What I’ve Done Matters Less Than Who I’ve Become

Truc Nguyen, NHS ’20, second from right

Sophomore Truc Nguyen is a human science major in the NHS. Here, she reflects on her time at the Montserrat Retreat. Catholic Ministry’s annual sophomore retreat.

How has the school year been for you so far?

As a sophomore, I feel more confident and self-assured than I did last year. Since I am an introvert, I have a hard time reaching out to new people, but I have learned from current friendships that courage goes a long way in making new connections. I have a great group of friends who I was so excited to see after a long summer apart, and it’s amazing that we can continue these friendships right where we left off.

What made you sign up for the retreat?

Coming into my sophomore year, I am more aware of what I need and where to get it. If I don’t understand something in class, I’ll go to office hours or email the professor. If I need a place to study, I have an extensive repertoire of go-to study spaces. If I need to recharge and calm myself, I’ll go to a sacred space (like Dahlgren Chapel or Copley Crypt) and physically immerse myself in silence. However, at the beginning of this year, I still felt a disconnect between myself and my faith, and I craved a renewal of my relationship with God. I signed up for this retreat hopeful of the change that could happen and patient for what God has to say to me when I am wholly invested in listening.

Have you been on a retreat before? 

Other than the Montserrat retreat, I have only been on one retreat, which was the Freshmen Loyola retreat. My first few weeks of college weren’t going very well; I didn’t like my classes and I had a hard time putting myself out there and making friends. The stress over my grades, making new friends, and doubts about my major were suffocating and burdensome, so I decided to escape and go on the Loyola retreat. It was one of the best decisions of my life because I realized that God can be found anywhere, if only I let myself find him. It was also on this retreat that I met one of my best friends, who continues to be a great companion on this faith journey.

What did you take back to campus from your experience? 

Coming back from every retreat, I am always delightfully shocked to find something I didn’t think I needed. The things that mattered to me at the beginning of the retreat paled in comparison to the true worth of more important things, like the peace that God gives me, the assurance that everything will work out, and the goal of living with God. Did I still want to do well in my classes and get those pesky chemistry problem sets done? Yes, of course. But these seemingly important tasks were sidelined when I realized that my life does not revolve around grades or my resume.

A simple reminder that resonated with me on this retreat was that, unlike parents or employers, God doesn’t care what my resume or transcript looks like. He won’t care if I get an ‘A’ on an exam or if I get an internship. I realized that if the things I considered important weren’t what God considered important, then why do I worry about them? This is not to say that I’m going to blow off all of my midterms. The privilege of a Georgetown education should never be squandered, but at the end of this school year and eventually my time here as a Georgetown student, I’ll remember that to God, “faithful” looks better than “straight-A-student,” and what I’ve done matters less than who I’ve become.

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The Art of Being Artful

Tariq Touré speaking at The Black House

Art is a part of everything we do, not just something we consume.

As a self-proclaimed creative, I have always wanted to believe that art is something more than just entertainment, a hobby, or a past-time. For as long as I can remember, it’s encompassed nearly every aspect of my life. My drawings have allowed me to express what can’t be expressed in words. My writing has taken me on new adventures. My photography has restored my sense of awe of the world. I’ve always wanted to believe that art is more than just something we consume, and last Thursday, that belief was reaffirmed.

Situated in the warmth and comfort of the Black House, I and student representatives from the Muslim Students Association (MSA), Black Student Alliance (BSA), African Society of Georgetown (ASG), and several other student groups gathered with Tariq Touré for a discussion on Islam, Blackness, and Resistance. Touré, an author, advocate, and poet, recited one of his recent poems featured on AJ+, and led an open discussion. While the discussion touched upon issues such as race, religion, and activism, a significant portion of it was dedicated to the arts, which have proven to be helpful in several areas.

First, the arts are a good framework to start dialogue. When Touré’s poem was first featured on AJ+, it expanded larger discussions on police brutality and ongoing NFL protests. Even the discussion we participated in was preceded by a poetry recitation. For difficult conversations, especially ones where different groups are brought to the table, art serves as a powerful catalyst.

In addition to creating dialogue, the arts also have a healing aspect. As I found out during the discussion, I was not alone in my challenge to create art about joy. A fundamental challenge many artists face is balancing art about joy with art about pain. It has even gone to the extent that some artists feel they cannot produce art if it is not the result of some painful or traumatic factor. It is possible to produce art without draining ourselves in the process. It is also possible to produce art that focuses on accomplishments, celebration, and progress.

One of the most profound parts of the event was our discussion of the imposter syndrome. Since art is a part of everything we do, everyone is an artist in some shape or form. Not everyone’s art looks the same, and this should not be a deterrent against working. One of the most beautiful parts about art is that people resonate with and see themselves in it. In the words of Touré, for another day, it can help someone survive.

After the discussion, I found a renewed sense of purpose and dedication for my art. They say that if people see themselves in an artist’s work, then the artist has done his job correctly. Here’s hoping that my future work will allow people to see themselves within it too. For now, I will keep writing.

Written by Nena Beecham, SFS’18

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Jewish Life thrilled to welcome Rabbinic Fellow Benjamin Barer to the Hilltop

Ask any senior involved with Jewish Life to reflect on their time at Georgetown, and they will say that the community has grown, Shabbat attendance has quadrupled in size, and programming is gaining more energy and enthusiasm with every year. To keep up with the Jewish community’s growth, Jewish Life has hired Benjamin Barer as the inaugural Dr. Robert Shattner Rabbinic Fellow. Barer is from Vancouver, Canada and comes to Georgetown as a fifth year seminary student at Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. He will be ordained this spring and will then be joining the Georgetown Jewish Life team full time. “Benjamin has all the promise that we saw in his application and interview process. His excellence is already evident in the beautiful work he has done in the community,” says Rabbi Rachel Gartner, Director of Jewish Life. Our Jewish Life Engagement Professional, Ronit Zemel, sat down with Rabbinic Fellow Ben to ask him a few questions about his experience in the Georgetown Jewish community so far.

How did you find out about the position? What excited you about it?

I first heard of the position through one of the listservs that Rabbi Rachel posted the job to in the spring. I was excited about it the instant I saw it, because it matched so closely with the ideal type of job I was hoping to begin my rabbinate with: a mix of teaching, pastoral care, and interfaith dialogue and engagement, all in a stimulating environment geared towards adults. I view myself first and foremost as a teacher, one who can teach best by broadcasting my love of Judaism in how I lead. I also believe that my eclectic Jewish background – I had my Bar Mitzvah in the local Renewal community while also attending
Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva high school – and training in a pluralistic setting help me to connect with the wide range of student experiences of, and expectations for, Judaism.

What has been the best part of the position since you got here?

The best part of the job so far has been getting to know the students and sharing a little bit of myself through my teaching and seeing them connect to it.

Any specific highlights?

I think the highlight so far, in that vein, was my introduction to the community on Welcome Back Shabbat, where I was able to introduce myself through a drash that reflected on Charlottesville and Nazism. To know that that was both what I needed to reflect on and share, and what many of the students needed to hear, was humbling and emboldening at the same time.

What are you most looking forward to in your time here?

I am most looking forward to more of the same — deepening my relationships with students, staff, and faculty, both within the Jewish community and more broadly at Georgetown — and creating a community where we can learn and struggle together. This is long-term work, especially as the students are being pulled in so many directions. I know that there is a deep thirst for the spiritual meaning and relevance that Judaism can offer, and in time I know that I can help students find what they are looking for.

Jewish Life at Georgetown is thrilled to have Rabbinic Fellow Ben as a part of our community, and we have already learned so much from his contributions.

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Coming Full Circle

Shannon Chai, COL’18 and Ndeye Ndiaye, COL’18

Senior Ndeye Ndiaye, an American studies major, anthropology minor, and student worker for Campus Ministry, is a busy woman on campus. This past summer she was involved with New Student Orientation as an Orientation Advisor and continues her role as a leader on campus as an ESCAPE Leader. In the following interview, Ndeye shares how her experiences have shaped her life on the Hilltop.

What did you do this past summer?

I had a bit of a whirlwind summer. I spent the first month in Dakar, Senegal, where I got to spend time with my family, watch younger friends graduate from high school, and decompress from the stress of the school year. I didn’t realize how much I needed this time away until I was given the time to focus on myself. Following that month, I returned to D.C. and celebrated my 21st birthday with my birthday twin and fellow co-worker, roommate and one of my closest friends here, Shannon Chai, alongside our friends. I felt extremely loved.

The month of July was a bit rough, but I finished out the month working as a Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA) Communications Intern and a research assistant for the Georgetown Slavery Archive with Professor Adam Rothman. I think the highlight of the summer was the return of Game of Thrones! I can’t believe we only have one more season to left.

You were a New Student Orientation (NSO) Orientation Advisor (OA) this year. What was that like? What were your responsibilities?

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for NSO. It’s one thing to experience it as a freshman, but it’s quite another to experience it as an OA.

The training days were extremely long, and NSO was even longer, but it was incredibly rewarding. During training, we were exposed to a variety of university resources, logistical training as well as group facilitation training. It was extensive and for good reason. As OAs, we are one of the first points of contact for incoming students, and it’s important that we are able to help any new student as best as we possibly can.

It was my first time being an OA, and I have to say it was the perfect start to my senior year. I had the most amazing group of students, who not only were actively engaged with the NSO programming but who also ended up bonding amongst themselves in a really unique way. They all come from different backgrounds and have different cultural experiences, but they were able to connect in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted. Navigating personalities and figuring out how to connect with all of them was a rewarding challenge. The best part was that they are living in my freshman dorm, Darnall Hall. It truly felt like my Georgetown experience was coming full circle, and despite how exhausted I was following the experience, I wouldn’t change anything. The NSO experience is unlike anything else at Georgetown, and I would encourage everyone to apply to be an OA.

It sounds like you really enjoyed your NSO experience, are there any other ways you engage with first-year students on campus?

It’s funny you ask that because I’m also part of the ESCAPE program. ESCAPE is a first-year and transfer-student overnight, secular retreat that founded in the Ignatian tradition of reflection. ESCAPE is a great way for students to get off a campus for 27 hours and relax away from the hecticness of the Hilltop. I serve as an ESCAPE leader, so I basically help co-lead the retreat with my cohort of co-leaders. We provide a safe environment in which students can be vulnerable, but also just have fun with a random group of students they have most likely never met before.

ESCAPE was a cool way to continue the mentorship I had developed during NSO, and it’s a great way to personally get off campus as an upperclassman. I never did ESCAPE as a freshman, so one of the reasons why I applied to be a leader was to get that experience – lucky for me, I get to have four ESCAPE experiences as a Senior.

Ndeye Ndiaye, COL ’18, with Fr. Greg Schenden, S.J.

Reflecting on your experiences this past summer, did you learn anything new?

The biggest thing I learned about myself this summer is how resilient I am. I won’t go into the nuances of my summer, but it was very difficult. There were moments where I didn’t know what the future would entail, despite how much I tried to shape things in the direction I wanted them to go. Yet, here I am.

I’m a bit shocked at how I was able to remain as optimistic as I was. Having entered my final year at Georgetown, I reflect on everything I have experienced and what I have encountered over these last couple years, and this resilience has been a central piece of myself that has remained consistent. I’m really curious as to how the lessons I have learned will shape my future and how I encounter life post-Georgetown. There is truly nothing else like being a Georgetown student, and I hope everyone graduates knowing that they will be able to attain anything they put their mind to.

This is your senior year, what advice would you give to your freshman self?

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Follow your passions, and follow what YOU want to pursue. Coming into college with preconceived notions of what you should study can be hard, but just know that pursuing your passions will provide you with great rewards. Focus on developing who you are and figuring out what you need and who you need yourself to be in order to make it through this stage of your life. Take every experience, positive or negative, as a lesson and grow from it.

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Finding God’s Presence in Everyday Life

Eva Lucchino, COL’19 (second from left)

Eva Lucchino, COL’19, is an English major and history and theology minor. This year, she is serving the Hoya community as a Catholic Retreats Leader.

While junior year has definitely been the most challenging from an academic standpoint, it has also been my most rewarding semester at Georgetown so far.  I feel that my relationships at Georgetown, both with individuals and my club communities, have grown stronger and more fulfilling.  I believe that this deepening of relationships is due, in part, to my role as a Catholic Retreats Leader.

I led the Catholic First-Year Retreat Loyola as a sophomore and enjoyed experiencing my faith in community with others.  Being a leader last year caused me to reflect more about my experiences in the context of my faith, friendships, classes, and clubs.  As the school year came to a close last year I decided to apply to be a leader for the 2017-2018 academic year, because I wanted to help others by sharing my personal experiences with faith. I also wanted to continue to grow in my faith within the Georgetown community.

Loyola has provided me with a faith community, inspired me to reflect more often, and made me more aware of God’s presence in my daily life.  Being aware of God’s presence has been a comfort to me on the nights that I have to walk home at 2 am after studying and a joy when I am enjoying  a new book.  The Catholic retreats I’ve participated in will remain with me throughout my time at Georgetown as an encapsulation of what it means to be in a faith community at university and as an important step in my personal faith journey.

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