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By Jon Albert

I came to the University alone. Really, I did. I didn’t love high school and was ready for a fresh start at a school where I didn’t know a single member of the student body. That changed seemingly overnight, as I quickly became a member of the community here, whether it was through my dorm, (St. Mo’s ’08-’09 represent) or through the countless groups, organizations and activities I participated in and made lasting friendships with. My years here were an exhibition in nationer-ism, and I loved every second of it.

To be honest, I’ve struggled with what direction to take this column. Do I go for a bunch of clever nuggets of advice from a recent grad? Example: If you enjoy inflicting near-physical pain upon yourself, don’t go to Homecoming and then look through all the photos on Monday morning. Or maybe I should document the wonderful experiences I had while attending the University (see above paragraph).

No, instead my message to all of you is pretty simple, but hard to believe sometimes—especially during your senior year: You will survive after Villanova.

This summer, after the liver lashing of senior week and the party that was graduation and the extra week I spent bumming around the Main Line, I headed home to Maine for an exciting summer of painting my house. I don’t want to sell my summer short. I had a lot of fun with my friends from the great white north, took a trip to Vegas and thoroughly enjoyed the last time I would be able to avoid the label ‘real person.’

In August, I started the year-long volunteer program that I am currently writing you from. I live in Chicago, serving as a campus minister and student activities assistant at an all-guys high school here on the South Side. Certainly not your typical post-grad life choice, but one that has definitely suited me well. And guess what? I’m still alive.

Beginning this summer and continuing through the fall, I found myself missing Villanova every single day. Many of my closest friends, including my girlfriend, are still there. Seeing you all post obnoxious photos of Rick Ross, Halloween and SpO doesn’t help me get over missing it, but I’ve started to look at those photos less with a sense of longing, and more with a sense of fondness. I mentioned Homecoming above, and I admit that I was more than a little annoyed when I saw pictures of my friends that looked like they were missing a certain graduate with an overly large forehead and overly loud voice.

I learned quickly that dedicating myself wholly to the University this year would be a disservice to my volunteer community and to my job with Augustinian Volunteers. I also realized that if I ignored it completely, than I’d feel like a piece of me was missing, still left at my alma mater.

Finding that balance has been key, and while I haven’t been perfect, I’m getting there. Chicago has been very good to me in the short time that I’ve called this place home. The last thing that I want–and I advise you all to remember this–is to be stuck in the past. I like to think that college was the best four years of my life, except for the next four years. Optimistic, sure, but if the last four were so great, why can’t the next four be just as good? The memories and friendships Villanova gave me will help guide me through the ‘real world’ instead of holding me back.

So while in college, soak up every moment, take advantage of every opportunity, blah blah blah. All of those helpful things you’ll hear this year are true, albeit cliched, but don’t think that it means your life will end once you graduate, and that you’ll never have any fun again. You will.

I thought I’d never be able to handle saying goodbye to my friends or leaving my senior year house—affectionately and moronically named the Bank—but life goes on. I survived and now I’m thriving, and you will, too.

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