Ava in Hemmingson in blue staff shirt

The Summer Before Gonzaga

I remember the summer before my first year of college.

I was excited – thrilled, actually, to say that in a few short months I would be starting life at my dream school. But, naturally, I was also terrified. I knew that beginning this adventure meant that I would have to leave the comfortable nest of Boise, Idaho. I would have to say goodbye to my family, and four-year-old little brother, knowing that I would be missing the next few months of his childhood. I would have to say “see you later” to the life that I had spent the last eighteen years in.

            Ask me how I felt back then, and I would have responded with something like, “I’m so excited! I can’t wait to start my journey at Gonzaga.”

Ask me now? I would probably tell you that my emotions essentially resembled a tangling mass of multi-colored Christmas lights, flashing on and off uncontrollably with no way to unplug them.

I hid my anxieties with enthusiasm. If an uncomfortable thought came into my head, I quickly masked it with one of excitement or anticipation. I spent a lot of time ignoring the uncomfortable aspects of this huge transition. I’m not saying that this coping mechanism is bad exactly, I mean, it’s good to focus on the positive, but looking back I realize that I wasn’t allowing myself to have any negative emotions surrounding this experience at all.

So, when these things happened, I felt confused and angry at myself for not preparing myself for them. But what I didn’t know then was that Gonzaga can help prepare you for these lows.

That’s what a large part of Orientation Weekend is about. In fact, part of the Gonzaga University Mission is to intentionally develop “the whole person — intellectually, spiritually, culturally, physically, and emotionally.” It’s important to realize that you are not in this transition alone. It’s a part of our wonderful university’s mission to make sure that you are emotionally supported during this time and not left alone to box them up like I did.

So, yes, there will be lows – but you will learn to acknowledge them so you can fully appreciate the highs, which will undoubtedly come too.

Maybe you’ll meet your best friends. Maybe you will uncover a passion that leads to the realization of your greater purpose. Maybe you will spend a night watching the sun set over your new home and realize how lucky you are to be here. Or maybe someday you’ll be like me: living in the summer before your senior year, trying to understand how these years have felt so short as you wish for time to slow down.

There are a lot of maybes, but that’s what makes it an adventure. So, remember that you are allowed to feel a lot this summer. You can feel scared. You can feel nervous. You can feel anxious or worried. A big part of this experience is giving yourself the permission to feel these things. Listen to yourself and be honest with how you’re feeling, so you can soak in this experience in its entirety, while remembering that you’re not alone in this – you are a part of the Zag Family now.

And I hope you love it as much as I do.

-Ava Joy Smith

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