Reflecting on Four Years

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Hello, World.

Now that it’s been a while since graduation, I wanted to take a little while to reflect on my time at Saint Mary’s. I feel like my college years flew by. Honestly, when I graduated high school, everyone told me college goes by fast, but I had trouble really understanding what was meant by that until I was putting on my cap and gown, preparing to walk across the stage. So, here’s a big huge billboard to those of you entering college or not even halfway done yet: enjoy it, make the most of it, and don’t take yourself too seriously.

It’s hard to summarize four years of experience in a single blog post, but I’m going to try. In many ways, my four years is just a blip in the grand scheme of my whole life, but I think the four years spent at Saint Mary’s were really defining in a lot of ways. For example, my entire career path changed as a result of an experience I had at Saint Mary’s, and that’s pretty defining. Anyway, here are some of the highlights from the last four years:

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Confidence

I think the biggest thing that occurred over the last four years is the confidence I gained in myself. Do I still have insecurities and things I want to improve? Absolutely, and I think I’d be missing the point of life if I felt like I am the best version of myself already. However, I can say that the person I’m ending college as versus who I was when I finished high school is very, very different. In high school, I never really felt like I fit in perfectly. I struggled a lot with having the ability to figure out who I was, and I was so driven I often cut myself off from a lot. In college, i feel like I really found who I was and wanted to be, and was more authentically myself. I grew a lot, and gained confidence in my personality, interests, style, and goals.

Friends

I have a few friends from high school that I actively keep in touch with, but a lot of friends are hit and miss. In college, my friend group changed a few times. Some friends I made freshman year ended up different than me, and we drifted apart (TOTALLY normal, everyone changes). Others I fell out of touch with even though I tried hard to keep that from happening. However, ending college I feel like I have so many friends that I will likely have for years and years. Sharing college together makes people bond, and you share things that you’ll likely bond over for a long time. So, I’m thankful for all the friendships I made in college, even ones that already ran their course.

Growth

I think college is the time to grow. My school is small, and a lot of people started relationships really early on. I think something I enjoyed about college is that I was single for most of it, and I was able to just spend time dating myself if you will, meaning I got to know myself. I got to challenge myself, and figure out who I was. I was challenged to think differently, broaden my scope, and really grow as a person. I personally feel people should try to grow everyday, by doing something small to step out of their comfort zone or challenge some aspect of their being. We can never stop growing!

My Future

I entered college thinking that I would be a publisher or literary agent or editor upon graduation. I ended college accepted and enrolled at a great law school with the intention of becoming an attorney. Some people may say I sold out, pursued a career that would make more money, whatever. But the thing is, my passion changed, and that’s completely okay. I found something better suited to who I am. Being an English major, I started realizing that I love reading, I love analyzing texts, and I love discussing books with friends, but graduate school in English wasn’t something I wanted to do, and I felt more passionate about a future in law.

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Less Compromise / Less Overwhelm

I’ve kind of been one of those people that compromise a lot, and often will give and give and give. However, I think our 20s are our time to be selfish, and in my college years I got to a point where I refused to compromise my goals or wants for others. I put myself first, completely first, and did what I needed to do to accomplish the goals I set for myself. This didn’t include being a bad friend, or alienating myself, but it did mean that I set boundaries. I would give this much but not give too much. I would not sacrifice my happiness to nurse an unhealthy relationship. I set boundaries in which I connected with others while also improving myself. Boundaries are totally healthy, and I highly recommend setting them at all points in your life.

Learning to Say Yes

This my seem counter to what I just said about not compromising as much, but what I mean here is learning how to say yes to things outside of my comfort zone. In high school, I’d always say no and just blame it on my parents. My poor parents probably seemed incredibly overprotective. In college, I started saying yes. Someone asked me on a coffee date, a dinner, going to the city, etc. Before, I’d probably get nervous and back out. In college, I pushed myself to do more. Be more active with my friends. Situations where I easily would have said no before, I starting trying to say yes. This doesn’t mean I put myself in unsafe situations, but I was willing to be more social and active. This was most true senior year, when I said yes to going out, even when I knew I should probably spend another few hours studying. However, I have zero regrets.

Public Speaking

When I entered Saint Mary’s, I was petrified of doing anything in front of an audience. Having to speak to a group? No way! But, after taking various leadership roles, public speaking became a regular part of my day, so I started to just get over the dear of public speaking. Now, I don’t get nearly as scared, and I’m happy to say my skills of being articulate on my feet improved. I do think, however, this will be something I improve on further in law school.

I worked hard all four years, but I can definitely say that I have so may memories I will cherish forever. So many things changed my life, and defined my character. I’m so thankful for Saint Mary’s, the campus in the hills that I hope to return to again soon. To say it’s emotional to say goodbye to a place you call home, that’s made you grow and allowed you to flourish, and that’s been the place you forged lifelong bonds with amazing people is an understatement.  I will be forever thankful for the Saint Mary’s community, and that my college years are the best of my life.
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Sophomore Year Wrap Up

Hello, World.

I finished my last final of sophomore year yesterday, which means today is officially the first day of summer, and I am now a junior in college. Kind of horrifying, but also super exciting. This year was amazing in so many ways, and I thought it would be fun to share my sophomore year of college.
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This year I lived in a residence hall with only ten people! It was really unique, and it felt, at times, like an enlarged apartment. I lived with my best friend, Holly! She is going to London for a semester in the fall, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to live with her before she goes across the ocean on a European adventure. It was such a great experience living with someone I love spending time with and who I had classes with! Also, the amount of funny stuff that happened in that room will be remembered forever. I may have to mention some of it when she gets married in a toast or something, but who knows.
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This year I was a Weekend of Welcome Leader for Saint Mary’s. It was honestly one of my absolute favorite experiences in my college career thus far. I met so many people, and I felt so connected to my college, and I learned so many things about myself. I also learned that I absolutely love working with first year students, and that led me to apply for and obtain a Resident Advisor position for my junior year. I wrote an in-depth summary/reflection about my WOWie experience here. I loved being a WOWie, and I think if your college has a weekend of welcome type event, you should apply to be a student leader because it is a GREAT way to get involved.
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I got involved with Academic Honor Council, and I loved it. We went on a super awesome retreat in the fall! I learned so much about the Council during those two days. It’s one of the things I love most. I’m so passionate about it, and I love every member of the Council because they care about what we do, they put a lot of thought into it, and we try to help people. I feel so blessed to be a part of this group of students. I was also named “Voting Member of the Year,” which means during Review Boards I’m good a weighing the facts, considering all sides, and making the best decision for all parties. But honestly, I wouldn’t be good at my job if it weren’t for the amazing individuals who serve on boards with me.
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I went to a pumpkin patch for the first time in years, which was SO much fun. I love pumpkins. For me, they just encompass all things fall. Also, watching little kiddos pick their first pumpkin is so cute. They get so excited. Sometimes I miss being so little that a pumpkin is one of the most exciting things.
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I was a raccoon for Halloween. Ironically, I’m actually deathly afraid of raccoons. My friends gave me crap for this costume weeks for months. Honestly, they still give me crap for it every once in a while (like when I run across campus because they scream “raccoon” while we’re walking back from the dining hall at night).
Image Image I went to a 90s night celebration with some friends, and a few weeks later had a bonfire at my friend, Sasha’s house. She lives 40 minutes from campus, so we went home with her for a night to enjoy s’mores and tea and good company.
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I went to the City with two of my best friends, and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. This was one of the funnest days of the year. So relaxed and so spontaneous at the same time.
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I enjoyed a great Thanksgiving at our family’s cabin: my dad discovered the art of photo bombing, and it was beautiful weather. Also, the food was amazing as usual.
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As December and Christmas break approached, my friends and I went to my friend, Holly’s house to help her family decorate their Christmas tree. I also enjoyed seeing the deer on campus signal it was time for classes to be done so they could reclaim their territory.
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I enjoyed time in the snow at my family’s cabin (though there was essentially no snow this year), and found an adorable Christmas sweater. I also enjoyed a great Christmas with my family. They are crazy and loud and caring and loving and I love them.
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One of my favorite people visited while I was on Christmas break. This is Charity, a woman who continually inspires me, reminds me I’m good enough whenever I see her, and has always encouraged me to keep writing fiction, even if it is just for me. She was my rock when I was younger and having family troubles, and she is someone who continually reminds me of the good in life. On a side note, I also love Christmas Eve, and I love it even more because I get a set of cute pajamas!
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I spent so much time with my friends! We had junk food movie nights, went to movies at our local theaters that are old fashioned. We went to the City and I saw the Painted Ladies, and we played Settlers of Catan. It was a fun year, and I’m thankful for all the adventures I went on with my friends.
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One of my friends from high school who goes to Cal Poly-SLO played Saint Mary’s in rugby, so I got to see him. It’s always a weird experience to see people from high school while I’m college. Sometimes the two feel like separate worlds, but it was great to see him, and he played an awesome game! This was the first rugby game I ever went to, which is probably pretty bad on my part since my college just won the national championship, but alas, it was fun!
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My college has a huge cross on the top of a hill behind our chapel. During fall semester finals, it fell over in a storm…after some 100 years of being there. To say superstitions were high, and every student felt as if it were a bad omen is an understatement. People were freaking out, and were super unhappy about the lack of cross. Catholics and non-Catholics alike were sad about the fallen cross. When it was replaced in the Spring, I hiked to it because I feel like it is an important symbol of my college, my future, and an important reminder that some things are fleeting so you better enjoy them while they are there.
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I got a Resident Advisor position for the 2014-15 school year, which means I get to work with first year college students for a year! I’m so excited for this opportunity, and I feel like all my hard work is paying off. I also got placed in the hall I lived in last year, which is so exciting and awesome!
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My sister bought a puppy named Molly. She’s a peach. I just love her so much. When my dog, Riley, passed away at the beginning of the year, I was really missing having a small dog. I’m so glad we got another dog in the family, and one that is so stinkin adorable.
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This year I forged new friendships, and watched our Lasallian Star Search competition, where my friends won as No Direction (a One Direction cover band). It’s a lip-syncing competition, and they, uh, how do you say, kicked ass? It’s funny how friendships develop, and how relationships change over the course of a year. I’m glad with how my friendships are, and I’m very thankful for the people I currently have in my life. The end of this year was really fun and stress free. I realized so many things about not only myself, but also about relationships I’ve had, and people who I severely misjudged. While I’m talking about this year, I should just say that once you let unhealthy relationships or toxic friendships go, your life is so much more drama free, easy, and just, well, better. While in college, remember to enjoy it, and avoid dramatic problems or events. It’ll make for a much more rewarding four years. Also, don’t judge a book by its cover. Make sure if you’re ever having troubles, go to the source, and it may change your perspective on things. Allow healthy friendships to flourish, enjoy every moment of college, and live the life you want to remember. I had an amazing sophomore year despite a horribly rough start, bumpy middle, and tiring ending. I’m glad to be done with my classes, but I already miss my friends. I love Saint Mary’s, and I’m so excited to return for Junior year, but I’m so sad that I’m already halfway through my undergraduate degree. But overall, I must say, sophomore year was gaelicious.

Truly,
Callie leigh

10 Things Every College Girl Needs

Hello, World.

As finals approach, I keep thinking about the fact that next september I will be starting my junior year at Saint Mary’s. The thought is both exciting and terrifying. I’m looking forward to so much that will be going on next year, but I also keep reflecting on the last two years. I’ve compiled a list of 10 things I think are important to have when entering college, and though they are mainly materialistic, I think they are super useful!

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1) A good jacket. Depending on where you go to school, there are going to be times you need a good jacket, eg, coming back from the library late, going to early classes, standing outside at night hanging out with people, attending bonfires, etc. At Saint Mary’s, we see a lot of North Face and Patagonia. I would recommend both brands, along with Barbour. Depending on where you are in the world, your jacket may need to be heftier or lighter, but you can probably figure out what would be best (if you’re on the East Coast of the US, you’ll probably need a pretty thick jacket).

2) A big book bag (and a stylish bag is even better). Longchamp, Very Bradley, and North Face all are great places to find the perfect book bag. If you get a Longchamp, make sure you get the large if you plan to use it for books, as the larger bag can fit a laptop and can hold more weight. Having a good book bag makes it easier to stay organized, and will make it easier to transport books and other things that are necessary for class.

3) Journal. Something I’m so thankful to have from my first year of college is my journal. When I was getting ready to leave for school, one of my close friends gave me a journal, and said that she wanted me to write about myself. She knew that I tended to write fiction, but that she wanted me to have a book of my own memories when I graduated college. I wrote almost every day last year, and now, looking back, I’m thankful for the memories because now they are unchanging to some degree. While my relationships and opinions have changed in reality, its almost as if I have my own autobiography in a journal fashion.

4) Travel Coffee Mug. If you claim you’re not a coffee drinker, get a travel mug for tea or water or whatever but get one. Trust me, once you experience one too many sleep-deprived nights, you’re going to start drinking something caffeinated, and a travel mug will be a great thing to have.

5) A watch. If your college is anything like mine, your classrooms will not have clocks in them, so having a watch is great to keep track of how slowly or quickly your class is passing. If you are in a class where you have to talk a certain number of times, keeping tack of the time will be helpful. Also, you’re going to be attending interviews and meetings, and it is impolite to have your phone out as a method for keeping time. Watches are super important if you plan to go into a job that requires a ton of meetings or one-on-one time.

6) Little Black Dress. Speaking of interviews, you will have times in college when you need to dress up a bit. My first year on campus, I received tickets to the San Francisco symphony, and knew I needed to dress up a bit. Having a little black dress with you will make it easy to transform from “residence hall casual” into “sophisticated college student.” Also, every woman needs a little black dress regardless of if they are in college or not. Black dresses are classic, slimming, and romantic.

7) A planner. College life is hectic between meetings, extra curricular activities, interviews, homework, and events that are mandatory for class. Oh, and making friends. When I was getting ready for college, someone told me that college is a triangle consisting of a social life, sleep, and academics, but that I would only have enough time to choose two. Make sure you pick all three, and actually accomplish all three by the end of your four years by staying super organized. Next year I want to get the “Simplified Planner.” It includes the hours of each day, a to-do list for each day, and dinner plans or meetings. I feel like its going to be a super effective planner.

8) Good walking shoes. My campus is pretty small, but I still do a ton of walking, and if you go to a big school, you’re going to want to invest in good shoes. It may sound a little funny, but honestly, shoes can make all the difference if you do a ton of walking all day. You’re probably going to lose your sanity because of sleep deprivation, don’t lose your feet too.

9) Pictures of your family and friends from home. Being away from home is hard. There will be people you will miss constantly, so make sure you have pictures of them in your room so they still feel close. I made a collage of photos of my friends and I and my family on my wall in my room last year because it assured me that those people were still a part of my life. Also, you’re going to be meeting new people and making new connections and getting busier, but having photos of the people you love will remind you to give them a call when you have time!

10) Cute and comfortable bedding. In most college dorm rooms, beds double as couches. You’ll want to have cute and comfortable bedding because everyone is going to see it, and everyone is going to be sitting on it when you hangout in your room. Awesome places to look for bedding? Target, Pottery Barn, PB Teen, Urban OUtfitters, Anthropologie, and Kohl’s. All have great selections, and all have good quality for their bedding. You’ll also want to be sure to get bedding that is more of an investment and that will be durable because your bedding should last you your four years, if not longer. Also, make sure that it is cute bedding, but also bedding you won’t get sick of because it is going to be your primary decoration for your room. While you can hang posters, put pictures around, etc., your bedding is the focal point because its probably going to be the largest thing in the room.

I hope this list makes sense! All ten items have helped me transition into college easier, and are things I feel are important to having a successful first year!

Truly,

Callie Leigh

Life as a Gael, 2013 Edition.

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Hello, World.

From August 18-September 2, I worked as a Weekend of Welcome (WOW) Leader at Saint Mary’s College, which I mentioned in my last post. What exactly is a weekend of welcome leader? Well, a WOW leader is someone who is enthusiastic, inclusive, loving, and awesome, and our job is basically to make first year students at the college feel as welcome as possible their first weekend, or in this case, first five days, on campus. When I first applied to be a WOW leader, I was a little hesitant because I’m not the most enthusiastic, goofy, and fun person on a day-to-day basis. However, as I started training, I began meeting new people whose faces I had seen on campus before, but had never interacted with, and I realized that being a WOW leader is a lot more than those five days of welcoming first years to campus. Being a WOW leader is being part of a family, a family composed of so many different personalities, perspectives, work ethics, and well, ways of showing charisma. While the job was basically all day, everyday, and I got little sleep, I am still so incredibly honored to be part of the Saint Mary’s WOW 2013 community. Last year at Saint Mary’s, I was really happy, and I loved all of the friends I had, and I thought that college couldn’t possibly get better. I was wrong. WOW introduced me to people who have touched my life in ways I can’t fully explain, and it taught me that I can be fun, silly, spontaneous, and happy even when I’m going through some really shitty stuff.

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As far as my actual group of first year students, they were all so sweet! I had the English majors (naturally), and they were a bit quiet at first, but definitely warmed up to me by the end of the weekend. I remember during my own Weekend of Welcome I was petrified of the 60 students who were yelling and screaming every five seconds, and asking me all kinds of questions about my major, what I was excited for at SMC, and how my day was going (at 8am). I didn’t understand how they had so much energy, and was even more scared that college was just an endless blur of coffee cups, textbooks, and pens. However, after being on the “other side” of WOW, I realized that 60% of the energy is driven from a place that has nothing to do with welcoming students. Instead, us WOWies are able to have that much energy simply because we all love each other and Saint Mary’s so much. While we may be sitting through an event thinking our feet are numb, and that the only thing we really wanted was our beds, the moment the event ended we were right back on our feet, yelling “ahhh yeahhh Saint Mary’s!” and talking with students about anything they wanted.

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The end of WOW entailed a lot of clean-up, tears, and hugs. Saying goodbye to my fellow WOWies felt like I would never see them again, despite the fact that I would probably see them around campus the next day. It’s really difficult to go from seeing someone everyday, talking to them about anything, to being unsure if you’re going to see them, and if you do see them, being unsure of whether they’ll talk to you. But I know that I’ve made friends that will last me the rest of my years at Saint Mary’s, and even beyond. Some of the best moments of my SMC experience happened within the last two weeks, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of this family. I have never felt happier, livelier, and included than I have during WOW. 

Being a Weekend of Welcome leader for Saint Mary’s College of California was truly my best experience in college thus far. I love every single WOWie, and am so incredibly blessed to be part of such an amazing, inspiring group of people. Welcoming the Class of 2017 was so much fun, and I hope each student enjoyed WOW as much as I did. I’ve never felt more like a Gael, and I’ve never been prouder to call Saint Mary’s my home.

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What’s your best college experience?

Truly,

Callie Leigh