I’ve often wondered how an outspoken liberal and a secular Christian wound up at a small, conservative, devoutly Catholic university.
Whenever I’ve ventured out with the Quiz Bowl team or College Democrats to other, bigger schools, I found myself thinking ‘Now these are universities. What am I doing at Villanova?’
And after four years, I find myself with one answer to that question: Villanova was my safety school.
I wanted to go to the University of Pennsylvania. I loved the program, the campus and even the idea of being in the city. Unfortunately, it was not to be; I got wait listed, and ultimately rejected.
But I did get in to Villanova. So, off I went. It seemed such a bad fit. Walking around the Spit, it seemed that no one originally set off to go to this school. Every freshman seemed to wear a hat or a hoodie, emblazoned with the school that rejected them. Harvard. Yale. Princeton. The dreaded Penn.
And I didn’t fit in with the student body. I wasn’t a partier, which immediately put me at odds with what seemed like everyone in the Stanford Penthouse. I remember one night, I think during Orientation, my roommate and some guys from the hall inviting me to a party a few doors down. I refused, because apparently my game of The Sims 2 was better than real life.
I went home a lot those first two years, especially sophomore year. During that fall and spring, I was president of a youth group at home in Northeast Philadelphia. And while I thoroughly enjoyed leading that group, I still wasn’t integrated to Villanova.
But I did change. During the second semester freshman year, I began hanging out with a different group of friends, not the guys I knew from high school. A couple of my best friends, including my sophomore year roommate, I met in the Honors Interdisciplinary program. And the rest I met through them.
I joined the Villanova Quiz Bowl. Playing something like Team Jeopardy was basically therapy for a nerd-in-denial. I threw myself into College Democrats. I got elected to the University Senate. I started writing for The Villanovan.
The point is, I started investing myself in Villanova, and it began paying dividends. You can enjoy Villanova by just going through the motions. But I doubt you will. What makes a University is not the buildings you take class in, or the professors you learn from. It’s the things you do, the friends you make, and the experiences you have.
I’ve been able to introduce two sitting Congressmen while I was at Villanova, as well as Chelsea Clinton. I consider that a success.
I was walking through the Quad Tuesday, I looked up at my sophomore year dorm, 342 Sullivan.
It was a crappy room, in a crappy building, with no air conditioning, and terrible access to washing machines. And there’s the yearly Plague that goes around.
But looking up at it this time, I thought about when I was sitting with my roommate and a friend writing a joint paper for a theology course. And I thought of us counting the number of pages we had. Nate had about 4. I had about 2. And I remember Shaun saying “I only have two sentences! And one of them is ‘Corpses! Thousands of Corpses!”
I came here because it was my safety school, but it was the best decision I ever made. I’ve loved my time here, and after four years I have dozens of memories like that.
Every once and a while, someone asks me what I think about Villanova. I used to say I didn’t like Villanova, and that I wouldn’t go here again if given the chance. Now, on the eve of graduation, I realize how wrong I was.
With that, I take my leave.
Tom Nardi is a senior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]