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.

Return and Readjustment: Back From Abroad

It’s 5:30 a.m., and my parents are driving me to San Francisco International Airport. They help me unload my bags, and I check two of them. The airline employee comments, “Wow, you’re really cutting it close here,” referencing how unbelievably large these bags are. Little does he know that they contain four months worth of clothes, covering the winter and spring seasons of the East Coast. “Where are you going?” he asks. “Philadelphia,” I respond.

The last time my parents dropped me off at the airport in August, I was embarking on a four-month study abroad experience to Copenhagen, Denmark. That goodbye was filled with nervousness and uncertainty for what the next few months would bring, living in a city I’d never been to, with people I’d never met. This goodbye was different, however. Filled with anticipation and excitement, I could not wait to see the campus I’d parted with for about seven months.

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As I sat on my cross-country flight, my mind started to race to all of the unknowns. I hadn’t seen campus since May of 2017, and I’d wondered how it had changed. How was it going to be living on West Campus? Did people miss me? How was I going to acclimate back into the rigorous course load I had? Now that I’d opted out of a meal plan, how would I get a caramel iced coffee every morning from Holy Grounds? They were all hard-hitting questions. Nervousness set in, but was offset by excitement to see my roommates, who had all studied abroad as well.

After I land in Philadelphia, I collect all the boxes I’d left behind over the summer to finally move into my on-campus apartment. Exploring the contents of these boxes resembled going through a time capsule, recalling the last few days I was able to spend in Sheehan Hall my sophomore year. I was now more fully transitioning from residence hall life to apartment life. There was no longer just a need for a hamper and a desk lamp, but for kitchen supplies and living room decorations.

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My roommates and I eventually get the majority of our things unpacked, and decide to take a walk around campus to see what we’d missed. We quickly recognized all of the changes that were made in our semester-long absence. Mendel Field was in the middle of being transformed into a pedestrian-friendly green space. What was once a parking lot that ran along Lancaster Avenue was now the construction site for new student housing. We saw that the bridge connecting South Campus directly to St. Thomas of Villanova Church was fully constructed, getting final touches of stonework completed.

Despite these changes, there were many things that remained constant. I was still in awe of the Church’s beauty. I missed seeing the Oreo (or, more officially, “The Awakening”) in the middle of campus. Connelly Holy Grounds still seemed to be a safe haven for my caffeine obsession.

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And by the first day of classes, it was apparent that the physical growth on Villanova’s campus profoundly reflected the personal transformations I’ve seen with my friends and classmates. I’ve talked to numerous people who have joined new groups on campus, lined up exciting internships for the summer or are pursuing leadership roles in those groups they are already passionate about. People have made new friends, and grown closer to old ones. The people I’ve come to love the last two years at Villanova were evolving in their own, unique ways.

“How was abroad?” is the most common question I receive when reconnecting with people. This question is a simple one, and yet I never feel like I answer it to the fullest extent. Abroad was incredible for countless reasons. Living in Europe for four months will always be one of the best experiences of my life, not only because of what I learned while there, but also for the appreciation it gave me of everything I have at home. And which home?

I always find conflict within myself when trying to define what “home” is. I know it’s San Francisco, where my parents, siblings, dogs and childhood house are. But I also know that it’s here, at Villanova, where I learn about myself and where I learn about my community. It’s the place that gave me the opportunity to study in Europe, and the place that made me so excited to return.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned at Villanova is that every semester, and every experience we have within those semesters, teaches us something important. My semester abroad is no different. It taught me about independence, taking chances and cultural differences. These lessons have changed me for the better. My semester abroad also reiterated a point that has impacted me the most in coming back—Villanova is home.

 

A Thanksgiving Abroad

I maintain that Thanksgiving is one of the most underrated holidays. You either like the food, or you don’t. (Hopefully you do!) There are no gifts. That’s a big one for a lot of people. You almost always see extended family and receive some overly personal questions about school or work or social life. It starts at “What’s your major?” and evolves into “So why don’t you have a boyfriend?”

(Because I haven’t found the right guy, okay?)

Yet being in Europe for this Thanksgiving, I realize just how much I’m missing out on. For starters, I’m missing out on Thanksgiving as a holiday. It’s a harsh fact of life that Europeans don’t get a day off to spend time with their families and eat delicious classics like turkey and pie. Their founders didn’t sit down with Native Americans for dinner.

Thus, there was no delay in full-fledged Christmas mode here in Copenhagen. After Halloween, the city set up Christmas lights over the main pedestrian streets. Christmas stalls were set up to sell everything from hot chocolate to gifts. Stores redecorated to incorporate wreaths and signs that read “God Jul,” which means “Merry Christmas” in Danish. All of this would be severely upsetting to my mother, because she has very strong feelings about not putting up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.

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What I really miss about Thanksgiving at home are the things I didn’t know I’d be missing. I miss football. Football! I’m not a huge football fan, but there is something about watching NFL games in my family room over Thanksgiving break that makes it really feel like Thanksgiving.

I miss the low-level stress my family has around our Thanksgiving meal. I miss debating over our division of labor, who has mashed potatoes and who has Brussels sprouts. I miss making the pecan pie from what I thought was grandma’s recipe. (I was recently informed that that recipe is actually from a random person my dad met at a Thanksgiving meal he had with his friends in Washington, DC right after he graduated college.)

Although that doesn’t tell the beautiful grandmother-granddaughter story that I believed for 20 years, I think it still has good wisdom in it. There is someone out there that had dinner with my dad 30-plus years ago, when a group of recent college graduates from out of town decided to make Thanksgiving together. I don’t know who you are (on the off chance you read this), but thanks for giving me the best pecan pie recipe in the world. I make it every year. I hope your family makes it, too.

I even (very minimally) miss having to clean up with my siblings. Although it can be a very high-stress environment, there is always music and a lot of laughs. Hopefully my mom doesn’t see this, though. I might be on dish duty more frequently.

What I miss the most about Thanksgiving is the comfort. It’s the ease with which I can talk to my family and really, truly feel at home. When they say there’s no place like home, that’s no joke. It’s true, and it’s never been truer around the holidays. I’m blessed to be able to have such a wonderful meal every year. I’m blessed to have a family I love, and a family that can see each other on these holidays.

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You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. So, if you’re dreading going home for Thanksgiving because you’re going to see that random aunt from forever ago, I challenge you to embrace it. Embrace the moments you have where your house is warm and full of love, because those are the most important ones. Embrace the awkward conversations, because it’ll make for good inside jokes with your sister next year. Embrace helping out in the kitchen, because it might lead you to having a really funny and really genuine conversation with your dad.

Embrace your comfort.

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.

Taking Action For Job Action

Jobs. Internships. Professional development. Networking.

These are all things we worry about, even before we reach our first years of college. Even when I was in high school, I had to check boxes on college applications regarding what I wanted my major to be, a decision that at the time seemed to be momentous. What was I good at? What did I want to do?

In my case, I knew I didn’t want to do anything involving math or science. I wasn’t particularly bad at these subjects, but man, I did not enjoy them. I knew I liked my English and history courses, but I couldn’t see myself pursuing anything seriously in one of those fields. So, like many 17 year olds, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

And, in high school, a lot of people told me that it was, in fact, fine that I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career. Many adults I knew joked about how they still weren’t even close to knowing what they wanted to do – or, that they thought they did and very quickly realized it was the wrong path.

But, more and more, I found that not knowing what you want to do seemed less and less acceptable. It was fine in high school, and maybe fine in my first year, but by sophomore year it seemed like I should know. And I wanted to! But I didn’t know where to start. I knew that I liked people and writing, but not much beyond that. I felt that my friends were inching closer to what they saw as a realistic future for themselves, and I was still stuck in that in between feeling of knowing I had potential, but not knowing where to direct it.

In my sophomore year, I finally declared to be a Communication major – something, I thought, that could be applied to a wide variety of professions. And, after all, I knew I loved communicating. Verbal or written, I think it is fascinating how we as humans experience communication. I find it interesting to look at communication in a non-linear way, as a study and profession that constantly evolves and expands. The more classes I took with the passionate professors in the Communication Department, the more I found my own passion for this field of study.

Finally, at the end of sophomore year, my wonderful friend Sydney invited me to be a part of the Odyssey at Villanova. This online platform gives students across the country an outlet to share thoughts about anything from pop culture to the political climate. Not thinking anything of it, I joined to help out my friend. I wrote a few articles and realized I actually enjoyed writing about my own observations or experiences. I thought of it as a hobby or an outlet, not necessarily a life move.

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Sydney, the wonderful woman who inspired me to write!

 

Much to my surprise (and pleasure), I was then approached to write for this wonderful Villanova Admissions blog over the summer. Justin Ledesma, who coordinates this awesome blog, said that he saw some of my articles on the Odyssey and thought I would be a good fit for the student blogger position. I remember reading this email from Justin, almost shocked it was intended for me. I always just enjoyed writing, I didn’t actually think I was good at it.

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But, here I am now, writing for the Villanova Admissions blog. Was this a strategic move for my professional development? Not necessarily. I just told a friend I’d help her out. Fortunately, someone saw some talent in my writing, and it led me to this wonderful opportunity. Perhaps job action is just about taking action – action over our lives, our goals and our talents. This furthering of our careers is intertwined with furthering ourselves as people.

Sometimes, especially as students, we think of professional development in such rigid terms. We think of networking events, business cards and suits. And yes, that is a crucial part of it. But another major factor is figuring out what you actually want to do in the bigger scheme. Part of our professional development is our human development – taking leadership roles, writing in our free time, volunteering more – not because it will help our resumes, but because it will help us.

So, take a step in the right direction and take a chance. You might not know it will bring you closer to your calling, but it’s worth a shot.

 

Early Application Submitted? What to Do While You Wait.

Hello Early Applicants!

It’s November 5, a few days after our November 1 deadline, and you may be wondering “What I should be doing next or did everything I send arrive properly at Villanova?” A great way to check is to access the application checklist via your Applicant Status Page.

Here is an example of what you might see:

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As seen in this screenshot, you can see what items have been entered into our system and which ones we may still be waiting for. Documents sent through Naviance will update within 24 hours.  Items sent through mail or email will be registered within one week. Also, when it comes to Teacher Letters of Recommendation (only one is required), the checklist will not specify the sender of the letter.

If you are still missing the Villanova Essay or your Report Card/Senior Progress Report you may add current grades (first quarter/first marking period/grades in progress/etc.) directly to your application by selecting the Upload option (please see below) . Please do this by December 1.

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Hope this helps! Now that your application is in, please take the time to focus on and enjoy your senior year!

Justin Ledesma
Senior Assistant Director

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.