cilumnDescribing yourself to an admissions council is really the first icebreaker in college. For me, it started in September of my senior year of high school, when — like many high school seniors — I found myself staring at a blank Word document wondering how to break the ice.

Four years later, my younger cousin is now in the throes of college essay-writing, and it feels like any moment she’ll call me asking for advice and guidance. I began by offering suggestions and quick grammatical edits but quickly realized I should hold myself back from helping too much. These essay questions — posed by an unbeknownst stranger who holds much of your hopes in their discernment — are deeply personal. At least, they should be.

It is interesting how much of college is wrapped up in that preliminary icebreaker. I’ve gone back and reread my essay for Georgetown numerous times throughout my time here on the Hilltop. I am nothing to the literary giants I’ve studied as an English major here, but by some luck, the words I formed at 16 still bring me to life at 20.

The Georgetown experience is unique to each student, and I’ve found that we can find unity in understanding our differences. One of our first collective experiences as incoming freshmen comes during “Pluralism in Action.” During the program, when excerpts from a number of admissions essays were read aloud, mine happened to be one of them. I remember how distinctively anonymous I felt in that gymnasium sitting in a sea of strangers, and I realized that my essay, no matter how deeply personal, was meant to be communal.

Our Jesuit motto, cura personalis, translates to “care of the whole person,” and as I enter my final year as an undergraduate here, I realize how much of that care has come from my classmates. For as many late nights as we spend in Lau or for as many titles we win in a sporting arena, our biggest success comes from forming deep connections with those around us. And for me, these are often the people whom I overlooked at first glance or even for the first three years of my time here.

The contours of my personality that I etched so carefully into ink in my admissions essay have been softened and hardened, bent and stretched by the individuals I’ve encountered during my time here. I have laughed, cried and thought with the people who also found their way here by breaking the ice one afternoon during their senior year of high school.

I could use this column to go into my personally important moments here at Georgetown, but this piece is not intended to be the deeply personal kind. It is not selfish, but communal. If Georgetown required a departure essay, I would echo the crux of this column in it. I would thank the living, breathing people of this campus for introducing me to myself and for lighting up every word of that first essay — teaching me the first lesson of a Georgetown education.

Bebe Albornoz is a senior in the College. Through the Hoya Lens appears every other Tuesday.

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