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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White Noise

Have you ever noticed, quite suddenly, that you’re immersed and surrounded by the buzz of stress and anxiety? When you notice that, what do you do?

Earlier this week, I realized quite literally how the static of stress can creep up on a person! In our apartment, we have a white-noise machine that we sometimes turn on near our baby’s crib in the main room, to provide a little sound coverage so that we can move about the apartment or talk softly without waking up our son. Recently, though, baby Nathaniel has discovered the sound machine and learned how to turn it on. He loves to play with it, trying the different settings (white noise, rain storm, night-time crickets, ocean waves, etc.) and turning the volume dial up and down!  Normally I notice when he’s playing with it, since his favorite setting is the rain storm setting with dramatic thunder-claps that you can’t miss!

Yet the other morning, after the baby had gone to daycare, I was working alone at home for a few hours, and felt unusually on edge… frustrated, impatient, and unsure why…  until, only after a long time, did I realize that the “white-noise” was cranked up to FULL volume, filling the air with an easily-ignored but obnoxious static. The baby must have turned it up and left it on, and I had somehow gotten accustomed to it and not noticed for hours!  But what a relief once I turned it off: beautiful, calming, peaceful silence!  As I relaxed, I realized how much I’d been yearning for true silence!

When you notice anxiety in your life, how do find peace? What helps you recognize the stress for what it is? Do you have any healthy ways to ‘dial down’ the volume on the stress?

Especially at a place like Georgetown, it rarely feels possible to turn the many pressures of school life off, either completely or for very long… But I encourage you that it is possible, and in fact necessary, to find moments or spaces of respite here on campus.

What would it look like for you to turn down the ‘white noise’ of stress? Does it mean ending the day reading a chapter of a novel rather than looking at screens? Could it be praying or meditating? Taking a walk through the Georgetown neighborhood? Stopping by one of the sacred spaces on campus? Or perhaps calling a friend back home? Everyone needs moments of genuine peace to thrive, and hard-working Hoyas are no exception!

Written by Stephanie Wong, Chaplain-in-Residence

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Relax, Slow Down, and Help Plan a Conference?

Zac Schroepfer (back row, second from left) with NJSLC student attendees from across the country.

In July 2017, Georgetown University hosted the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC), a national student leadership conference for students of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities around the country as well as for students of international Jesuit universities. NJSLC provides student leaders from these universities an opportunity to come together and cultivate skills in student leadership based in the Jesuit tradition.

Junior Zac Schroepfer, MSB’19, a student volunteer who helped plan the conference over the past year, shared his experience with us in an interview.

What did you do this past summer?

This past summer I primarily interned at a Digital Media Firm called Chong + Koster, where I gained great analytical and strategic marketing skills. I also had the opportunity to further explore the amazing city of D.C. and venture out into some surrounding landmarks, such as Harper’s Ferry.

You were on the planning committee for the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC) this year. What was that like? What were your responsibilities?

Being on the NJSLC Planning Committee was an experience I wouldn’t trade for any other. This past year, I served as the chair of Advocacy Day. In this role, it was my responsibility to work with one of the co-chairs of the conference to plan the logistics, send out the communications, and execute the actual event. Advocacy Day itself consisted of us taking all 350 delegates down to Capitol Hill, where they had the opportunity to meet with their Congress-people and staff to discuss and advocate for issues that face institutions of higher education. An amazing part of being on the conference planning committee was the ability of our team to be extremely flexible. While each of us was responsible for own portfolio, we worked as a team to ensure every event was a success. The experience was not only unforgettable but also a great developmental opportunity to continue learning skills that will allow me to be a better team member in any situation.

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

As I mentioned before, an amazing skill I learned was how to be an impactful member of a team, without overstepping my boundaries and interfering with another person’s responsibilities. Due to the cohesiveness of our team, I was performing tasks way out of my portfolio because we all wanted the team to succeed. It was an amazing team-building activity.

Furthermore, I learned a lot about Jesuit values and the importance of encapsulating them in my everyday life. Before this conference, I already considered myself a member of the Jesuit community of Georgetown, but this conference further solidified my appreciation for the values of reflection, contemplation in action, and cura personalis.

Have these experiences affected how you will approach this academic year?

Specifically, my experience of broadening my understanding of Jesuit values in my Georgetown life will benefit my upcoming academic year extensively. By living out the values of being contemplative in my actions and really reflecting on each day and what I have learned, I hope to live a better life. I hope this conference will be a catalyst in my life for further understanding of my passions and how I can convert those passions into actions that are truly for others.

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

If I could give advice to my freshmen self, it would be twofold. Relax, and slow down. While these two may seem like they are getting at the same thing, let me explain further. My freshman year was full of anxiety and rejection. Due to the club culture at Georgetown, I was getting rejected from club after club. At first, I took this continued rejection personally and I felt that, for some reason, I was not wanted here on campus. I would tell my freshman year self to relax because everything will get better. I would tell myself: “You will find friends, you will find groups that you belong to, and you will find out more who you are. Just continue to find things that you love to do, and people that you love to hang out with will come along.”

My second piece of advice, to slow down, is super relevant to me, even today. There are so many miracles that one gets to experience at Georgetown. Whether it’s getting to see an influential speaker like the Pope at Capitol Hill, or meeting someone from a culture that you typically would never interact with, or connecting with that professor that always intimidated you, or even simply taking a look at the monuments at the National Mall, there is something to make you happy about every day. Don’t let anyone dictate your happiness besides you. Enjoy the everyday miracles and let those fuel your fire to make others happy, because that is where you will find true happiness.

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Set the World on Fire Every Day

Clara Cecil (far right) with other members of the NJSLC Planning Committee.

In July 2017, Georgetown University hosted the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference, a national student leadership conference for students of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities around the country as well as for students of international Jesuit universities. This conference provides the opportunity for student leaders from these national and international Jesuit universities to come together and cultivate skills in student leadership based in the Jesuit tradition.

Senior Clara Cecil, MSB’18, a student volunteer who helped plan the conference over the past year, reflects on her summer and the impact of planning a major conference.

Going into this summer, I was incredibly uncertain. While many of my classmates had completed finance and consulting industry recruiting in the early fall and knew exactly how they would spend their summers, my path was much less straightforward. By the time April arrived, I still had not decided where and how I would spend the summer. Nonetheless, through the support of my parents and the guidance of friends and professors, my summer ended up being more incredible than I could have ever imagined.

I started the summer by traveling with a friend in France, then I explored London and Copenhagen with my family. After returning to the United States, I researched food waste – a subject about which I am extremely passionate – through the McDonough School of Business Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows program. I also worked part-time as a Student Business Analyst for the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation on campus. Although I initially doubted that I would have an impactful summer experience, I made unforgettable memories, developed new friendships, and learned about myself and the world.

Along with my other summer experiences, I worked on the planning committee for the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference as the Logistics Co-Chair. My co-chair Aaron Bennett and I were responsible for reserving spaces, organizing transportation, planning meals and snack breaks, and ensuring that the conference ran smoothly from start to finish. Admittedly, it was difficult to coordinate the logistics for a conference with over 300 attendees, and it required extreme attention to detail. After working to plan the conference for more than a year, it was incredibly fulfilling to experience the conference alongside the attendees from Jesuit schools across the country and world.

What I didn’t expect from the conference, however, was to learn so much from the attendees. The theme for this year’s conference was “Set the World on Fire.” Going into the conference, I had a pretty good idea of how I hoped to set the world on fire with my future career. My business school classes strongly emphasize corporate social responsibility or the role of business in respecting social and environmental interests in conjunction with business goals, and I hope to be able to drive positive change in the world through business.

However, the conference taught me that setting the world on fire is not confined to a future career. From attending student-led workshops to talking to conference attendees, I experienced how students are already applying their Jesuit values in their immediate school communities and beyond in diverse ways. For example, I attended one workshop led by students from Le Moyne College (the hosts of next year’s conference) who are promoting diversity and inclusiveness on their campus through dance. Not only are the conference attendees making a difference in their immediate school communities, but they are also working in meaningful internships, starting nonprofits, and tackling the greatest challenges facing the world today. Before the conference, I had a limited conception of what it meant to set the world on fire. But the conference attendees inspired me to expand my thinking and to set the world on fire not only through my future career but also through the way I live my life every day.

Given my experiences this summer and throughout the past few years at Georgetown, I wish I had known to relax and trust in God that life would turn out better than I had ever expected. During my internship and job search processes over the past few years, I have spent so much time crying on the phone to my parents or worrying about the fact that I would not secure an internship. Now I understand that I should have spent that time setting the world on fire through my daily actions, knowing that I would end up exactly where I was supposed to be with the support of friends, family, and my other support systems at Georgetown.

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