As I was scrolling through Instagram recently, I came across the new page for the Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD), where fellow GOLDs have been sharing stories, including their favorite experience at UP, professional advice and a story about reconnecting with their faith. Through all of the posts, there was a common theme: Reconnect with UP and share your story. Most of my experiences at UP were fairly normal: I went to class, I sang in Schoenfeldt’s chapel choir, I got internships, etc. However, I think the most important story I can share isn’t about what I did at UP, but about what I didn’t.
Toward the end of high school, I reconnected with a friend and we began dating. In fact, she played a role in my coming to UP, since I would be close to Portland State, where she would be starting. Everything was mostly normal, until the fall of my first year. Although I had started to make friends, she hadn’t.
So, I started leaving campus every weekend to spend more time with her. This helped our relationship, but it meant that I never really connected with my roommate. Although I didn’t see my new friends on the weekends, I saw them during the week, at hall Mass, The Commons and classes. Then, instead of just being jealous that I couldn’t see her on weekends, she got jealous of the friends themselves.
After that, it progressed to jealousy over the time I was practicing for Mass and at Mass. So, I started to eat by myself more often, skipped Mass or insisted that I was studying and couldn’t talk, and studied by myself when I was actually studying. I still made friends, but they were the friends you mostly talked to in classes, not the kind you would do things with on weekends, study with or go on spring break with.
When I first got to UP, I was set on studying abroad. Facing a combination of anxiety over the argument that would ensue and the fear of breaking up, I didn’t end up studying abroad. In fact, I graduated early, which I rationalized as being the true reason I didn’t study abroad, as I wouldn’t be able to get all of my credits in time if I did.
By the end of the first year, I had a fairly established routine: I would go to class during the week, make an excuse to go to Mass and leave on the weekends. This continued into my second year and meant I didn’t connect with that roommate either. By my third and last year, we lived together off campus. During that year, our relationship started to deteriorate, and I started attending more events and making more friends. But the damage had been done. I hadn’t made the most of my first year and I was instead trying to integrate into already established friendships, groups and routines, which is a lot harder when you’re two years late.
We started dating 7.5 months before I started at UP, so it only made sense that we broke up 7.5 months after I graduated. Six months after that, I moved to Arizona and started law school. I’m about to finish my second year and I am happier than I have been in years. My hope is that this story will reach everyone at UP, but especially those that are just starting. For those just starting, my advice is twofold:
First, don’t let anyone stand in the way of making the most out of your first year, whether it’s a partner, a parent or anybody else. There is so much to do — CPB events, hall Mass, chapel choir, Espresso UP and soccer games. But that’s a second step.
The first step is just to make friends. It doesn’t have to be your roommate, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be the person you sit next to in your first class, but it could be. Make friends with your classmates, make friends with your professors, and the rest will follow.
Second, make use of your resources. There are an almost infinite number of people I could have talked to that would have helped me with my situation. Yet, I didn’t. Not even Fr. Mark, Schoenfeldt’s pastoral resident who lived one floor below me and said hello almost every morning. Instead, I made everything sound better than it was and covered for someone I should not have covered for.
UP is a terrific place to learn and it’s filled with some of the nicest, most supportive and most fun people that I have ever met. Take advantage of it.
Jordan Paul is a UP alum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.