This week, we celebrate our graduates—their experiences, accomplishments and future endeavors as they seek to live in the world in order to sanctify and transform it, making Christ known to all.
By: Lauren Murray, Guest Contributor
Hello incoming Class of 2019 and congratulations on your high school graduation! I’m sure you’ve been enjoying the warmer weather, and you’ve made plans to spend time with friends and family before you head off to college in a few months! Earlier this month, I graduated from George Mason University, but I remember my high school graduation and first day of college like it was yesterday.
If you’re like I was, you’ve already scoured the internet for packing lists essential for school (don’t forget shower shoes). I’m going to skip the cliché lists that you find on Buzzfeed or in a magazine article, and tell you about my college experience and what I found to be most valuable.
What I Wish I Had Known:
Everyone is scared
I was terrified as my dad dropped me off on my first day of college. I barely spoke to my new roommate because I was afraid of what she would think of me. It turns out, she was just as scared as I was and felt the same way. My advice: Open up to people you meet (because everyone is a little nervous), and you’ll become fast friends, while bonding over shared experiences.
It’s not about the parties
Despite what you may see in the movies, not everyone in college is living a wild lifestyle. But I wanted to make friends, so I sought company with those living that life. I became a person who I thought people liked and wanted me to be. My grades suffered and I found out the hard way that the people I was going out with weren’t actually my friends. They were party friends, meaning that when my 1997 Nissan Sentra broke down on a nearby highway after getting groceries, they were too “busy” to help.
My freshman year of college was quiet in this area. I was not involved with any groups on campus and I regret that decision. During my sophomore year, however, I finally got a bit more involved. I joined the Ultimate Frisbee Team, but more importantly, I joined the Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM).
You might be reading this and think that your faith is not a priority in your life. I came into school with the same thoughts: I didn’t go to Mass, I didn’t go to Church-sponsored events and I avoided invitations to Bible study at all costs.
Then, I realized I wanted more. In fact, I needed more. I started showing up. I made an effort to attend Mass and weekly Bible study became a rock in my hectic busy life of school, work and other commitments. As I became more involved, I went to some of the retreats the CCM offered. They were like mini vacations on weekends off. Retreats, Masses, Bible studies, and other events rejuvenated my spirit and helped me realize that I didn’t have to binge drink on the weekends to be loved or make friends, I was loved for being myself.
There is so much to get involved with in college, but what is also important is to make time for personal prayer. When I started praying in college, everything was easier, things seemed to slow down a bit and I was able to catch my breath in the midst of finals or other moments of stress. Prayer is so necessary. When I came to the CCM, I didn’t even know how to pray, but I asked people for help and by their example, I learned. Don’t be afraid to talk to a campus minister, FOCUS missionary, chaplain, or student leader. That’s what they are there for!
Later, I went on to become a leader in the CCM community. Here’s my challenge for you: Try going to at least Sunday Mass. It is so helpful to have a constant in college, a time when things are constantly changing and evolving. The student Masses are MUCH different than anything you might have experienced before. Everyone is participating and excited to be at Mass.
I will tell you that going to Mass was the BEST choice I made in college. Getting involved with the CCM community gave me more than I ever anticipated receiving in terms of faith, friendship and even travel: I have traveled to seven different states in the three years I was involved with CCM! The friends I made in the community have helped me restart my car (more than once), and will be my friends for a long time after.
Again, congratulations on your graduation, welcome to college, and remember, as Saint Pio of Pietreclino says: “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry!”
Are you a college age student home for the summer? Join College Summers at George Mason University for bible studies, barbeques and more! For more information, click here.