Leaving home and going to college creates a great deal of apprehension. Even though new students are joining hundreds of others in the same situation, it can lead to feelings of isolation. I had heard about WIP from one of my older friends who went to SJU but didn’t realize the impact it would have on me or my first year as a Hawk. To say it was powerful would be an understatement.

The Winter Immersion Program creates a space for students to be challenged, through education and immersion, and to live a more just lifestyle.  The program stands behind the Jesuit ideals and helps foster participants’ spiritual lives.

One of the most important things WIP gave me was confidence. I instantly had a group of people I could turn to on campus. My WIP group was a family and I say that with pride. The bond we had was something unique and it will always hold a place in my heart. These people were the people I turned to for everything during freshman year. When I was frustrated because I felt like I lived in a shoebox, when I needed help mailing something, or when I needed advice on which professor to take it was my WIP group I turned to.

Aside from those things this was a group of people that together had a mission bigger than themselves. We were preparing for months to go on our immersion trip to Guatemala. Our leaders educated us on the culture and our group pushed and challenged each other to prepare our hearts and minds for what was to come.

The trip itself was indescribable; I would have to sit you down for a few hours for you to hear the whole story and even then, that wouldn’t do the trip justice. My heart was filled with joy and my soul was filled with sadness during the trip.

WIP is a part of me, and I know that if you were to ask anyone in my group they would feel the same way. The trip was not about going to a third world country and “fixing it;” the trip was about coming together as a community and learning from each other. The people of Guatemala gave so much to us; my gratitude for them won’t ever be enough.

Becoming involved with WIP as a freshman helped me decide what my path was going to be like at SJU. It showed me what this school is about and what it means to be a Hawk. I would recommend this program to anyone, but especially to a freshman who is beginning their journey here on Hawk Hill.


— Alexandra Bewley ‘21