When I visited St. Joseph’s, I initially disliked it: why would I ever study there? The buildings were ugly and outdated, and the campus atmosphere was dead. It was definitely NOT what I was looking for in my ¨dream school.¨ I wanted a college in the DC area with a modern, edgy feel; a small and private institution, SAT optional, and, fulfilling the Golden Rule—of course—be Catholic.
After applying to 11 schools, my options started to narrow down as more rejection letters rolled in than acceptances. On the table, there was High Point University, Saint Edward’s University, and Roger Williams U in Rhode Island, and all of them fulfilled at least one of my requirements. HPU has a beautiful campus—even nicer than Ivy Leagues—yet it was too far from DC, in the middle of nowhere, and Methodist. Saint Edward’s is Catholic, but it was way too far from my family in DC, and for some strange reason my mom felt uncomfortable with it, that it wasn’t the right fit for me. Lastly, RWU promotes a one-on-one relationship with your professors (you even play sports with them) and is positioned as #6 for Best Food in College in the country. Yet, it was too far from DC and also Methodist. So, for me, all of them had more cons than pros. It was a weird feeling, when you consecrate your future and your university to the Lord and you see no answer.
Each time I thought about one of them, I was overwhelmed with insecurity. I knew something was not right: I knew it wasn’t the time yet. However, time was running out quickly and I needed to take a decision. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I received an email from Saint Joseph’s University: it was my acceptance letter! Technically, it was a conditional acceptance: I needed to take a class with them during the summer and pass with a C or above in order to be accepted. Before my parents could even say anything about it, I knew I wanted to go there and that it would be my home over the next four years.
Something in my heart roared.
I rarely check the calendar, but I decided to take a look once I received my conditional acceptance letter. What a surprise! I found out that not only was it Saint Joseph’s Day—March 19—but it was a Sunday, the Lord’s Holy Day. What a Blessing! I had just realized that this wasn’t coincidence, but pure Providence. So I told my Mom and she jumped; I could almost see her crying. She said that it was the answer to her prayers.
What other signals would I want rather than these ones? None. The certainty I had in my heart after I received that letter was bigger than you could even imagine.
June came and I went to the Passport Program. I had the option of choosing either History class (a course requirement for SJU students) or Poetry of English, an elective. My counselor Rogelio and I both knew that it was going to be tough because this semester-long course included the same material taught in 3 weeks, without any shortcuts. However, we knew it wasn’t going to be impossible.
By the Glory of God and after having all my family, friends, aunts, and uncles praying for me, I successfully passed the course! Now I was officially going to be an incoming freshmen student for Saint Joseph’s University Fall of 2016 and a student for Class 2020. I thank God for giving me the chance of being in the Passport Program. I look at it as a blessing rather than an obstacle that just needed to be surpassed. During those three weeks before, I made many friends, I learned a lot more about American culture, and find out that gringas love me (I can’t figure out why). They said I was different than the rest of the kids and that I had something guys don’t have, that I had a heart. But I am sure that what they liked was not my heart, but me always wanting to please God and wanting to be as good as Him.
Being at SJU over the summer gave me a sense of purpose as to why it would be the home for me. HPU has a very cocky and sharp-edged environment. Almost everybody would dress in Vineyard Vines and other expensive brand-named clothes just to impress, but not because that’s their natural way of dressing (like me). Students can be very arrogant and egocentric at HPU, and that isn’t for me. Saint Edward’s has a Catholic campus, but an environment of perdition, and not the city I was looking for (not only because people in the South are different towards foreigners as compared to the North, but because Austin is the closest party city you can find to Nola and that wasn’t for me). At St. Joe’s, everyone is nice and friendly; it’s a very Catholic campus; and the environment feels so cozy and comfortable. There cannot be another place that is more alike than St. Joe’s for me.
Furthermore, I learned how to use everything on campus and gained the habit of going to the library, gym, and any other place needed during school year. I already know where everything is situated on campus so I can teach my fellow latino friends in the fall (how to use my card, the post office, how to get to the city, and more).
There is one exceptional thing that made me fall in love and convinced me that SJU was my happy place and the best home for the next four years: I just felt like I was at home! When people would ask if I missed my home in Panama, I would say that I do not miss home because this feels like home. “Mom, the only thing I miss about Panama are my nannies,” I would say many times. Friends? I have here. My mom? I have one: I visit her very often at the Chapel. I even have Mass everyday. Then again: what a Blessing!
When you don’t hear God’s voice and you think you are far from Him and alone is when He is more close to you. You only have to trust. What would had happen if because of my rush I would have chosen any of the other three universities instead of SJU? It’s better to not think about that.
I chose to trust God. Do you?