The Daily Illini

Newman Hall: My home away from home

By Noah Nelson, Columnist

Your parents just left. This is the first time you’ll be taking care of yourself, and no, it’s not just for the weekend. You’re a freshman in college and it’s almost overwhelming.

At colleges across the country, especially here at the University, many students join a fraternity or sorority. Some join for a sense of family and acceptance, while others join for the huge party scene. For me, living at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in the heart of campus feels like family and it’s my home away from home.

When I first moved in, my parents pulled our car toward the curb and we were soon bombarded with Newman residential advisors unpacking everything out of our vehicle. Taylor Swift’s 2008 banger “You Belong With Me” blared from the speakers as other R.A.’s either played catch with a football or kicked a soccer ball in the middle of the street.

Soon after everyone moved in and left their parents, all incoming freshman attended a welcome mass led by Father Lampitt and that’s when I knew that I was joining my own type of fraternity. In his homily, which is a speech given toward the beginning of mass, he explained how every student who stays at Newman is welcomed at Newman — it doesn’t matter who you are or where you may come from.

I believe every word Father Lampitt said on move-in day. From the very beginning, everyone at Newman, from the staff to the residents, made the college transition so smooth that I don’t even feel like I’m away from my actual hometown. They’ve welcomed everyone so much that now almost no one feels like a stranger anymore.

For a lot of new students here, it’s easy to feel out of place for the first few days. The stress of finding a group of friends, or even just fitting in can be a lot to deal with. But at Newman, meeting other residents felt so much more natural than your typical dorm ice-breakers. Whether it’s eating lunch with a huge group at the “Alice in Wonderland”-style tea party tables, hanging out in the lounge with friends or participating in one of Father Chase’s Friday workouts on the courtyard, the loneliness feeling vanishes almost instantly.

Newman not only welcomes its residents with open arms but also every student on campus. Any student is welcome to dine at the cafeteria or study at the courtyard. It’s not something students should feel pressured to check out, or even consider, but the opportunity is always there.

It’s honestly an oddity to be walking down the halls and not be acknowledged. After only about a month of school, almost everyone knows each other which certainly comes in handy when studying for upcoming midterms or just simply talking about life.

I firmly believe I’ve found my home on campus and, along with the friends I’ve made so far, I love staying at Newman. Each day, I walk by the front desk with the phrase “You Belong Here” written across the wall. I never take those words for granted because I feel like I do belong at Newman, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Noah is a freshman in LAS.

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