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Insight Alma Mater: Seattle University

We are back with one of our favorite blog series here at Insight, the “Insight Alma Mater”! Client Operations Manager Casey Shook attended Seattle University and tells a compelling story of her journey during first semester. Read on below! You can also learn more about Seattle U on their Facebook, and Instagram


“Can’t you just attend a local school and live at home?” my parents replied when I told them I’d be applying to college in Seattle. I had lived my entire life (all 17 years at that point) in Silicon Valley and I knew it was time for a change of scenery. I also knew that I wanted my college experience to include small class sizes, an urban setting, and little to no focus on athletics or a Greek system. In other words, there was almost no chance I would be attending school close to home or even in this state. 


My high school hosted a number of university representatives during my Junior year, and by sheer luck one of them happened to be from Seattle University. I saw the city name and I added myself to the attendance list, figuring such a musically-renown city might be worth checking out. When I heard the representative discussing the school’s emphasis on social justice and the larger Jesuit Catholic values of “educating the person as a whole” and “academic curiosity as a lifelong habit,” I knew where I would be applying that Fall. In fact, I only applied to one other school but I had no intention of attending anywhere but Seattle U. 


What I didn’t know was how unprepared I was for such a transition. Even though I had my heart set on college for most of my life and knew that I would be the first in my family to attend a four-year school, I didn’t realize how much I had romanticized the academic rigor and the freedom of campus life. In other words, I didn’t focus enough on the impact of leaving home and the only people I had ever known. 


I knew that my fellow incoming Freshmen and I would hit the ground running in our classes, but my first quarter at Seattle U was more eye-opening, invigorating, and challenging (mentally and academically) than I could have ever imagined. It didn’t help that my grandmother had also lost her fight against cancer just a month after I stepped foot on campus, or that my now-husband and I were only a year into our then-long-distance relationship, so there were several occasions where my roommate would return from class to find me crying on the floor from homesickness. 


“Would this be it?” I thought during those dark moments. Would everything I had pursued since elementary school come to an abrupt end after just a month of college? Would my parents get to have me return home and attend a local school after all? Could I entertain the thought of dropping out of something I thought was my dream experience? 


Desperate to keep my dream alive, I sought out resources on campus and within my new circle of classmates and acquaintances. I took a chance and joined my school’s radio station, hoping that this small step might help me dive into the famous Seattle music scene, but it actually gave me a chance to get to know people outside of my dorm and my major. Every Friday evening I would get on the air and play whatever I wanted, which mostly consisted of me saying hi to my family and friends back home while playing music from the Bay Area’s local scene. I had started to discover my own way of bridging my past and future and it gave me something to look forward to after a long week of classes and studying.


I also made a point to meet with my academic advisor several times, who then referred me to the school guidance counselor for weekly meetings to discuss “directional therapy,” as I called it. Based on the counselor’s advice I took many personality and aptitude tests, did values exercises, and studied career paths of my major at the time (which I ended up changing — twice — since then).


My advisor and counselor also helped me find ways to double-down on my studying and I managed to recover from my first failing grade ever (on a midterm in a class I loved), and I learned how to wade my way through those first few academically intense courses that my high school classes could not have prepared me for, despite being Honors and AP-level.  After my first flight home (following my grandmother’s passing), I also realized that I was only a couple of hours away from “home” and all that it meant. With the money I saved from my summer job I saw an opportunity to fly back every quarter or more often if needed. 


I eventually opened up to the other students on my floor, eventually forming life-long friendships with amazing folks from across the country who gave me better advice than I thought possible of kids my age. My dorm building was on the far side of campus so my floormates-turned-friends and I would walk over to the cafeteria in a huddle every night for dinner; this helped us to not only stay warm in the frigid Fall temperatures but to provide comfort as we all adjusted to our new home away from home.


During our first finals week we were all packing up for our three-week winter break and I remember being asked if I was coming back in January. Without hesitation I said yes; it was in that moment I realized that by giving myself this chance to try (and very possibly fail) I finally felt like I was truly flourishing and growing. 


Casey at High School Graduation

College Graduation

Casey visiting the college radio station (then KSUB, now KXSU) at 10-year reunion


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