As senior year begins, I can hardly believe how quickly time has gotten away from me. Thinking about the finality of this last academic year is bittersweet, because I have fallen in love with Fairfield University and the people who share it with me. 

In all of this reflection, I always revisit the very-beginning of my Fairfield story. Though three years have passed, part of me is still standing in my first-year dorm room, looking through the window as my parents’ parting figures get smaller and smaller in my view. 

Truthfully, I cannot ignore how nerve-wracking it was to move onto campus for the first time in the fall of 2020. It was certainly a leap of faith, but the best decision I ever made. 

If I had the chance to encounter 2020 Annie– terrified, sitting on the floor of her room in Jogues Hall, I’d approach her kindly… and say this: 

The beginning of this chapter might be lonely. Recreating the security and connection you cherish in relationships with family and high school friends is a slow burn. 

College is such a unique moment, when most everyone is bravely approaching life away from home for the first time, and getting to know themselves. Though it may not happen overnight, the strangers you meet here will become friends, and many of those friends will become family—the type of people who look out for you no matter what, and cheer you on as you discover the person you’re called to become. 

Beautiful friendships await you—ones much different than those you’ve experienced before. It may just take a little bit of patience and an open mind. So go to all of those campus events, join clubs and communities that excite you, and take a few risks. Go out of your way to meet new people, and make an honest effort to get to know them. Be unapologetic in your genuine effort to connect with people; you never know who might become a best friend!

Work hard. The best way to learn is to try your best. Certainly prioritize your well-being, but within reasonable boundaries, put your heart and soul into school work, professional endeavors and extracurriculars. 

Apply yourself. Ask questions. Do well for the sake of the challenge. Make an effort, and see what you can accomplish—it may turn out to be a whole lot. 

Follow your fire. It may take some time, and a lot of trial and error– but pay attention to the things that excite you, that set your heart on fire. Maybe you won’t find the major– a perfect match that sets your soul aflame, and that’s okay. But look into the things that ignite a spark in you. Something will. 

It could be a particular subject, a specific class, a community on campus, an activity, a group of people, or even a question– notice what energizes you, and go with it. Explore it, experiment with it, and chase it into the sunset– this is the time! 

A lot of people feel pressure to figure out “what they want to do with their life.” And while realistically some understanding of a career path is important to grasp, you’ve got to remind yourself that things change, and life is not a straight line. 

What’s more important, in my opinion, is identifying the things that light you up— because the fine print figures itself out… and will probably change with the tides anyway. 

Fairfield’s culture and curriculum, in its Ignatian approach, is designed to help us get to know ourselves. So add on that not-so-practical minor. Try something totally new.

Lean into your curiosity, and in the words of St. Ignatius, “go forth and set the world on fire!”