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Riding the April Retreat High

By Alex Pawlica (ACE 31, Charleston)

ACE 31 Walking

Our Father"It's so weird to think we won't see each other for another six weeks."

"I know, right?!"

I was sitting around a food court table at the Midway airport with a handful of other ACE 31s waiting for our flights home from April Retreat. Riding the tail end of our retreat high, we were abuzz with chatter, swapping stories of first impressions, fears, hopes, end-of-semester plans, and the like. Make no mistake - we were still tired, but it was a good sort of tired. It had been a whirlwind of a weekend filled with liturgy, talks, and no shortage of fun shenanigans.

Coming to retreat, I had little sense of what lay ahead. Sure, I had peeked at the schedule, but I couldn't have predicted much else. I didn't know what it would feel like to step onto Notre Dame's campus for the first time (or get lost perusing it!). I didn't have a sense of all the work that the ACE team and school administrators did behind the scenes in anticipation of our arrival. And I certainly didn't predict that I'd walk away with new inside jokes and Spotify blends with people I had just met. I think I speak for many of my fellow ACE 31s when I say that one of the most memorable parts of the retreat was simply being welcomed into the community that we would call our own in the years ahead. 

"The vibes were like, very freshman orientation," someone said tongue-in-cheek, summing up the groups sentiment. 

The rest of us laughed and nodded in agreement.

DinnerAs a fourth year (UVA speak for a senior), much of my April has been spend gearing up to say goodbye to a place that I've grown to call home. A thousand items have filled my to-do list as I've strived to make the most of the time I have left in undergrad and make sure I leave with everything in order. Anyone graduating knows it's a time when life is busy and emotions run high.

April Retreat proved to be a necessary reset. On one hand, the interruption in routine reminded me not to get lost in the bustle of it all. I came back ready to be fully present for my final weeks at college. On the other hand, it gave me a fuller sense of what I was looking forward to. Though I had committed almost a year ago and served as an ACE Ambassador at UVA, up until retreat, ACE had still felt like a distant future. Now it had settled in - I'm really doing this!

Now, April was not only a time of endings but of new beginnings.

As time rolled on, the table began to clear. I said my (temporary) goodbyes and walked to my gate, confident as ever in my "yes".