Academic Read #4: Gonzaga is YOUR Ithaca

From our Mission Statement: Gonzaga students achieve excellence “Through engagement with knowledge, wisdom, and questions informed by classical and contemporary perspectives…”


When you start on your journey to Ithaca,  
then pray that the road is long,  
full of adventure, full of knowledge.  
Do not fear the Lestrygonians  
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.  
You will never meet such as these on your path,  
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine  
emotion touches your body and your spirit.  
.. . .       

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.  
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.  
But do not hurry the voyage at all.  
It is better to let it last for long years;  
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,  
rich with all that you have gained on the way,  
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.  

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.  
Without her you would never have taken the road.  
But she has nothing more to give you.  

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.  
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,  
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.  

-K. P. Kavafis (C. P. Cavafy), translation by Rae Dalven
To read the full poem, click here.


Upon first glance, it’s easy to see how this poem can be paralleled to the college experience. College is an amazing part of your life; you get four years to dig deep and find out who you really are without having a preceding reputation to define you. Sure, you have responsibilities, but in no way are they as pressing and large as the responsibilities you will encounter out in “the real world.” In this way, Cavafy urges us to take our time as we go through these wonderful years. We need to take in all those precious moments that college will bring and not get caught up moving too quickly because the time here is so short.

Of course, college will also bring up many times of fear in your experience. Not knowing what you want to do after you graduate, being scared of failing a class, and sometimes feeling really alone are just a handful of the hard times you may be challenged with. However, Cavafy explains that if we focus on the numerous positives and are touched by them in body as well as spirit, then these fears will not consume us. While there will always be hard times in college, they make you stronger and sometimes give you direction on this very confusing journey. These hard times make you appreciate the successes even more when they do come. Everything will eventually work out the way it is supposed to work out, so just do the best you can when life gets you down and wait out the storm.

Along your college journey, you will find many treasures in all shapes and sizes. These treasures come in all different forms. Maybe you find a new sport or hobby you become really passionate about and join a team of people you feel like you’ve known forever. Maybe you start mentoring a child from a low income school and that relationship helps keep you grounded on what’s really important. Maybe you find a treasure in the city of Spokane, a city that is full of culture and people from all walks of life. You may find out what you want to do for the rest of your life, a career you’re naturally good at and continue to craft your talents through hard work. You surely will meet countless people that help shape your life in many ways, but maybe you find your spiritual life in the most unexpected of places. I can’t tell you where your treasures are hidden, but once you find them, they will make your experience that much richer. Additionally, you will come into contact with fountains of knowledge; faculty and staff who have years of wisdom and experience to share with you. Consider these treasures too, for they will give you knowledge that has been handed down to them like a family heirloom. You are part of the Gonzaga family now, and we have many treasures to share with you.

At the end of this journey, you have an ultimate goal, whatever that may be. To gain knowledge, to obtain a degree, to find a career , to be enlightened, to become a better person for others—whatever yours is, you will dedicate four (more or less) years to it. But even when these years are gone, you will remember the moments in college, not every moment, but the moments that really mattered and the moments they helped shaped you. These moments are the riches I think Cavafy is talking about. College will give you more knowledge and moments and memories than you will ever begin to fathom. That really is “the beautiful voyage.” Without college testing you to your limits, you would never have taken the hard roads and learned more about yourself—college is about growth and you’ll grow more the next few years more intensely than you have at any other point in your life thus far.

Gonzaga is your Ithaca. And while it will go by fast, I urge you to take each moment slow as Cavafy expresses. You will become rich (obviously not physically, because let’s be honest about those loans and interest rates ) in memories, in people, in knowledge, in experience, in moments, in LIFE. And while it is scary to come to a place completely new and have doubts about your experience, I can promise you that if you don’t let these fears overtake you, your experience will be all you ever imagined.

I’m so very excited for you all to ignite your voyage. Now that mine is almost over, I can’t help but wish my journey was moving a bit slower. I wish you all the best this summer and can’t wait to see many of you around campus.

 Cheers, Class of 2018!

Claire LePoullouin is a senior at Gonzaga this year and one of our Orientation Leaders. She is a teaching candidate majoring in English Literature. She’s involved with the improv group on campus called Gonzaga University Theater Sports (GUTS) that will be having two shows during Orientation Weekend.    

  IGNITE Question: What do you hope to achieve through your Gonzaga voyage?

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