Homegrown: Growing up and living in Villanova, Pennsylvania



Sophia Pizzi

Senior Caroline Manion had no one to pick her up for fall break, so she walked home. 

Unusual for most students taking planes, trains and automobiles to their prospective fall break destinations, the perk of walking home is one of many that comes with growing up and living one block away from South Campus. But to Manion, being a Villanova, Pa. native offers much more than just perks. 

Sitting across from Manion outside of the Connelly center, I see she is in her element. She’s wearing a Nova t-shirt that reads “Always Reppin,” and I can’t help but laugh at how literal the slogan is. 

“I grew up with all of this right here,” Manion says as her eyes scan the buildings around us. “I’ve been going to basketball games my whole life, the church is my parish—Villanova has always been a big part of my life.”

In fact, the University’s role in Manion’s life stretches across generations. Both of her parents are alumni, along with several other family members, including her grandfather and older brother.  Yet despite legacy, Manion never thought she would end up here as a student. 

Four years ago, when she embarked on the college application journey, Manion’s mother told her she couldn’t tour Villanova until she looked at other schools first. She visited other mid-sized Catholic universities, such as Notre Dame and Georgetown, but at the end of the day, she realized she was comparing each of them to Villanova. 

After weighing all of her options, Manion couldn’t quite come to a decision. She knew that she wanted to come to Villanova but also worried that the University was just too close to home. On April 30, 2013 —the day before the universal deposit deadline—she still had yet to make up her mind. 

“I remember leaving for school that morning, and saying to my mom, ‘Hey I need to pick a school by tonight,’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, whatever, have a good day,’” Manion recalls. “I came back from school after that weird interaction and my mom was sitting at the dinner table and we were talking about all the things she had done that day. She lists all these things she had done and at the end she goes: ‘Oh yeah, Caroline, by the way, I went by Villanova and dropped off the deposit.”

After all that time, it was Manion’s mom who understood her feelings and pushed her to overcome her fear of being too close to home. “And she could not have been more right,” Manion admits, appreciative of her family’s support through the decision making process.

Looking back to her freshman year, Manion says that being from the town of Villanova impacted her college experience in unique ways. 

“Moving in was weird,” she jokes. “I’m a terrible packer. When you know you’re moving 30 seconds down the road, it gives you zero incentive to pare down what you own, so that was terrible.”

After moving in, Manion was determined to stay on campus as much as possible. She feels this mindset allowed her to embrace school more and make the most out of her experience here—so much so that she now considers the University a totally different world than her home.

“I can still hear the bells from the bedroom window, but like…it’s not the same feeling as when you hear the bells on campus,” she says. 

Additionally, as a freshman, Manion had the upper hand of being more familiar with the area than most other first-year students.

“It was kind of cool when people were getting to know the area, I already knew it,” she says. “Like the King of Prussia Mall is the mall that in, sixth grade, I was allowed to go to with my friends on Friday night, so that’s all I did in my middle school years. I always found it kind of fun to be like ‘let me show you my hometown I grew up in and love.’”

Manion also jokes about the many oddities of her circumstance, such as bumping into neighbors on campus, seeing one of her aunts casually drive by, or even running into her mom near the gym, where Manion’s mom has a membership through the Friends of Villanova Program.

When asked about the challenges that come with living close to home, Manion struggles to name a few. 

“Sometimes I am afraid that I didn’t do the true college experience because I didn’t go somewhere else and try something new,” she says. “Not that I regret going to Villanova because I love Villanova. It’s weird, but I love it. Like if I don’t get ticketed in the basketball lottery I’ll call my dad and am like, ‘Hey who’s not going to the game tonight?’ It’s weird, but I make it work.”

And ‘make it work’ seems like an understatement when you hear the resume of activities Manion is involved in on campus.She is on the executive board for the Blue Key Society, works behind the scenes organizing Candidates’ Day, was an AA for Orientation and is a Volunteer Coordinator for Special Olympics. 

On top of these activities, when Manion isn’t hanging out in the admissions office or chatting with her seemingly infinite string of friends outside of Café Nova, she studies Marketing Management and Business Analytics in the Villanova School of Business. 

“Growing up near Villanova has made Caroline encompass the absolute best things about this school,” Manion’s close friend and roommate Liz Roller says. “She is so warm and welcoming to everyone and embodies the values of this University in everything she does. She is the definition of community herself—always there for others, happy to lend a helping hand, and is so happy that other people can’t help feel the same.”

Manion’s Nova pride is perhaps best seen in her work in admissions, where she talks to prospective families about the strength of the Villanova community, saying how for her, “it all comes down to the people.” 

It is this thought that comforts Manion when thinking about graduation next spring. 

“I truly think that the people here are ones who want to see you be happy, do well and enjoy your time in college, and knowing that those people will be there for me beyond graduation is something I am grateful for,” she says. “Being able to see my parents and grandfather continue the Villanova community beyond Lancaster Avenue has been really cool. And knowing that the people I have come to love will not cease to exist once I stop being a student here, too, is incredible. I know that I’ll still have people to support me, be my friends, watch basketball games with me and continue Villanova in the real world.”