Why HOBY Is An Amazing Part Of My Life Two Years Later

Why HOBY Is An Amazing Part Of My Life Two Years Later

I still have the "HOBY spirit."
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Chances are that if you’ve seen me at all in the past two years, you’ve heard me mention HOBY. And it’s likely been more than once, possibly even to the point where it’s annoying.

People often ask me what exactly this "HOBY thing" is, and I can’t tell you how often I’m at a total loss for words. “It’s a leadership seminar,” I’ll eventually stammer, getting a polite smile and nod in response before the subject is changed.

But that’s not quite it. Not even close. Just a scratch at the surface, really.

But for these people, I keep it simple, hoping that I can somehow communicate to them in the way I get excited about this thing and the way that my eyes light up that THIS is the place where I found my tribe. That this is the place that has moved my voice closer to my lips.

It’s impossible to describe HOBY for a multitude of reasons, one of which being the detail and depth I’d have to go into to even begin to try to explain is far too great for the small talk it typically makes an appearance in.

Also, we HOBYs kinda like this ambiguous little secret of ours, both frustrated and pleased that we have such a hard time helping others to understand this other family of ours and the place we’ve found that we belong––––this place where you discover the best version of yourself.

Lately I’ve been resorting to calling it a “utopia” but that’s really not it either. That makes it sound too much like a cult, but with the fervor my fellow alums and I speak about it with, one might just start to wonder.

So really the best way I can describe it is by calling it “an ineffable wonder” but by definition, I’m really not describing it at all.

I attended the HOBY New York West seminar at the University of Rochester in May of 2014, where I heard one of the Lost Boys of Sudan speak, cleaned up Mount Hope Cemetery, got poison ivy, wrote, directed and performed a skit all in half an hour, stole bandanas and candy off of neighboring groups’ tables (harboring quite a collection from each by the end of the weekend), and laughed when our table was stolen out of revenge one night during dinner. I had had a nice time, but I wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about.

And then I was introduced to the WLC, or World Leadership Congress.

I wasn’t going to go at first, discovering four days after signing up that it was the same week as a summer course I was planning on taking at a local university. But after mulling over my options for several days (and, let’s be honest, crying) I decided on the World Leadership Congress.

Every minute I got closer to departing for Chicago, the more the dread came in and the fear settled in my stomach. I cried the night before, afraid of flying on a plane for the first time in eleven years to a huge city I’d never been to before.

But it was like that the night I left to go back home, too, and it had nothing to do with the plane ride, and everything to do with the fear of leaving this place. This version of me.

And now, I’d give anything to go back. To be traipsing around Chicago with twelve of my favorite people--ones who are unapologetically themselves and incredibly enthusiastic about everything--by my side. Screaming ridiculous cheers at the top of our lungs down the street. Making Canadian jokes. Untangling ourselves from human knots.

The thing about HOBY is that everyone you meet has this genuine love and care for you. It is a place where I instantly felt connected and understood, even though I was meeting these four hundred twenty-five other people for the very first time.

What I loved about my week in Chicago was just how incredibly open and welcoming everyone was. By the end of the week, you really felt like had known the people in your group for years and had experienced some of their hardships with them. I had finally found what my favorite author Marina Keegan calls “the opposite of loneliness.”

HOBY is a place that challenges you and your beliefs for the betterment of both yourself and the world. Bringing together about 430 ambassadors from 16 different countries, it enables ambassadors to learn that we all have much more in common than we ever could have imagined, despite coming from so many different corners of the globe.

People often ask me what you do at this leadership thing, and I never know how to describe it without making it seem dull. Because it wasn't. We listened to speakers and created websites and nonprofits and thought about ways to solve world problems. We explored Chicago and wrote notes and danced and sang crazy cheers and played ridiculous games. We updated our social media pages and took too many pictures and hugged everyone we met. We engaged in service projects and discussions. We slept too little and smiled too much. We laughed so hard we were sore the next day. We cried until our tears ran out. It was exhilarating.

At night, I would crawl in bed, exhausted, but joyfully so. That’s when I would contact my family. But my home life felt so far away and so unreal. It made it hard to think about coming home--leaving this place and saying goodbye to these people. This version of myself. Me, a homebody, couldn’t imagine coming home to her family in just a few days.

It’s no wonder ambassadors talk about “HOBY hangovers” and “withdrawals” and creating an island only for HOBYs to live on social media every once in a while. We celebrate our anniversaries like high school couples and, in our friends’ opinions, gush about it too much.

Getting off the plane and seeing my family again for the first time in eight days, after all of this, was surreal. I felt like a pair of pants that shrank in the wash––––I just didn’t fit anymore. And of course coming home begged the question, “What are you going to do with this?” I didn’t have the answers to that then, and honestly I’m not sure I do now. I was terrified of losing this other side of me, scared that I’d fall back into my normal routine and everything I had gained would be lost. The staff had warned us of this, scheduling a presentation entitled “Life After HOBY” on one of the last days. “You might feel like you don’t quite belong when you get back,” they said, assuring us that this was normal.

I remember going to Wegmans after reuniting with my family and having to resist the urge not to rush up to a person looking at bread and tell them my name and ask them where they were from. It took a lot of effort not to get up, put my hands over my head and start shouting “O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G OUT-OUT-OUTSTANDING” at the top of my lungs whenever someone asked me how my day was or if I liked my pizza. I’m not sure if this is what the staff were talking about, but it was definitely far from normal.

I’ve been on multiple trips and sports teams before and since, and while I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them, I’ve never felt as connected to these people as I have to HOBYs.

Oftentimes the leaders at these events boast that this new experience will be the best one of your life, so when “HOBY Daddy” Russ Tanguay told all 426 of us ambassadors in a conference room at Loyola University of Chicago that “a week from now, you’re going to wish that you were back in this room on July 19th, 2014 at 8:32 pm CT” I was skeptical. But, I can’t even begin to tell you how right he was. It's been two years since that date and I still remember the exact time.

I still post about it on social media and engage in Google Hangouts to catch up and commemorate that day. I volunteer as a Junior Counselor at New York West every year, eager to inspire high school sophomores just as much as my counselors inspired me and keep my HOBY spirit going.

In this day in age, when we are surrounded by violence and hateful acts and a crazy presidential race, it's comforting to know that those of different cultures, religions, views and backgrounds can all come together respectfully and peacefully and learn how to lead together for the betterment of our local and global communities.

HOBY has not only challenged me, but given me confidence, lifelong friends, a love of service, and a place where I belong. Being able to give back to the organization that taught me how to reach my full potential and granted me the opposite of loneliness is one of the most outstanding feelings in the world.

Cover Image Credit: hoby.org

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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
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Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

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The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.

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Depending on when you're reading this, Saint Patrick's day has either just passed or is around the corner. For me, Saint Patrick's day is tomorrow. I've been debating this article for some time now because I didn't know how it would be perceived. At this point, though, I feel it's important for me to get out. No, Irish people were never kept as slaves in America, and I will never be one to try and say they were. However, Irish people were treated tremendously awful in America. A lot of people tend to forget, or just try to erase entirely, the history of the Irish in America. So much so that I felt shameful for wanting to celebrate my heritage. Therefore, I want to bring to light the history that everyone brushes under the rug.

In 1845, a potato famine broke out across Ireland. This was a big deal because the Irish lived off, mainly, potatoes. They were cheap, easy to grow, and had tons of nutrients. So when the famine struck, many people either died of starvation or fled to America in seek of refuge. When the Irish arrived in America they were seen as a threat to the decency of America. People viewed them as drunk beasts, sinful savages, barbaric, violent, belligerent, stupid, and white apes. When the Irish would go to look for jobs, many times they found signs that read "Irish Need Not Apply," even when the job was hiring. Therefore, the Irish did the jobs no one wanted, and even jobs African slaves wouldn't do. The biggest example of this is when Irishmen built canals and drained swamps. They were sent to do these things because of the enormous amount of mosquitoes; in the swamp, they would get bit and ultimately die of malaria.

Also, during this time, Irish people were poor and therefore lived in the same neighborhoods as the free African Americans. A lot of the Irish people were friendly with their neighbors of color and even got into interracial relationships. Because the Irish lived in these neighborhoods they were seen as dirty and even a lot of people at this time put African Americans higher on the totem pole than Irish. One person during the time even said, "At least the black families keep their homes clean."

The main reason American's outlook on Irish people changed was that most Irishmen took up fighting for the Union in the Civil War. I make this argument, not because I think the Irish suffered more than African slaves. I don't say this in means of trying to erase the struggles of the African slaves. I do not think that any of our ancestors should have been treated the way they were. I mean to say that the Irish did in fact suffer. Irish people were treated wrongly on the basis of...nothing. Simply because my ancestors hailed from the shores of Eire, they were treated with malice. And I write this simply because I want people to remember. I want people to understand what happened.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, next year, and for the many years to come, I want people to embrace the Irish culture. I want the folks of Irish heritage to not be ashamed of where they come from; to not be ashamed to share their culture the way I have for many years. I want everyone to have a beer, wear some green, eat a potato or two, and dance the Irish step; to celebrate the history of Irish people with a bit more understanding than before.

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