Fitting in and Finding Yourself

by Sarah McLaughlin '23 on June 11, 2023

Editor's Column

I’ll Miss (Most of) You, PC

I think Providence College is a difficult place to feel like you fit in.

The first week of freshman year, I felt like I was drowning—not in Honors Civ homework (yet), but in a sea of unknowing. Not knowing any person or place (I asked an orientation leader to help me find all of my classrooms Sunday afternoon, and I spent half an hour trying to find Smith with my new friend Sam—how did we get so lost?), strange new terminology (what in the world was a “darty”), and a major culture shock (I was homeschooled, and it’s not like I had zero socialization before coming to college, but still).

I like to think I’ve changed a lot as a person in my four years here, but not radically so. I still don’t go out past 10 P.M. (with the exception of Thursday night bingo), and I still get way too excited about discussing poetry in my literature classes. I still have an addiction to Dunkin’ donuts. But I’ve changed, too. I don’t wear skinny jeans anymore (thank God they fell out of style), I drink coffee despite my caffeine intolerance, and I voluntarily go to therapy. I make friends (really, really good ones) and I stand up for myself. I learned patience and confidence and vulnerability. There are ways you change in college that aren’t just getting older, getting a degree, and getting alcohol poisoning (I still don’t drink; you never got me there, PC). Now that my biggest fear is out of the way (getting a job), it’s hitting me how much I’ll miss this place, for all its scariness and strangeness.

When I see groups of tours strolling around campus at the pace of a tortoise while I’m buzzing to class at the speed of a hare, I slow down for a second and consider how some of those people might be where I was, who I was, and how they might change here, too. How they might feel like they don’t fit in. How maybe, hopefully, they find a place like The Cowl, a place and a people where they feel like they can be themselves, whoever that might turn out to be.
Most of the time, I still think PC is a tough place to feel like you fit in. I mean, I’m writing this as hundreds (thousands?) of students are wearing overpriced preppy clothes they’ll never wear again, trying to look like they belong at a golf course, when instead they’re huddled together like penguins on a pavement iceberg. Some things about you I’ll never understand, PC, and I’m okay with it staying that way. You have your fair share of problems. But that’s what The Cowl’s Opinion section is for.

Practicing Communication and Trust On Campus

by Sarah McLaughlin '23 on April 20, 2023

Editor's Column

A key part of what makes a community is building a bond of trust and communication. In general, the Providence College student body would agree that these things are important for fostering a healthy “Friar Family.” Many students have expressed concerns regarding the communication we receive regarding incidents that occur on campus. When students hear about on-campus incidents from rumors and social media prior to hearing from official sources—or in place of them entirely—we foster an environment of gossip, misinformation, and mistrust.

One example of students’ lack of knowledge is when fire alarms go off in dorm buildings. Often, these are fire drills, and at the beginning of the year, public safety officers meet with students outside to inform them of the safety and evacuation protocols. However, when the fire alarm goes off later on in the year, students are seemingly never informed of whether these instances are drills, someone pulling the alarm, or actual emergencies. “The fire alarm went off at 3 a.m. one night in Davis when it was below freezing, and we all had to evacuate, and we still have yet to learn why this happened,” one student recounted. This lack of information is what causes rumors to spread.

Regarding the incident which occurred off-campus on April 1, students received the information published by the College in an email, which reflects the press release The Cowl included in this week’s issue. This email was sent at 3:58 p.m., while the incident occurred in the morning, as this is when students noticed police activity on-campus. Students were not informed of what happened on-campus, only that an off-campus incident occurred, which fostered more confusion in an already confusing situation. Prior to finding out the name of the student involved by reading news articles, students took to social media to speculate. Names were thrown around which turned out to be completely incorrect. The fact that some students had to face these random accusations and gossip is the fault of both the students for jumping to conclusions instead of waiting for information and of the College for not sending timely updates on the situation.

One member of The Cowl’s editorial board spoke on the matter: “When it involves the safety of the Providence College community, we have the right to be informed of what’s going on. There’s not an efficient system and way of doing that—finding out hours after something happened is unacceptable.” The Cowl hopes we can speak on behalf of the student body when we say that we hope the College will consider our concerns.

How Campus Clubs and Organizations Still Feel the Effects of COVID-19

by Sarah McLaughlin '23 on March 2, 2023

Editor's Column

Every member of the Class of 2023 remembers what they were doing on March 6, 2020. I remember saying goodbye to my friends and roommates before my back-to-back class and Civ seminar, in which we ironically discussed how next week’s topic would be the bubonic plague. We left campus excited for break but with an underlying air of nervousness. Some of our parents were already saying we’d be home for at least two weeks, maybe more—my mom was already stocking our cabinets with canned goods in early February—while others were more optimistic. But none of us really knew what was going on, or how lasting the effects of COVID-19 would be—in particular, its impacts on our clubs and organizations.

As the “last pre-COVID class,” as some of us have dubbed ourselves, we’ve witnessed some clubs on campus go from over one hundred active members to half their original size. Sometimes it means that, when you show up to club meetings, just executive board members and maybe a few others will be there. It means event planning and organization is much more difficult. It means we are worried about certain clubs having a future, because there’s no one to take over after we graduate. Executive positions for some clubs used to be competitive, and now it’s often a struggle to find students willing to step up. COVID-19 didn’t just make us socially isolated for a year or two; it has had a lasting impact on students’ leadership, teamwork skills, and motivation.

PC seemed to try its hardest, but the virtual programming of the 2020-21 academic year and Fall 2021 semester just didn’t interest students to nearly the same degree, and this likely dissuaded new students from joining clubs. When we were stuck in our dorm rooms with our laptops and phones as the only means of social connection, most of us were turning to means of escapism—Netflix, YouTube, TikTok—not even more Zoom meetings on top of our classes and jobs that had all turned virtual. According to OpenVault’s Broadband Insights Report, average broadband consumption increased by 47 percent from the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. In September 2021, according to Pew Research, 40 percent of US adults reported they felt worn out or fatigued from too many video calls, and 83 percent of US adults described virtual communication as not good enough compared to in-person contact.

Now that we’ve been unmasked and vaccinated for a full year, it’s saddening to see that some clubs still haven’t returned to their pre-COVID levels of functioning. Some are certainly on the rise again, and we can remain hopeful that this trend will continue, albeit slowly. We can make a plea to the Class of 2024 as well—this is your chance to become leaders. Leading a club is challenging (it’s not easy trying to plan a budget, ask for money, maybe receive all of that money, and juggle a bunch of busy students’ calendars to schedule events and meetings), but it is rewarding work and more than just “resume padding.” I know we’ve all become a little too addicted to staying in our rooms and watching our favorite shows over the past few years, but the opportunity is out there now, so students should be taking advantage of it.

Owning Up to Our Capabilities: Starting the Academic Year with a Confident Mindset

by The Cowl Editor on September 9, 2022


“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

How many times have you found yourself using those words? Heard friends say them? How often have you really meant it? How many times have you proceeded to do the thing anyway?

There’s an epidemic of smart, capable people—especially young people, especially introverts, especially young women—downplaying their talents and abilities. I can’t count the amount of times a classmate has turned to me and said, “I have no idea what I’m doing with this assignment,” and I’ve replied with, “Yeah, same,” even when my thoughts have already been churning, and it makes me wonder whether theirs were, too. I like to think I’m pretty confident in my own writing ability (and it’s something I enjoy doing), and yet I find myself more often expressing exactly the opposite. Take finals week as an example: tally the amount of times you’ve heard “I’m going to fail” versus “I’m going to do really well.” Statistically, most of us here at Providence College, an institution which boasts nearly a 90% graduation rate, aren’t failing. Why do we like to pretend we are?

Gen Z is criticized relentlessly for being image-obsessed. I agree that this also presents itself as a widespread issue, particularly on social media, where flexing your new car or five thousand-dollar vacation with a filtered photoshoot has become the norm. Not only does that foster envy and self-esteem issues, but it also leaves little room for expression of what’s really worth “flexing.” In Aristotle’s words, regarding self-expression, honesty is a virtue, whereas excess humility is a vice.

Those of us who’ve recently been through job interviews or created LinkedIn accounts realize the difficulty in answering the question: What are your greatest attributes? I think it’s time we stop being afraid, when appropriate, to voice them.

Maybe it’s social awkwardness we’re trying to avoid. Maybe we worry that saying, “I’m really proud of the thesis I’ve composed” will come across as conceited. But I don’t think we need to belittle ourselves in order to get along. Human connection and friendships are more often products of mutual participation and enjoyment in activities than mutual self-degradation. Owning up to our capabilities can also help foster an environment of positivity and inspire confidence in others—if even just a few people start believing in themselves, the whole group may follow. 

As a senior, and as your Editor-in-Chief this year, that is my goal.