Staff Editorial: Dear freshmen, seize the opportunity and go find your #OnlyAtGW moment

From 15-minute walks to the National Mall to an unconventional dining system embedded in the city, no other university is quite like GW. Whether you’ve only heard of #OnlyAtGW moments or already had your own, not every college boasts generations of powerful and prominent alumni from around the world, let alone a surprise visit from Kanye West. Where else can you see alumni like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Olympic athlete Elana Meyers Taylor speak at Commencement? Where else can you grab lunch or find a study spot in the shadow of national monuments or world-class museums?

Maybe it was the allure of living and learning in the nation’s capital, the potential of an internship on the Hill or our top-notch athletic and academic programs that led you to choose GW. But whatever the reason, new and returning students have all fallen in love with the University that we all call home. Hold on to that love for GW as you face your own challenges this year – take time for yourself and prepare to meet new friends, seize exciting opportunities and make lasting memories at a one-of-a-kind university for the next four years.

Not every #OnlyAtGW moment will make you so proud – for every reason to love the University, many students will tell you it’s far from perfect. GW’s intense student culture and lacking sense of community can take a toll on new and returning students alike. GW’s relationship to D.C. flows both ways – students jockey for internships in Congress, the White House and federal agencies, while politics seems to pervade every aspect of campus life. The results are high stakes and high expectations, and with a serious fear of failure to boot. Add that to an individualistic culture and lack of school spirit, and it’s no surprise that some students feel burnt out and alone.

The key to enjoying these opportunities instead of letting them overwhelm you isn’t to throw yourself into the deep end academically, professionally and athletically – you don’t have to do it all. “Typical” GW students may be focused on politics, but you’re not obligated to follow in their footsteps. Study political science and journalism if you want, but don’t box yourself in. Between the pre-med path and art history, philosophy and engineering or business and classical studies, there’s plenty to choose from – so explore what you want to and choose what works for you.

Thinking about majors and minors and calculating credit hours may seem like a daunting task. That’s okay. Discover what you love and really hone in on it. You might pick up a few classes about a topic you find interesting or a hobby you enjoy before fully committing to a degree. Outside the classroom, turn your interests and talents into a source of community, a reservoir that you can keep returning to when times seem tough. While it may feel like GW lacks school spirit, you can always find people who share your interests. It can take some time, but you’re bound to make a group of friends or join even the most niche of student organizations on a campus with thousands of students.

Maura Kelly-Yuoh | Cartoonist

And yes, it won’t be easy when you’re racing to meet a deadline, cramming for an exam or sweating through an interview. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break and recovering your balance – staying grounded and taking space for yourself is an achievement on its own. Your worth isn’t based on the success you find at GW or if you pass or fail a single assignment. It might take curling up with a good book, perusing a local farmers market or just going for a walk to remember that.

These small but potent strategies don’t stand alone, though. Outlining and pacing what you do, when you do it and whom you do it with can help stave off burnout and allow you to recharge. Ask yourself if you’d rather spread your classes out over the week or have a three- or four-day weekend. And while it may seem obvious, making a conscious effort to eat healthy meals and get enough sleep can put you in better control of your own life. Set aside time and money to shop for groceries and reconsider taking that 8 a.m. Monday class.

When you find time for yourself to catch up with friends or make new ones, bond over a shared extracurricular interest or take a breather from the hustle and bustle of college life, you’re bound to find your #OnlyAtGW moment. You don’t need to meet a celebrity or witness history to truly experience GW – you just have to enjoy what you’re doing and run with it.

High expectations can make attending GW a grueling experience, but there are still plenty of reasons to love it. Whether you plan to cruise through your classes or strive for straight As, make GW your home this year, not just where you go to school.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Opinions Editor Ethan Benn and Contributing Opinions Editor Riley Goodfellow, based on discussions with Research Assistant Zachary Bestwick, Sports Editor Nuria Diaz, Copy Editor Jaden DiMauro, Culture Editor Clara Duhon, Design Editor Grace Miller and Contributing Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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