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The Aquilian

Advice from a senior: get involved; it doesn’t matter how

Charlie+Moellering%2C+far+right%2C+at+this+years+annual+water+polo+banquet++
Charlie Moellering, far right, at this year’s annual water polo banquet

My first day at Gonzaga was a huge culture shock. I went to a small co-ed middle school where there were about 25 kids in my eighth grade class. Suddenly, I had 250 kids in my grade, and they all seemed to know each other. Walking through the hallways, I constantly heard snippets of conversations from every direction. I saw kids greet each other with handshakes and say “hi” to faculty as they walked passed. I wondered to myself, “How do all these people know each other?”

It can be hard to develop one’s identity, especially as a new student, but getting involved around campus can help a lot. I learned that people are known by their actions before anything else. If you point at someone and ask your friend, “Who is that guy?”, your friend will most likely say something along the lines of “Johnny, the smartest kid in my history class” or “Johnny, remember, we played his CYO team?”

During my freshman year, the only extra-curricular activity I did was baseball. I did off-season workouts during most of the school year, tried out and made the freshman team. And although my experience playing baseball was fun, I know my freshman year in general could have been so much more rewarding if I had gotten involved in a fall sport, winter sport or club. 

I was scared to branch away from my middle school friend group and get involved, and since I wasn’t involved in anything at school, I would spend way too much time at home procrastinating. 

During my sophomore year, I randomly decided to play water polo. I had never seen the sport and hadn’t even swam competitively in about five years, so of course, I was a perfect fit. Because I was a new player and joined the team late, I had to play on the freshman team as a sophomore. Although my decision to play water polo made no sense at first, I ended up getting moved up to the regular JV team later that season, and I met some of my best friends and mentors through the team. By the time my senior year rolled around, I felt like a veteran in the program. Teammates my age respected me, younger teammates looked up to me and coaches trusted me to lead. I felt so at home with the team, a privilege I earned through vulnerability and hard work. During my years with the water polo program, my coaches and teammates learned my true identity and started to respect me for it. Soon enough, I was one of those older kids in the hallway, shouting across to joke with a friend about last night’s game.

My sophomore year was pretty eventful, as well, because I also got cut from the baseball team in the spring. After getting cut from the baseball team unexpectedly, I decided to play lacrosse. Even though I had to stop playing a  sport that I had played my whole life, I felt satisfied with my spring. I had fun everyday learning new skills and getting to know my classmates better. Unfortunately, I had about two weeks of lacrosse practice before COVID lockdowns started.

Getting involved isn’t just about joining a club or sport. It is about getting to know your Gonzaga brothers. As a student who experienced Gonzaga both before and after lockdowns, the pandemic changed the social climate more than one could ever imagine. A perfect example of this is the lunchroom. When I was an underclassmen, it was an unwritten rule that underclassmen would eat lunch in the cafeteria, and upperclassmen would eat lunch at the tables in the lower commons. Underclassmen would sit together in large groups at long tables that seated about 30 kids. Sitting at a long table was great because there would be constant conversation and laughter through a 45-minute lunch period. 

When I would walk through the lower commons, all the upperclassmen tables would be chatting with each other. Kids would yell across the commons to joke with a buddy and pull up extra chairs to sit with their buddies. Everybody seemed to know each other well, enjoy everyone’s company and had a talking point at a moment’s notice. These days, lunch is more of an individual event. Tables usually stick to their own conversations, especially in the cafeteria. (If you’re an underclassmen reading this, please make a mental note to make your next lunch period as fun as possible. I know the food is probably bad, and you probably have a quiz to study for, but those times joking around in the lunchroom can never be replaced. You may never see that guy who you sit next to everyday again after high school.)

Even recently, I learned about the rewards of getting involved. I attended Kairos CLXIV, which gave me closure with myself, my classmates and my faith. I also spontaneously decided to play rugby. Being a first year player, I was a senior on varsity black, the V2 team. Although this was kind of embarrassing, I just embraced it and was grateful for the opportunity to play. Even just from playing rugby for a brief time, I have met great new friends and learned so much about myself and a new sport. 

I still miss the days before COVID when the walls seemed to rumble every five-minute passing period before classes; I miss when guys would shake the hand of their old teacher or snarkily offer a freshman some rude but useful advice. Remember that everyday at Gonzaga and with the Gonzaga Community is a privilege of the utmost importance. Use these gifts to get involved and make the best community possible.

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    Carol CorganMay 13, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Charlie–great account of your time here at Gonzaga. Great advice to the younger guys.
    Good job!

    Reply