The word “community” means something special to the students on Hawk Hill. Tess Hill ’18 illustrates what just how real and indispensable her SJU communities have been in her college experience thus far.
I began the search for the perfect college during my sophomore year of high school. My parents and I traveled to the Northeast to tour several universities in cities like Washington, D.C. and New York. During the many college tours, my mom kept a binder for me to fill out which had categories like academics, campus, and Greek life. While listing everything I could possibly remember, I found many positives, but no school felt like somewhere I could call home.
After discussing my experiences with my high school college counselor, she recommended I tour St. Joe’s. I, being from St. Louis, Missouri, had never heard of it, but took her advice and made the trip to Philadelphia. The day of my tour was bitterly cold and windy. Wearing a thin windbreaker, I was not prepared for the weather at all, but as cold as I may have been, I didn’t seem to notice. Every step of the tour engaged me further. My tour guide seemed to know every other person on campus, and he seemed completely comfortable striding around on Hawk Hill. At almost every stop, he mentioned how strong the community at St. Joe’s is. I felt it too and wanted to be a part of it. Walking through Barbelin courtyard for the first time gave me butterflies, looking down Lapsley Lane intrigued me, and by the end, I knew this was where I was meant to be.
During my time at Hawk Hill, I have been overwhelmed with the sense of community. Every hard day has been met with smiling faces and caring attitudes. Every joyous moment has been connected to people who want to see me do the best I can. The St. Joe’s community is filled with smaller, tighter-knit communities, many of which I am grateful to be a part of. The first community I felt completely comfortable in was my sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, which has given me my best friends. They are the people I call when I’m happy, sad, or just bored. I eat, study, and travel with my sisters, and soon will live with them as well. Whether I need a good laugh or cry, I know I will find an Alpha Gam for the moment.
As I continue through my years at St. Joe’s, my community has grown. I have immersed myself in wonderful communities through being a Hawk Host, through attending service trips, through my major, and through several clubs. I love seeing friendly faces on my walks to and from campus, seeing the regulars in the library and Campion, and being a part of such a loving and helpful campus. During the last weeks of my sophomore year, I began to analyze every aspect of the St. Joe’s community. I wanted to keep the feeling of a talkative class and a loud lunch hour fresh in my heart, because I would be losing that community during my semester abroad.
I spent the first semester of my junior year studying in Leuven, Belgium and interning at the European Parliament. My program had only 14 students, so my beloved community had shrunk completely. Upon arriving in Belgium, I only knew 3 people. I make friends very quickly, so I wasn’t nervous, but I felt a little uneasy, because I had grown so accustomed to my SJU community.
The semester was absolutely magical. I traveled all over Europe, often meeting up with sorority sisters and other St. Joe’s friends. Throughout the three months, I traveled to 16 different cities in 12 different countries via planes, trains, and buses. During the semester, I felt a rush of independence that completely changed me for the better.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my time abroad, but toward the end I noticed I was missing something. On my morning walks to the train station, I didn’t know anyone walking past me. Of course, I had made many friends in Leuven, but I missed the SJU community that I value so much. I haven’t been so excited for a semester at St. Joe’s since my very first one in 2014. As I write this, I’m sitting in the comfy chairs in the library, staring at Barbelin, smiling. My time at St. Joe’s is quickly passing me by, and it has been impacted over and over again by the community that has shaped me into the woman I am today.
While walking through campus today, I began to feel like my tour guide on that very cold January day. When I walk through Barbelin courtyard, I still get a little jolt of excitement. The impending semester will offer up new groups to add to my community collection. As I sit in the library, I smile to myself and know that the best decision I ever made was to become a Hawk.
Tess Hill is a junior Political Science major with a Journalism minor from St. Louis, Missouri. She’s involved on campus as a sister of Alpha Gamma Delta, a Hawk Host, College Democrats, and APEX. She recently completed a semester abroad in Leuven, Belgium where she interned with the European Parliament.