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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

Four years later: reflecting on my time at Gonzaga

+Jon+Bouker%2C+senior%2C++poses+with+Mr.+Dominic+Pugliese%2C+social+studies+teacher%2C+at+the+2019+freshman+year+homecoming+dance.+Photo+by+Jon+Bouker
Jon Bouker, senior, poses with Mr. Dominic Pugliese, social studies teacher, at the 2019 freshman year homecoming dance. Photo by Jon Bouker

I came to Gonzaga as a freshman after attending public elementary and middle schools. I had no idea what to expect, and I did not know a single other person attending Gonzaga. My first period was gym class with the legendary Mr. Alvin Maddox, so I quickly got a feel for the Gonzaga culture. This class gave me time to get to know some of my classmates and make new friends. 

As we approached the end of the year, I started to have a group of friends I would eat lunch with and hang out with, but we were far from being best friends. Then in March, I walked into my English class, which happened to be my favorite class, and I saw Fr. Planning, SJ, on the projector screen. He told all of us that we would be taking two weeks off from school because something called the coronavirus was rapidly spreading and making people sick. It turned out to be a lot longer than two weeks before we came back.

My freshman year was full of big changes and adjustments; first, I entered a completely new environment full of new people and groups, and just as I began to feel comfortable, it all came crashing down. I went from hanging out with new people and having all of these new experiences to being locked in my room with only a computer screen to keep me company. 

I learned a lot about myself over this, roughly, year and a half of solitude. I found a love of music, specifically playing the guitar and writing songs, that has carried me through the rest of high school. I do not know if I ever would have discovered this passion if I had not been forced to find new hobbies to keep me entertained in my room. This does not mean, however, that I was not extremely relieved when I heard we’d be going back to school full-time.

This first year back was very strange, and looking back on it, it does not even feel real. Everyone’s face I once knew was now behind a mask, and it seemed as though everyone was kind of avoiding each other in an attempt to avoid getting covid. 

I did not go into Gonzaga at all during my sophomore year, the height of covid, because my mother is immunocompromised and therefore at a higher risk for covid. So when I came back to campus, I had multiple people saying “Where have you been?” and “I thought you transferred schools.” This caused a sort of rift in my mind between my peers and myself. I quickly realized that everyone stayed in touch over the quarantine, but I secluded myself.

As the year went on, this feeling started to fade as I reconnected with my old friends and even made new friends in my classes. When the mask mandate was lifted towards the end of my junior year, I finally felt a lot closer to my classmates because we could actually talk face-to-face. 

Going into my senior year, I did not have very high expectations in relation to my other years at Gonzaga; I just thought it would be the same old going to school every day that I was used to from the previous year. This was not the case at all as I have learned so much more about myself and my classmates than I ever have before senior year. I finally learned how to put myself out there and allow myself to become friends with the people I never expected to be friends with.

Looking back on my time on Eye Street it feels so short and yet filled with so many experiences. I learned so much about the world, about myself and about dozens of other people I now call my friends and teachers. 

Everyone told me freshman year that my next four years would be special at Gonzaga but I never believed them. However, now as a senior looking back, I would tell a freshman the exact same piece of advice. Gonzaga is a special place, and you should try your best to make this the best four years you can.

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