To say my transition to SU has been easy would be a boldfaced lie. On more than one occasion, the thought of returning to the comfort and familiarity of home in Scranton, PA seemed irresistible. There, I knew who I was and where I fit in the scheme of things. I had the support of my family and friends who affirmed my worth and importance. I fulfilled the roles of son, brother, uncle, friend, paramedic, teacher and mentor with excellence. While I still possess these supports and identities, 2500 miles stand between us. Now, I am tasked with finding my place in this new institution and city in addition to meeting the academic obligations of my classes and the scourge known as the quarter system, challenges much more difficult than I anticipated a year ago when I considered applying to graduate school.
However, I chose SU because it offered the opportunity to test my mettle. I could have attended graduate school closer to home. Then, I could visit home and continue working as a paramedic. But, I selected SU because it differed in every imaginable way from Scranton. For the first time, I am living on my own in a large city without a vehicle. And, student development differs greatly from my undergraduate experience as a pre-med biology and philosophy major and my professional career as a paramedic/firefighter. These experiences trained me to be self-reliant and emotionally detached. For the first weeks of the program, I dealt with the stress of adjustment by intellectualizing the situation. I refused to allow myself to experience the intense emotions of loneliness, fear and confusion that developed as a result of the complete unfamiliarity of my new situation. Slowly, I realized my coping mechanisms were ineffective and unsustainable. So, I began to express my emotions to people who I thought could help me on my journey.
SDA embodies the SU and Jesuit value of cura personalis. Our SDA retreat really helped me connect with fellow students. There, I learned a most important fact: I am not alone. My fellow first years are experiencing similar transitions and the second years have successfully transitioned. My mentor, Dustin, has helped me to sort through the process. The administration has given me invaluable insight, especially Jake Diaz whom I interviewed for a Foundations assignment. And, my GA supervisor Diane regularly checks in with me to ask how I am doing personally and professionally. Despite the difficult transition, I feel cared for on campus. Still, I have a long way to go.
In spite of all these stressors, or perhaps due to them, I am learning a tremendous amount about the profession and myself. As I experience the growth pains of this process, I think of advice given to me by Jake Diaz, “ If you treat people well, bring a can do attitude, are honest with folks and do good work because you care, positions will come to you. The problem with be deciding on a position where you want to make a difference. It is a good problem to have.”