Greetings Zag Family! Our names are Ciara Costanzo, Sean Price, and Molly Bosch, and we work in the Parent & Family Relations office as Student Coordinators for Parent & Family Orientation. Each of us were drawn to this office for unique and very special reasons. Not a day passes where we are not extremely grateful for the opportunity to give back to a community that means so much to us and to serve all of the wonderful parents and families who help to make the Gonzaga atmosphere vibrant and joy-filled. We are so excited that you are taking the time to go back in time with us on our journey back to our freshmen year in the letters we have written below. As we reflect on tips and advice that we wish we would have known our freshman year, we hope that you can benefit from our insights and get a sense of what this place has meant to us.
As you sit in your newly decorated room in CM with your bright orange comforter and the unruly amount of photos on your wall, I hope that you are not denying the fact that you are a bit nervous for this upcoming year. A new school with new people and a constant flow of new and excited energy. Everyone can’t stop talking about how great it is to “be a Zag,” but you have yet to understand what that means. This is where my first piece of advice comes in: (1) don’t try and force your way into understanding what it means to “be a Zag.” It will come to you, naturally. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t come until mid-December, when your whole hall in CM turns off their phones, puts headlamps on, and starts a random dance party that lasts for upwards of 3 hours.
You may be overwhelmed with the amount of opportunities for you to get involved, and it will take you some time to fully realize just how many ways there are to expand your horizons on Gonzaga’s campus. So here’s a helpful hint: (2) spend your first weeks on campus asking questions. Ask so many questions that even you are tired of hearing yourself. The best way to get to know what opportunities are around you, is to be unapologetically curious and to be fearless in your search to find out about the environment around you.
Don’t be scared of the people around you; remember, they are humans too, and they are just as nervous and excited as you. (3) Sit with random people at the COG, and prepare yourself to push past the awkwardness of new introductions into silly and amazing conversations with those around you who will share this 4-year journey with you. What you don’t know now is that you will meet two of your best friends – Max and Chris – by sitting at a random table in the cafeteria and making puns about food and sharing your fries with them.
Take the next 5 minutes to drop the mindset that there is a definition for what it means to be “cool.” It may sound cheesy, but (4) be yourself in every capacity. Whether you are sitting at a Homeless Outreach meeting, coming two points away from winning Freshman Games, or meeting a new Zag for the first time, be nothing but yourself. You will quickly come to learn that the most genuine friendships you make on this campus come from your fearlessness in being your goofy, quirky, and unique self. By embracing every aspect of who you are, you are able to draw in Zags who share similar interests to you.
Here are some other quick pro-tips to ponder as you start this journey:
(5) Say “yes” to things that sound out of your comfort zone – it’s how you meet most of your friends.
(6) Find a solid study partner to get you through those hard classes and to help you laugh and keep things light when the workload gets tough.
(7) Sign up for trips with Gonzaga Outdoors – you won’t regret it.
(8) Go on Mission Possible during Spring Break and expand your horizons as you vulnerably step into a new and unfamiliar culture to serve and learn from others.
(9) Lose your voice at every Zag basketball game, and wear that raspy voice with pride.
(10) Go hiking with new friends.
(11) Eat as many $1 hot dogs at spring baseball games, as you can.
(12) Play on random intramural teams.
(13) Sing loudly and unapologetically at student Mass on Sunday nights.
(14) Apply for new things. If you don’t get accepted into a program you want to participate in, don’t get down; there are so many opportunities on this campus.
(15) Be you. Stay focused. Have fun. Laugh until your stomach hurts. Listen to others. Stay up late eating pizza with your hall mates. Go to your professor’s office hours and become their friend. Go on retreats. Take in every single moment on this amazing campus. Even if it’s not what you want it to be right away, give this place some grace and time, because it just might come back and surprise you.
Before you know it, you will be sitting and looking at your computer screen as a soon-to-be-senior with no idea what the next year will hold for you. You will be longing to be back in those awkward and exciting first two weeks with a crazy new journey ahead of you. Soak in every single laugh, tear, victory, and loss that you experience over these next four years. I promise you that if you lean into every opportunity this place has to offer, you will leave this place feeling fulfilled and ready to share the love you’ve encountered here with the rest of the world.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re in for an amazing ride.
Class of 2018
Hi, welcome to Gonzaga. I promise you that you are going to love it and not look back, but here are some tips from senior you that I wish I knew: Dive in. Go to events, and as cliché as it sounds, be yourself. You are going to make the best of friends who will celebrate you, quirks and all. Meet your hall-mates, and hang out with them. Then, four years from now, you just might find yourself living with them and reminiscing on the good ol’ days in CMNW. Sign up for clubs, and go on freshman retreat; you just might make a best friend who will stay up all night with you making you laugh until the RA tells you to be quiet. Apply for positions that you are interested in, try out and audition for things, and just remember, if you do not get something that you want, it was not your path. Do not compare yourself to others and don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) control you. This is your own beautiful journey and it won’t look like your older sister’s or your hall-mates’. Whatever path you are on is uniquely your own, and that is a great thing. You are going to laugh a lot, and you are going to cry sometimes, and that is okay. It is okay not to be okay sometimes, because in the end, I promise that you will be.
One of the biggest lessons that you will learn when you study in Spain that you should start living by now, is that life is beautiful; do not waste opportunities. Start saying “yes” to things. You never know who you will become friends with when you awkwardly agree to get coffee with people in your class or go on a random adventure with someone. Watch less TV and have more experiences. Sometimes the best stories will come from the most random experiences that you said yes to. Take your time, breathe, and enjoy every second of the journey. Before you know it, you are going to be a senior, wishing you were reading someone else’s letter to their freshman self because that would mean that you still had it all ahead of you, but you will also be content knowing that you are a better version of yourself thanks to the past few years. You still have it all ahead of you. Make it count.
Live by these words and you will do great things, “be a voice, not an echo.” –Albert Einstein
With a full heart,
Slow down. Breathe. I know freshman year can go by quickly. It’s a whirlwind of new faces, exciting clubs, and unique experiences that make your first year of college seem like it went by in minutes. It is incredibly easy to get swept up in the constant energy of your freshman year. But looking back, there are a few things that I wish I had known at the beginning of my Gonzaga journey.
First, it’s ok to miss out on some things. When you arrive on campus there will be a bombardment of opportunity thrown at you from every angle. Most clubs will look enticing to you. Every GU Outdoors trip sounds amazing. Every Gonzaga athletics game or CCE volunteer opportunity will call your name. But instead of trying to balance every extra-curricular along with your academics and self-care, you end up taking away from the enjoyment of your first year. Instead, dabble in what looks interesting, but don’t be afraid to step away when you realize maybe swing dancing isn’t for you. And when you find what ignites your passion – whether it’s Gonzaga basketball games or Friday night rock climbing – throw yourself fully into it, and you’ll find that you are far less worried about what you are missing out on.
Second, don’t forget about school! This one may seem simple, but when you transition from going from school back home with your parents every day, to living in what seems like a year-round summer camp, it can be easy to forget about the important stuff. While there is a bottomless pit of activities for you to partake in your freshman year (and countless new people to meet), taking time to do homework is almost impossible. My advice is to make sure you take time in between pick-up basketball games, eating at new places, and making new friends to do some homework, but make sure to enjoy the college lifestyle as well. It’s hard to balance what’s fun and what’s important, but your future self will thank you.
Third, be yourself. The clichéd answer that I tried to avoid, but when reflecting on my freshman year I realized that was what I most needed to hear when I started at Gonzaga. Sometimes, the beginning of your first year almost feels like an audition. Hardly anyone has friends coming in to college, so everyone is trying to display their best self. My first month in college I was friends with a group of people who were fundamentally different from myself, but I was too scared to try and make friends elsewhere. I was full of self-doubt and just plain lonely, even though it seemed like I had friends. But when I looked around, it seemed like everyone else was happy. Finally, after a few weeks I decided that I had to turn away from a group of people who did not care about me, and look for friends who were positive, who were genuine, and who were caring. What I found was – Gonzaga is full of those people. Once I opened myself to others, they were open with me and I formed bonds and friendships with the people who I now live in a house with.
Freshman year is a crazy time, with new adventures at every turn. But if you step away, take a breath, and reflect on what’s important to you, it will be a wonderful, formative experience. Stay positive, yet authentic. Stay honest, yet kind. And find what works for you. Everyone’s Gonzaga experience is unique, and what is best for you, might not be what’s best for your roommate or peers. Just know that you have support here at Gonzaga.