By Laurie Mingolelli

The last time I participated in the frenzied annual rite of passage known as moving in, I was only a sophomore. Compared to my tiny cell freshman year, Henle 6, with its scenic view of the aromatic trash chute and layer of grime, was an oasis of space and luxury. As a senior this year, I am a proud occupant of a pale yellow townhouse and this time my view is of Healy clock tower. Talk about an upgrade – one of many changes around here.

After a year abroad at Trinity College, Dublin, I feel like the person who moved into that Henle two years ago is in many ways a stranger. Going abroad for the entire year was the best decision I have made, notwithstanding my decision to come to Georgetown in the first place. The places I saw, people I met, experiences I had and misconceptions that were shattered have indelibly changed my perception of myself and of Georgetown. Perhaps that all sounds a bit idealistic and abstract, but it is the truth. People always told me that going abroad would cause me “to grow” (talk about an abstract statement) or make me “appreciate Georgetown even more.” I dismissed it at the time, but I will admit that all those people before me who did the same thing were right.

At the same time, no matter how excited I am to be back at Georgetown, it is still a bit unsettling, just not for the reasons I had expected. Since my return, advisors, pamphlets and mailings have warned me to expect a period of disillusionment to occur as I slowly realize that while I have changed by virtue of my experiences abroad, things at Georgetown have basically remained the same. Granted, I have only been back on campus for a week, but so far that seems to be the misstatement of the year.

Thankfully, I still have several months before I shift gears from student to alumna, but to a certain extent I do understand how all the alumni who return for reunions to talk about “the good old days” feel. For better or worse, I find myself nostalgically remembering how things were before I left – there was still a baseball field and there was no ominous wasteland known as Dimension X located behind Village C. Back then, my aforementioned pale yellow house was part of a charming matched block of houses known colloquially as “the black-and-whites.” In the midst of all these somewhat unsettling aesthetic changes, there are some that are for the better. True, Yates is still a balmy, refreshing 105 degrees Fahrenheit on a good day, but now there are free towels to help offset said smothering conditions. The perennially cramped and crowded bookstore is now spacious enough to warrant an escalator. The list could go on .

In all seriousness, there are deeper changes to the campus that I have observed having been away from it for a year. Inevitably, there are so many more faces that I do not recognize. Where did all these people come from? Two classes of friends and acquaintances have left the Hilltop since I ended my sophomore year. In the spaces and holes they left vacant are the underclassmen who I imagine must look around and see so many abroad returnees and must similarly wonder who exactly all of us are and what brings us to their campus. Now we are the veritable strangers. Unsettling? Definitely.

At times, it feels like I have entered some bizarre time warp, that since I was not physically here for my junior year at Georgetown, junior year simply didn’t happen. It was a humbling and jolting (if brief) adaptation to actually realize that life at Georgetown did not stop merely because a large portion of juniors chose not to be here. The places we all left empty and vacant were in many ways filled by those who remained – so maybe it is not so much a process of re-acclamation as one of reshaping the spaces in which we put ourselves now that we are back. I am trying hard not to sound like that P.A.G. – Pretentious Abroad Girl – who starts everything with “When I was in Dublin .” because that part of my life is over and it is time to once again find my niche here.

Maybe soon I will find that a night at The Tombs is just like any other night or that campus parties are exactly the same as when I left, but for now they are still novelties. And even when and if that does happen, there is no way I could ever say that Georgetown is exactly the same as it was before I left since the perspective from which I am looking at it could never be the same as it was – which I guess is the whole point of leaving in the first place.

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