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From surviving Thurston to finishing college in Barcelona: Seniors reflect on their time at GW

Lily Speredelozzi | Assistant Photo Editor
Graduating senior Cameron Cayer, sitting on a bench in Kogan Plaza, advises incoming freshman not to feel intimidated by spending time alone and embracing personal interests.

After facing obstacles like transferring to and from GW and a surprise early graduation date, seniors are reflecting on their time at GW as Commencement approaches.

From living in the bizarre and decrepit Thurston Hall to navigating a pandemic, members of the Class of 2023 lived through all the ups and downs GW has to offer. Graduating seniors encouraged future classes to explore areas of D.C. off campus, get involved in student organizations outside their comfort zone and savor every moment of their experience.

Friends ‘four’ ever
Jack Mulwee, a senior majoring in international affairs, said he feels both “happy” and “proud” of the enduring friendships he made freshman year living in Thurston Hall that remain with him today.

“I don’t know if I can point to something that GW does to make that happen other than sticking me in a six-person room in Thurston, but that’s simply the most positive thing I’ve gotten from it,” Mulwee said.

He said that while he is a completely different person than he was when living in Thurston, his friendships have lasted him throughout college as he became a more “open” and “outgoing” person over the course of four years. Mulwee said he is still close friends with his Thurston roommates and floormates today and has continued to live with many of them throughout college.

Life’s what you make it
Ellie Artone, a senior majoring in international affairs, said freshmen should try as many new student organizations, internships and hobbies as possible in order to find their passion. Artone said she is now leaving GW with a full-time job working at the social media start-up company, Currant, which she helped build in college with other students to match influencers with brand deals.

“There are so many different opportunities around you, but it’s not something that’s just going to really fall in your lap,” she said. “People around here are competitive and a lot of us have pretty similar goals and mindsets. There’s going to be 100 people wanting the same thing that you’re going to want, so you just have to be proactive and if you want to get involved in something, just do it.”

Artone said in a city that can get “lonely,” it can take time to find the people and places that will make you feel at home. She said she didn’t meet her closest friends at GW until her junior year and encouraged freshmen to remember that forming close bonds can take time.

“They’re friends that I’m going to have for my entire life, but it took until junior year for us to even develop that relationship,” she said. “So don’t expect things to happen right away.”

Embrace the unexpected
Maria Ragan, a senior majoring in international affairs, only found out three weeks ago she would graduate this month after completing three years of undergraduate coursework. 

She said that she was initially set to double major in international affairs and international business but after facing complications with prerequisites for her second major, she asked to graduate this summer or fall with only one major. Then, her academic advisor shocked her and said she was eligible to graduate this month.

She said while it was stressful to be thrown into the graduation process on such short notice, she enjoyed her final year at GW making memories without worrying about trying to make her senior year perfect.

“It was almost nice not knowing when I was doing something for the last time because I could just focus on that thing and not focus on the fact that I wasn’t going to do it again,” Ragan said.

Get comfortable doing things alone
Cameron Cayer, a senior majoring in international affairs and a Hatchet reporter, said his advice to incoming freshmen is to be comfortable doing things by yourself rather than following a crowd, like attending a concert from your favorite musician alone even if your friends don’t want to go. 

“Not everyone is going to want to do the same things as you or be in the same place in life with you or live in the same place,” he said. “So I think it’s important to become your own person so that when you graduate, you’re not swimming around, lost.”

He said while he did not have an in-person sophomore year due to COVID-19, he spent the remainder of his time in college pursuing interests outside his major like comedy, music, acting and languages.

“I am a bit envious because I wonder where I would be if I did have that full year, but I do think it offered its own lessons and opportunities,” he said.

Thriving in unconventionality
Gigi Oyola, a senior majoring in international affairs, said everything about her college experience has been unconventional. Oyola said she had difficulty adjusting to college as a first-generation student living away from her close-knit family who live in New York, so she transferred to Fordham University her sophomore year.

“I had a hard time my first year kind of just navigating,” Oyola said. “And as a first-year student, I couldn’t ask my parents like, ‘What was college like?’ beforehand. I was just finding it hard in general, just to blend in.”

After attending Fordham for a year, Oyola said she transferred back to GW after realizing Fordham’s international affairs opportunities were lackluster compared to GW.

Oyola said she studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain during her final semester of college at GW since it was “her last chance” after transferring and completing course requirements for graduation. Oyola said that although studying abroad as a senior is rare, the valuable experience she gained abroad outweighed the pre-graduation festivities she missed.

“I didn’t go by a traditional route, which is not what I wanted to do, but just ended up working out for me,” she said.

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