My mother never wanted me to come to Georgetown. When I was deciding where to go to college, my mother pushed for UC Berkeley. Every one of my conversations with her that April revolved around why Berkeley was a better school than Georgetown. After a few months of college, it seemed like my mother was right yet again — I nearly dropped out of Georgetown after my first semester.
I began my college career with a bang: on my 30th day at Georgetown, I was wrongfully arrested for domestic violence after my roommate attacked me outside of our dorm room (he is no longer at Georgetown). A month later, I was knocked out cold on the rugby pitch and spent most of the rest of the semester recovering from the resulting concussion. The semester reached a new low when, recovering from illness, I woke up an hour and a half into my two-hour comparative political systems final.
Nobody wanted to be friends with an alleged criminal, my mother was worried that I would sustain a permanent brain injury and my GPA was in shambles. So why did I stay?
I stayed because I found a family in the rugby team. The seniors on the team took me under their wing — they explained to me that an arrest was not the end of the world, they taught me how to work around my injury and they told me how to bring up my grades. The other upperclassmen on the team helped me in other ways, teaching me how to work out in order to mitigate injury and how to make the most of my academic and athletic career. My fellow freshmen helped me fit in and gave me a nonjudgmental group of friends I could hang out with day in and day out.
As cliche as it sounds, I have never before or since experienced such a close-knit group of friends. This team’s camaraderie paid off in a big way for me, as well as for the rest of the team.
In what can only be described as a team effort, we won the 2014 Cherry Blossom Rugby Tournament and remain the reigning champions. We are nationally ranked in both our fifteens program and our sevens program. On a more personal level, my teammates’ encouragement got me into shape — I started as a freshman very much overweight and dropped nearly 20 pounds my first semester at Georgetown. A few years later, it also got me a job — an alumnus of the team coached me through the recruitment and interview process and vouched for my application.
Is the team maybe a little too reckless on and off the field? Sure — our injury count and number of minor student conduct violations attest to this fact. Does the team have an irresponsible amount of fun? Most definitely — though I tried to be one of the more responsible members of the team, I’ve had more than my fair share of “Sunday fun day” and the occasional “Tuesday booze day” in my time at Georgetown. But despite these shortcomings (and some might call these strengths), I owe everything to the team. Getting in shape, learning social skills, finishing my undergraduate career and finding a job can all be attributed, directly or indirectly, to my membership on the rugby team.
Though the team still makes fun of me for my predisposition to injury (one of my senior gifts was a box of tissues to cry into), I know that it is all in good fun. Being on the rugby team has undoubtedly defined my college career, from my personal development to my wide range of experiences in college. Even my mother, giving me preemptive approval to join a social team in the future, has come around. What started as a miserable beginning has given me most everything I have now. Given my track record, I’m anticipating more accidents, injuries, and unfortunate circumstances, but I hope to learn from them as much as I have learned and gained from coming to Georgetown.
Monchen Kao is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.
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