vocabulary terms again.

On the other hand, I could really take the time to think: What’s the most important to me? When the schedule of a college student appears overwhelming, it’s easy to focus on the negative. I would love an extra hour to practice my biology presentation again. I would love to have an extension on an assignment or meeting with a professor.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I’d try cooking a new recipe with all three of my roommates. We’d all sit down and eat together, something we don’t always get to do. I love getting to take the time to spend time with all three of my best friends together. It makes living in an apartment that much more exciting.   

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I’ve known Kaitlyn since our freshman year of high school.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would FaceTime with one of my best friends from home. I’d take the time to catch up on everything we’ve missed since she moved to Massachusetts. I’d remember to stay close to the people at home who have always been there for me.

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would leave my phone in my backpack during a coffee break with friends. I’d tell myself to answer those emails later. I’d give my friends my full attention.

In between my afternoon classes, I would venture off campus for a new place to find lunch. I’d bring my friends along. I’d even invite those who I haven’t gotten to see as often this semester.

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Sabrina’s has become one of my favorite restaurants near campus. 

I would choose a book to read that’s outside of my assigned coursework. I’d pick my favorite book from high school and read it again. I’d take my friend’s recommendations and select something new.

What’s funny is that I can’t give myself a 25th hour of every day, but I can take these ideas and make them more of a priority. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where I thought this writing would go. College students crave that extra hour of sleep, that extra hour to review, or that extra hour to spend with somebody important to them.

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Thankful for the friends I’ve made at Villanova like Charlotte.

My time at Villanova has certainly had its ups and downs, but if I look on the bright side, I see that I still have so much time. I’m sure everyone would appreciate more time to do what they love and accomplish their goals, but I find that having less of it makes it that much more valuable.  

It’s important to take advantage of the time I’m given at Villanova, but it’s also essential to take a break every once in awhile.  In the three years I’ve been at Villanova, I’ve learned more about myself that I ever imagined. I’m learning how to be a more independent person. I’m learning how to paint my own definition of success, and I’m learning how to manage my busy schedule. All in all, I hope the remainder of this semester runs as smoothly as it possibly can in order to make the hours count and the memories within them even greater.

Tricks and Treats

As feelings of fall continue to descend on Villanova’s campus, the list of possible activities lengthens. You can carve pumpkins, pick apples, enjoy a Villanova football game and place the final touches on your Halloween costume. The weather cools, the sun sets earlier and you can’t help but want to go out and do something new. Near Villanova, there are plenty of new activities to partake in when the weather changes. So hop in your car or call an Uber and head over to four of the best places to visit near Villanova.

Linvilla Orchards, Media – Just 20 minutes from Villanova’s campus is Linvilla Orchards. This past weekend, members of my sorority and I had a great time catching up after a busy fall break with pumpkin picking, hayrides and a lot of apple cider donuts. It was a great way to take advantage of a warm Saturday and get off campus. I love getting to go to Linvilla every fall since my freshman year.In doing so, you can really see just how beautiful a Pennsylvania autumn can be.  https://www.linvilla.com/

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Had a great time visiting Linvilla this October!

Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tour, Philadelphia – Ever wanted to learn more about our nation’s first capital? Explore the city of Philadelphia with a twist. Visit some of Philadelphia’s most historic and spookiest sites, including the Old Pine Street Church and Cemetery and the Second Bank of the United States. For Villanova students, it’s only a train ride away. I would love to look at the city of Philadelphia from a completely different perspective. Once again, my love of history might entice me enough to take the risk and get a good scare. http://www.spiritsof76.com/

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia – I’m not a big fan of scary things, but if you are, Eastern State Penitentiary would be right up your alley. “Terror Behind the Walls” tours throughout the month of October take you through six haunted attractions designed within the Philadelphia prison. Even if haunted houses aren’t your favorite, the penitentiary has tours almost every day, featuring exhibits on the history of the prisons, and even an exclusive look at Al Capone’s cell during his one-year sentence. https://www.easternstate.org/halloween/

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Al Capone’s cell in Eastern State Penitentiary 

Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride, Glen Mills  – One of the top rated haunted attractions in America, the Haunted Hayride at Arasapha Farm has over 25 scenes ranging from ancient churches to creepy caves. A fan of the famous Bates Motel? Transport yourself into their world of haunted pictures, creaky floors and echoing screams – if you dare. http://thebatesmotel.com/

With fall comes change, and with change comes the inspiration to do new things. I love Villanova, but sometimes it’s nice to get in the car and explore someplace new. For me, it’s taking a chance and walking into a terrifying haunted house, but for you, it could be something completely different. We can hesitate when it comes to change, but I’m looking forward to all the great things that autumn has to offer. As the second half of the semester kicks into gear, it’s important to take a break, go on an adventure and ultimately see what tricks or treats lie ahead.

 

Moments of Gratitude on Day of Service

What do you think most college students are doing at 8:00 on a Saturday morning? I’ll admit: It can be difficult to start your weekends at an early hour. For the past five days, exams, club meetings and coffee breaks with friends have overwhelmed your schedule. For many students like myself, a Saturday morning is the time to get some rest and relax before another busy week. There is one Saturday morning in particular, however, that has students focused on something different.

Every September, the St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service gives Villanova students the opportunity to give back to the community surrounding our university. When I signed up for Day of Service with my freshman orientation group, I remember feeling a little hesitant. Do I really want to get up that early on a Saturday? What kind of work are we going to be doing? Can one person really make that big a difference?

I had an absolute blast during my first Day of Service. I remember spreading mulch around a newly built playground in Philadelphia and picking thousands of weeds out of a community garden. Of course, I’ll never forget how appreciative the people were to receive our help, but what was just as rewarding were the memories I had made during that day. Freshman year, it was great to spend the day with the first friends I had made at Villanova. Sophomore year, I became even closer with members of my sorority who I thought I already knew. I saw that by working as a team, we were able to do something that much greater than ourselves, and the ability to see exactly how I can make a difference is comparable to that extra hour of sleep.

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Villanova University takes great pride in its dedication to service, and Day of Service represents just a slice of all the work students contribute. What I love most about Day of Service, however, is how much it reminds me of how grateful I am to be a member of the Nova Nation. One of my goals recently has been to focus more on the things I do have as compared to the things I might want. Nobody’s life is perfect, and as we complain about a stressful assignment or an argument with a friend, it’s important that we take a moment to look around and see what we already have. I have great friends. I am receiving an excellent education. I can make the choice to sleep in on a Saturday morning. Day of Service reminds me to not only embrace what I have, but help those who might not have what they need.

As I finish up my third year participating in Day of Service, I am that much more humbled by the work the Villanova community has done to help the larger one. There is nothing better than knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life. I can never fully repay Villanova for the opportunities it has given me, but I can use those opportunities to give back to someone else. Looking around and seeing the difference my friends and I can make in someone’s life is what makes picking weeds, spilled jars of paint, and one less hour of sleep completely worth it.

Summer Spotlight: Morgan Goodman ’18

As the sun sets on another amazing summer vacation, there is still something to celebrate. Another year at Villanova University is about to begin, and students will have plenty of great stories to share with their friends when they get back. Villanova students are spending the summer all over the country and even the world. Some students are already back on campus, preparing for New Student Orientation. Some are traveling around the world through study abroad programs. Some, like me, are working and interning to gain great experience for the future. My communications internship in a local theatre has given me important skills and incredible memories that I will bring to campus this fall, and I know plenty of other students are doing the very same.

One of those students is Morgan Goodman, a senior marketing major and business law minor from Westchester, NY. She’s spending her summer in New York City as an intern in the Global Partnerships department at the NBA. As an intern, she works to find prospective partners and find areas of opportunity to work with other companies. She then helps develop outreach plans, which show how a company’s objectives can easily align with the selling points of the NBA.

Goodman explained that while her application process did consist of turning in resumes and cover letters and multiple interviews, the process became a lot easier with the help of Villanova alumni.

“Villanova alumni who worked at the NBA or in the sports industry were extremely willing to connect with me and provide advice,” she explained. Villanova alumni love helping out current students. It can be really rewarding to make connections with different organizations and companies through an internship, and getting to know alumni can be extremely beneficial as well.

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Morgan Goodman ’18 (second from left) interned with the NBA this summer.

While it’s clear that Goodman has been working extremely hard at her internship, she has had plenty of memorable experiences. She got to work with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum. She even got to attend this year’s NBA draft, and watch recently-graduated Wildcat Josh Hart get selected! Goodman explained that an internship is “a fantastic way to get a taste of an industry you are interested in.” It can provide you with amazing opportunities to “network, present your personal brand and learn from experts in the field.”

When I asked Goodman how Villanova had prepared her for such an incredible opportunity, her answer couldn’t have summarized it any better. “Villanova has truly enabled me to grow as a leader, both personally and professionally. The community at Villanova has [given me the determination to search] for ways to grow and learn. There is an incredibly supportive and collaborative culture, which has allowed me to strive to my fullest potential.”

While our internships are very different, I can happily agree with Goodman on how Villanova prepares students to take on any challenge. It’s important to do what you love, and Villanova has prepared students again and again to do just that. Whether you’re working with one of the biggest organizations in the country or taking on a more local company like myself, the experiences you can gain on campus and off are going to make your time at Villanova even more memorable.

The opportunities are endless at Villanova, but there are plenty of other places to visit and activities to try. While I’ve enjoyed relaxing and recuperating this summer, my time as an intern has been extremely rewarding. Seeing the amazing work that other students are doing has only encouraged me to work harder at what I love to do. So remember to do what you love and take advantage of any chance you’re given. I can’t wait to hear more about the awesome things Villanova students got to do and see this summer. I know for certain that it’ll be a summer worth remembering.

 

A Letter to My Freshman Self

To My Freshman Self:

Well, here you are! Welcome to college. Take in the surroundings of your new dorm room, decorated from wall to wall with three girls’ worth of clothing, picture frames and toiletries. You sit quietly on your bed, desperately trying to conjure up something that will spark conversation among you and your roommates, but you can’t stop thinking about how much easier it would be back home. How did the idea of freshman year go so quickly from something planned months in advance to your new reality? The questions start filling the empty spaces of your room: Will you make friends? What if you get lost on campus? What if you get rejected from every activity you apply to? You’re overwhelmed. You want to go home. I remember it like it was yesterday.

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Abby, Katherine and I have been friends since freshman year!

Well, Freshman Self, I am here to tell you that you’re going to be just fine. I know, you were not very happy when you were assigned a triple with two roommates, but it’s going to work out. The three of you do not have to be best friends, but you do have to communicate and respect each other’s space. Find out what you have in common, and learn more about what makes you all different. Give your roommates a chance. I guarantee they feel just like you do right now.

Be sure to leave your door open while you’re doing homework or listening to music. The literal opening of your door will metaphorically open you up to meeting a lot of nice people. Ask others in your building to grab dinner or walk to class with you. You can easily curl up in bed, texting your friends from home, but there are so many interesting people to meet! Say hello, and the rest will take care of itself.

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Cheering on the home team at Wells Fargo

On your first day of classes, you’re probably going to feel lost and overwhelmed. That’s normal. Don’t be surprised if your classes seem difficult. You go to Villanova University, after all, and nobody said that was going to be easy! Don’t be afraid to go to the library alone and study. Ask a professor to meet with you during office hours. Raise your hand and ask questions during class. Work harder than you’ve ever done before.

That being said, remember to have a good balance between schoolwork and a social life. When your new friends invite you to watch a movie, take a study break! You deserve it. Go out to dinner. Take the train into Philadelphia. Relieve some stress at the gym. You’re going to find your fit, and you’re going to feel a lot happier and healthier when you balance school work, friends and activities.

The biggest change you’re going to see in two years is how much more independent you’ll become. You’ll be balancing academics with friends, meetings, sorority events and plenty of deadlines. Of course, your parents will answer the phone no matter what time it is, but sometimes you need to make your own decisions. Should I stay in or go out? What classes do I want to take? Which activities are going to be the most fulfilling? Remember, Freshman Self, that the most important person to please is yourself. If I could go back, I would’ve started realizing that a lot earlier.

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Welcoming prospective students with other Ambassadors!

I know that you’re feeling lonely right now, but one day you’ll find yourself as a tour guide, walking past the quad on a beautiful day and waving at people shouting your name. Or you’ll sit at the Oreo chatting with friends or raising money at Greek Life events. You’ll take a class that completely changes your perspective. You’ll see that at Villanova, your identity has not only been found again, but it’s stronger than ever.

Remember, you are not alone in this. Before you know it, you’ll be a rising junior like me, wondering how those first two years went by so quickly. You’ll experience the highs of late nights spent with best friends, acing a test you spent hours studying for and running across East Lancaster Avenue after a National Championship win. You’ll experience the lows, too. You’ll struggle in a class. You’ll go out with someone who turns out to be a jerk, even though your friends already knew that. You’ll question many things you were so certain you knew. You should be really proud of yourself, Freshman Self. You’ve already made great strides just by coming to Villanova. You have so much more to do and see. You just have to walk out of that dorm room, take a deep breath and start making Villanova your home away from home. I know you can do it.

Sincerely,

Molly Reff