At the start of sophomore year, I was in a good place, having found a home at my high school, Good Counsel Academy and a great circle of friends. All of this changed when it was announced that my school may be closing. While the details are too confusing and frustrating to explain, in essence, the property my high school was on was being sold by the Sisters who owned it. There were multiple attempts to save GCA, including protests and a parents group, but none were successful.

On February 12th, 2015, we were called from class into our chapel, and our principal made the news official.

Because of this, everyone had to find a school to transfer to. Some applied to other Catholic schools, others chose public school. For me, this decision was extremely difficult. I was stuck between two schools, one in the city, and one more local. The days leading up to my decision were some of the most stressful I can remember. Being the perfectionist I am, I wanted to make sure I was making the right choice. Eventually, I just decided and stayed hopeful.

Those last few months at GCA were bittersweet. My friend group would be split up next year, so we became closer than ever, making our final memories at the school we loved so dearly. The teachers and administration were incredible, planning a surprise field day (pictured) and having a “graduation” on the last day of classes.

Summer came and went, and soon I found myself preparing for my new school, Ursuline. I was lucky enough to have two of my best friends, along with some other girls, coming with me. Leading up to the first day of school, I remained positive. Still, the first few weeks hit hard. Reality didn’t hit me until I was at Ursuline, walking through the halls and barely recognizing anyone. When I did recognize someone from GCA, seeing them felt out of place.

I missed the familiarity of Good Counsel, the open campus, the little things like the church bells and smell of the convent, and most importantly, the community there.

I’d like to say I felt completely comfortable at Ursuline within the first few months, but I would be lying if I did. There were certainly good days, and bad ones. It was emotionally draining to go to school every day and try to keep a happy face on. It was frustrating to go through the process of making friends all over again. Isn’t that what I had just spent the last two years doing? I felt labeled as “transfer” or “GCA girl”.

Of course, I was proud to say I was from GCA, but I didn’t want that to be how I was defined at Ursuline.

Though the transition was difficult, I am grateful I had such an amazing support system: my family, my two best friends that had come with me, friends from GCA and other parts of my life- all of them were instrumental in helping me feel a sense of security in this new environment.

Slowly but surely, things began to change. Two specific instances I remember were key to coming out a bigger and happier person. First, my choir’s trip to Disney is when I finally felt like I settled myself into a group of friends. The memories and connections I made on that trip are ones I know I’ll keep for a lifetime.

Second, the bonfire at my senior retreat gave me such a powerful sense of community, so strong I felt comfortable sharing one of my favorite quotes with my entire class:

“I may not have gone where I intended, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be”.

This quote still rings true. Once I began to embrace where life had brought me, instead of resisting it, I found myself making a new home for myself at Ursuline. I look back on my two years at Ursuline with just as many smiles as my two years at GCA.

I think initially, I had such a hard time because I was unwilling to let go of Good Counsel. I felt unwilling to move on because I thought that by embracing Ursuline, I was somehow not being loyal to GCA. Once I realized that wasn’t the case, that it wasn’t me betraying GCA, it was me using the gifts I had learned there in my new environment, things shifted.

I realized that it wasn’t a contradiction to call both places my home, because home is a state of being in oneself, a feeling, not necessarily where we are.

Transferring into a new school taught me the power of dealing with discomfort, and how much stronger overcoming that discomfort can make you. It taught me that you don’t have to see your best friends every day for them to remain central in your life. It taught me how to make the best of every situation.

All throughout the transition, my mom would say “this is just preparing you for college.” And she was right. Since being at college, on bad days, I stay hopeful because I know at Ursuline, things turned out more than okay in the end. Having gone through that life experience has given me that key insight.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if GCA hadn’t closed. What would my life be like without my Ursuline friends? Would I have ended up at Villanova? When I think about this, I realize I truly would not wish to have had it any other way. Going to two different high schools means two different sets of memories, groups of friends, communities, and traditions. I can't imagine my life without these two contrasting experiences, nor do I want to.

Everything happens for a reason, and though it was heartbreaking and difficult at the time, the closing of GCA was simply the opening of other doors in other places.

I feel so grateful to have had attended both GCA and Ursuline. GCA provided the roots for me to grow and emerge even more at Ursuline. I will always be a “confident woman, compassionate leader” like GCA taught me, and will always be proud to say "Ac Fui", because I really was there at Ursuline, too.

Both of these places are such a big part of who I am, and I can only hope I will continue to use what I learned at both GCA and Ursuline in my new journey at Nova.

Talk soon,

Sam