To My Alma Mater

Dear Georgetown,

Now that the dust has settled, the caps have been thrown, and diplomas have been handed out, I can finally pause and sit with the unease of knowing college is over. I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude knowing that something special, that I may never fully appreciate has happened.

I wasn’t afraid. Not when I was a high school senior applying to colleges, not when I moved to Georgetown, not even a mere two hours later when I lost my wallet on move-in day. Looking back, I didn’t have the good sense to be afraid. I survived moving to the East Coast in the middle of high school, albeit with a lot of teenage angst, but I thought the transition to college would be more of the same. As I leave Georgetown now, I have never felt more afraid of what lies ahead. It’s a comforting thing to look back with gratitude on what has made my college experience the best (yet) years of my life.

Finding myself. Georgetown has been everything to me – the intellectual highs, the soul-crushing lows – but to a degree I think my journey of self-awareness could have happened anywhere. There are times when I was hit with visceral pangs of homesickness, not homesickness per se, but something similar for a different version of myself, especially while I was abroad in Italy. I missed hearing Telugu (my mother tongue), going to temple regularly, and waking up to dosa and sambar on Sundays. The feeling of slowly losing yourself can sit in the back of your chest for a long time before it pulls you in and spits you out like a tsunami. I slowly learned and relearned which parts of my identity are the most salient and the courage that it takes to live fearlessly, honestly as exactly who I am.

A New Home and FamilyGeorgetown was the first place that I put down roots in what felt like a really long time. It gave me a sense of safety and security to know that I would come back to campus each year. After moving cities, states, and countless times between homes, I was exhausted and ready to settle in. I didn’t know when I moved into room 352 in New South, that I would find a new family on the Hilltop. Some of these friends would come and go like the seasons. A friend made to survive Modern South Asia or sophomore spring, others from high school or middle school would stay with me for years. We would spend sunny afternoons talking about God and theodicies or drinking wine and watching Grey’s Anatomy. I definitely made some mistakes and expected too much, but no friendship is perfect. My friends were always there when it counted. I’m deeply grateful for every ramen date, episode of the Great British Baking Show, and late night spent in a hammock. The milestones that we passed together are memories that I will always cherish.

Intellectual Curiosity. I came to Georgetown for the intellectual rigor of studying international relations at a world-renowned school. I have always loved school and it is that pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge that has brought me this far. From motherhood to random classes on poetry, I got to explore so many topics that I am passionate about. It’s hard to believe that my days sitting around discussing the backsliding of democracies or nuclear weapons policy are over. At Georgetown, my professors always indulged me and treated my ideas with the respect they would accord an equal. They pushed me to produce my best writing and take on new topics to research. My professors brought to life the Jesuit ethos of learning and service and showed me how the two can go hand in hand. Striving for academic excellence has also meant confronting the reality of injustice and suffering in this broken world. I learned the importance of putting my skills and privilege to use in making the world a better place, a mentality I hope will always be reflected in my career.

Faith and Justice. The Jesuit emphasis on educating the whole person has also driven me to engage more deeply with my faith. When I came to Georgetown, I was on the brink of a very disillusioned, reluctant agnosticism. I was operating under the assumption that at some point, now that my mom can’t judge me anymore, I would stop practicing. During puja one day, Brahmachariji told us a metaphor where he compared faith to a Tulsi plant, which is a holy plant that only needs to be watered every few days. He drew the comparison to say that we shouldn’t practice our faith out of habit, but rather come back to it and draw on guidance and energy when we need it. Though I didn’t make it to services as often as I would have liked, I appreciated the welcoming community that our  chaplain created and his efforts to make faith accessible and relevant to our daily lives. I plan to find peace in my faith when the chaos of the world becomes too much.

LeadershipFrom the very first semester, I threw my heart and soul into my clubs. Some were purely fun like Rangila, others appealed to my academic or professional interests. But it was through leading these clubs, that I learned the most about myself. Sometimes even if you give your blood, sweat, and tears to something, it may not be enough. I learned that you have to demand the respect you deserve. Touching one person’s life in a positive way can make it all worth it. How to advocate for and with others. The importance of tuning out relentless criticism and listening to your gut. I have a new appreciation for the strength that it takes to lead with grace and humility, but I am also profoundly grateful for having had the opportunity to lead my fellow classmates and sisters.

Taking Care of Yourself. College pulled me in so many competing directions: school, work, internships, clubs. There were never enough hours in a day for me to do everything well. Because it was my last year of college, I think I pushed myself even further in the familiar competition of doing the most. I very rarely told people no, following through on a promise I made to myself at the beginning of the year. I don’t exactly regret that, but it made for a very rough year. I was working 20 hours a week, in addition to a full course load. At times, I felt like I was falling short in every sphere of my life. I didn’t feel present in my friendships, in my classes, or in the tiny quiet moments of  life. It was a constant, relentless blur of activities, always rushing to the next appointment on my gcal. This year taught me that to be my best self, I need to put myself first. I need 8 hours of sleep each night. I need to put aside time to workout, do a face mask, and watch TV by myself or with friends. The rituals of self-care are key to resetting my mind and soul and being able to put my best foot forward. College has taught me to prioritize what I need in order to reach my goals post-grad.

There’s something about the knowledge that the stars will never align again exactly as they have now. This time, a college experience, was always finite. It had an expiration date from the moment I set foot on campus. Seemingly yesterday, I lost my wallet as a baby freshman outside of New South, and now I’m writing a reflection about how college is over. As I move forward, I am amazed at how this institution has shaped me and challenged me to be the very best version of myself. Or at least put me on the endless path of striving towards a more kind, more thoughtful version of myself. In this pause, between college and my first job, I can reflect on what Georgetown has meant to me and face what comes next. I know I’m not alone in my fears, hopes, and dreams.

To my Georgetown family, I am forever grateful to have walked beside you these past four years. Thank you for everything.

Hoya Saxa,

Roopa

 

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