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My SMU Experience: Expectations vs. Reality

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There is a lot less ramen than I expected…there’s still ramen, just a lot less.

My idea of what I thought college changed a lot based on what I saw and heard as I grew up.  I would say my first impressions of college would be the first time I saw Disney’s The Extremely Goofy Movie.  I figured I’d be heading out with my best friends, driving away from home, getting involved in a sport, and maybe even a fraternity.  In the movie, Goofy ends up following his son Max to college, and I hadn’t even ruled that out at the time.  I love mom and dad, but that is not an option anymore.  Please visit anytime, however!

Later I had learned from movies and tv to expect lots of parties in college, and crazy friends.  That was also inaccurate.  Those opportunities exist, but good friends keep you out of those scenarios, and rather, watch Netflix and make food until the late hours of the night.  A classy alternative.  Coming from a place with no professional sports teams and limited concert options, going to college in the Seattle was a huge eye opener for me.  Fellow social squad member, Lauren Diuco and I, are counting down the days till we can watch games at SafeCo Field again or see the recently crowned Sounders take over CenturyLink Field as the MLS Cup Champions.  I really didn’t consider these options until I arrived at Saint Martin’s.

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Lauren Diuco and I show our support of (King) Felix Hernandez at SafeCo Field

 
Until my teammate in high school signed to run track in college, I hadn’t seen collegiate athletics to be in my future, but I planned to make it a reality, and I did!  Another reality that came true in college stems from another Disney movie, Toy Story 3.  Mom took that one hard watching Andy go to college, and I always thought it was kind of ridiculous until it actually happened to me.  It is crazy hard to say goodbye to your parents, especially when you live far enough away that you’ll only see them a few times a year.  You learn how to stay close, and they love updates and pictures, so make sure you do that.

My family with me at Monroe Catholic High School the day I signed with Saint Martin’s

Reality definitely breaks expectations and that is such a great thing.  Lessons continue to be taken out of the classrooms, and you learn so much more than what you have on your class schedule.  You learn which stereotypes you can break about college students, and create your own experience here at Saint Martin’s.  However, I’d be surprised if you don’t accompany a late night of homework with ramen at some point in your four years…

 

“Last” Means a New Beginning

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Eleven months and twenty-five days ago, I scrambled to throw my things in to my backpack.  Usually, I would be getting the guys together so we could go get lunch at Speedy Subs or The Chowder House, but today was different.  Today was a milestone that I would never forget, and one that would decide where my life was going after graduation.  That day I sat down at a table in our school’s library, surrounded by family, friends, coaches and staff.  Next to me was Jalon McCullough, the school’s star basketball player, and together we both fulfilled our dreams of competing in our sports at the college level by signing our National Letters of Intent.

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NLI Signing at Monroe Catholic HS – April 2015

I would bet that you can remember any of those milestones from your own senior year, or just life in general.  Those moments where you thought “This is why I worked.  This is why it took all of that time. Just to get to this moment and feel that even for a few seconds, it has all come full circle.”  However, these moments do not last forever.  I thanked all those who supported me and served as role models.  I signed my NLI, hugged my parents, coaches, and friends, and it was over.  By making my decision, I finally began seeing myself leaving it all behind.  So because I had accomplished what I had set to do in the years before, I now had to give it all up?  The “lasts” of my life started becoming milestones too.

Eleven months and twenty-seven days ago, I went to my last prom.

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Boys from the MCHS Class of 2015 – April 2015

Eleven months and fifteen days ago, we had our last day with our kindergarten buddies (who are now first graders!).

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Halea and Emma pose for the camera! – May 2015

Eleven months and nine days ago, I had my last day as Student Body President and swore in my successor.

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Haley Michelle becomes the new Student Body President – May 2015

Ten months and thirty days ago, I put on my cap and gown, received my diploma, and had my last day at Monroe Catholic High School.

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Jackson Wallace, Lucas Button, and myself get ready to take the stage. – May 2015

Last. Last. Last. Last.

Seven months and thirty days ago, I had my last day in Fairbanks.  Followed by my first flight to Seattle to get to Lacey.  Seven months and twenty-nine days ago, I had my first practice with my new Saint Martin’s Saints cross country team.

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New teammates! – August 2015

Seven months and twenty-four days ago, I had my first service project at the Olympia Children’s Museum with all of the first-year students for Incipio, our orientation program.

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Morgan Erickson, Amanda Grengs, Jona Spiller and myself take a moment before a day of service! – August 2015

 

Six months and twenty-six days ago, I went to the Washington State Fair for the first time.

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Myself, Claire Palmiter, Cameron Devine, Melissa Roth, and Tamera Ramsay after a fun day in Puyallup – September 2015

Five months and fourteen days ago, I had my first article published in the school newspaper.

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“Wait, you actually want snow?” in The Belltower – November 2015

First. First. First. First.

The saying “when one door closes, another door opens” comes to mind.  These doors were going to close and there was nothing I could do about it.  I had to go out and find the doors that were opening, and that meant leaving home.  If you are about to leave home in a few months, take in your lasts! You earned them!  Then know that there are many firsts around the corner… maybe even at Saint Martin’s.

A Change of Plans

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At Monroe Catholic High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, I was extremely involved.  It was a small school so there not as many people as some of the bigger Fairbanks schools, but we had no shortage of opportunities.  I wanted to be a part of everything.  Sports, student government, service clubs, National Honor Society – I loved being busy!  When I graduated, I planned to go to SMU and coast through my first year.  I would be living in a new state, I would have a new track team, and I would have to make new friends and have new responsibilities.  I did not know what to expect so I did not want to get involved until I felt like I had a strong grip on my new environment.   This year has not gone at all as I had planned it…

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Picture day for the SMU Track and Field Team – January 2016

My first semester had a very redundant theme: home.  Seventeen-hundred miles away from home I was learning how to be comfortable with living somewhere new.  I’m not one to be nervous about new experiences, but there sure was a lot I was thinking about, even if I really was just excited to be here.  I had to figure out the campus, the meal system, time management, new friends, keeping in touch with old friends, community events, homework, cross country practices (including 6AM workouts), and lots of other little things.  One of the strengths that I do have is the ability to stay calm in stressful situations, until I am able to work out whatever it is that I need to do.  How did I get over these stresses?  I stayed positive and took every challenge as an adventure, and through that, I discovered that every other first-year was going through the same struggles.  We were able to get through everything (or at least the first semester) with a little help from our new friends.

The first floor of the Spangler residence hall is home to the Norcia community.  I so strongly believe in this embodiment of one of our Benedictine values of community, that I am currently in the process of becoming a Norcia mentor for next year.  This is just another way I am trying to give back to Saint Martin’s, and another way that this year had surprised me.

One of my teammates, who happened to be the editor of our school newspaper, The Belltower, mentioned writing for the paper.  I declined, trying to stick to my plan of simplicity I had set for myself, but it was so easy to imagine me writing for the paper.  I had always loved writing, and so I finally gave in and submitted my first article about my transition from Alaska to Washington.  It was around this time that I had also heard about Social Squad.

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Andrew and Andrew at the WSU Open in Pullman, WA – January 2016

I had a history class with Christine Towey, and I asked her about the Social Squad and the Marketing department.  It had piqued my interest because it sounded like the direction I wanted to go with my studies and a potential career.  I had an interview just before Christmas break and was notified that I had the job just before the second semester started!  So here I am, in February 2016, and I am not where I had planned to be in my first year of college…and that’s a great thing.  I had planned not to get involved outside of school and sports and here I am with two jobs and planning to take on a leadership role next semester.  At a university that stresses giving back to the community and provides me with so much, it’s difficult to not find a way to give back.  This makes me think about what other goals I have for the future, and what else I want to do with the seven semesters that I have left.

I want to become a Norcia mentor and provide to future first years what I was given this year.  There is a lot of strength and confidence in experience and there is a lot you can learn from those who have been where you are now.  I want to work more with The Belltower to have it distributed to more Lacey and Olympia businesses, and also have more businesses have their ads in the paper to give a better feeling of community in our paper in connection with SMU.  I want to be an orientation leader my junior year, giving myself another outlet to let new students feel welcomed into the next big adventure of their lives.  Ultimately, I want to be a role model, and someone people can look up to.  When I think of role models, I don’t think of celebrities or superheros.  I think about when I was growing up, and the people who helped me become who I am today.  These are my friends, my family, my teammates, my teachers, and my co-workers.  These people are the ones who I saw overcome daily struggles, and stayed strong when they were feeling weak, and simply stayed positive and smiled when everyone else seemed to have a frown.  That is the kind of person I want to be seen as in my life.

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Mariners Caravan event at SMU with fellow Social Squad Member, Lauren Diuco – January 2016

While sometimes it may feel impossible to roll out of bed, or to finish that hard workout, or finish that article for work, it is important to remember that no matter what, you are going to make it to the end of the day.  Think about where you are now, and where you want to be in the future and know that the future is coming, ready or not.  Find out what you need to do so that when the next day comes, you have done something to have a result that is a reflection of that work you have done.  It is in this way, that we can live one day at a time, and still have the future in mind.  It is in this way that we can improve ourselves, and learn to live for others.  It is in this way, that we can step back from our lives, and see the lives of everyone around us to give back what has been given to us.

Thank you for reading,

-Andrew