Kelsi Thomas in Washington, D.C. (Photo used with permission of Thomas)

Freshman Focus Q&A: Alumna finds Georgetown’s priest’s lectures humorous, provocative

Kelsi Thomas, ‘13, is attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Although she hasn’t yet decided on a major, she’s considering psychology.


Q: What classes are you taking right now?

A: I’m taking Problem of God, which is a required class for Georgetown freshmen, and I’m also taking Seven Popes and the Jews, Chemistry in Everyday Life and Native American Literature.


Q: And which do you like best?

A: My favorites are a tie between Native American Literature and Seven Popes and the Jews. For the Native American Literature class, I find the information that we talk about really fascinating, and our discussions are very intellectual and thought-provoking. The teacher is really nice and makes the class really homey.

In my Seven Popes and the Jews class, the teacher is just hilarious—and he’s a priest. We call him Father McManus, and he’s one of the smartest people that I know, but he’s so sarcastic. He’s actually stands in class and makes fun of the popes.

He’ll be like “Pope Benedict just bit**ed about the Holocaust, like he didn’t even do anything to help and only sat there and whined about Hitler” or something like that. And I was like “Wait, can you say that? Like as a Father, are you allowed to call the pope a dumbo?” And he’ll do like imitations of the popes’ voices, and it’s literally the funniest class that I’ve sat in on. The topic is so serious—we talk about the mass genocides of all kinds—but it never occurred to me how someone can put such an “interactive perspective” on something that should be so formal.

Not only that, Father McManus is just a really interesting person in general. For example, he worked for the FBI and the CIA, and then he became a priest. He was stationed in the Middle East during Saddam Hussein’s time, so he had all these interesting stories like how Saddam Hussein hated whenever George Bush called him “the damn Hussein,” and that’s why Bush kept doing it because he knew the phrase got under Hussein’s skin.

Stories like that are why everyone is always laughing in the class. He might as well be putting on a show.


Q: How big are your classes?

A: Right now I’m just fulfilling the core requirements, and all my classes are really small this semester—I don’t have a class that’s bigger than 30.


Q: How do you like your dorm?

A: I love my dorm. When I first found out what dorm I was living in, I was a little skeptical. (Well, not entirely skeptical because I was just happy that I didn’t get the really terrible one, which is Darnall.) I got Harbin, and it’s really centrally located, so everything is really close to where I am.

There are two other dorms, but people always say there are only three freshman dorms total because no one talks about Darnall—it’s that bad.

Harbin feels like a home, whereas the other two sought-after dorms don’t. When I go into New South (one of those two dorms), people complain about the noise and how you can never get anything done. The hallway is so long, so there are so many people who are loud and rambunctious.

For Village C West (VCW), its structural plan was built by someone who designed a prison, so although VCW students have their own bathrooms, the rooms don’t feel homey and are way smaller than rooms in Harbin.

Our rooms are big, carpeted and normal looking. Plus, the closets are huge.

People in Harbin are separated in clusters of 16 people, whom you get to know really well. My RA bakes for everyone’s birthday, and she’ll make things like “slutty brownies.” She also made wings with a spicy dip for the Super Bowl party.


(Photo courtesy of Kelsi Thomas)
Kelsi Thomas (second from left) attends the men’s soccer game for the fall homecoming at Georgetown University. (Photo used with permission of Thomas)

Q: Do you get along with your roommate?

A: Yeah, we’re super close! The roommate-finding system at Georgetown is different from those at any other colleges that I know of. We use this thing called Charm, which is modeled after a dating site that matches you with someone. You don’t know what the other person looks like, so it’s solely based on the connection.

Charm takes all of your preferences and things that you want in a roommate, and it matches you with someone. Since you went through this really detailed list of criteria, you’re at least going to live well with your roommate.


Q: What’s it like going to a Jesuit-affiliated school?

A: It’s really not religious at all; it’s really diverse. I even know a couple people who are gay. I don’t know anyone who goes to church here. If people didn’t tell me that Georgetown was a Jesuit university, then I wouldn’t have known, though some of our teachers are priests. Going to a religious school definitely didn’t change anything.

It’s not “unreligious”—religion just isn’t very present on campus. If you don’t want religious, it’s not going to come out of nowhere and hit you.

Also, I feel like a lot of the teachers leave religion to your own understanding. The Jesuits’ philosophy is that you search for your own definition of education, so because of that, they’re not trying to sneak Christianity into the things you learn. I think a lot of people get the wrong impression of what the school really is. I’d say it’s a very liberal, open campus that’s very active in community service and very into athletics and school spirit.


Q: How has the weather treated you?

A: Oh. My. God. When I first came to Georgetown, it was warm, but when it hit mid-October, I was freezing my butt off. It was really bad because it wasn’t even that cold. It was around 50-60 degrees, but I’d be wearing my mittens and my Patagonia jacket. People asked whether I’m from California, and when I asked how they knew, they said, “All the Californians are starting to bundle up now.”

I thought I was going to freeze to death, but that’s totally not what happened. Winter came, and, yes, there were times when my nose and fingers turned red, but you adjust and soon weather didn’t become that big of a problem. And also at the sight of a snowflake, classes are cancelled, and you’re given a snow day.

So they really don’t know how to handle snow here. It’s like Sacramento—the temperature fluctuates.


Q: What’s the best part about going to school in the nation’s capital?

A: Your teachers and professors are probably consulted by the government. Also President Obama, with his wife and kids, plays at our gym all the time. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton also come to our campus frequently. Basically it’s cool how the number of opportunities to get involved politically—as well as the number of politicians who try to get involved with students—is a lot higher here.

And since you are in D.C., there are so many opportunities to work on Capitol Hill. I’m pretty sure that every student who goes to Georgetown at some point interns on Capitol Hill—it’s set in people’s heads, and people plan when they’re going to intern there.


Q: Do you participate in any extracurricular activities?

A: I’m on DC Reeves. Basically, D.C. is separated into different wards—wards 1 and 2 being the wealthiest, and wards 7 and 8 being the poorest. Georgetown really makes you aware that you’re extremely fortunate to go here and that you can’t forget the other people around you. For DC Reeves, I go to ward 8, where it has one of the lowest reading levels in the country. I spend about an hour and a half tutoring third graders and helping them with homework and tests.

I’m also part of GIVE, and we do random acts of kindness all over campus. For example, because we put inspirational yet funny notes everywhere, I left one by the men’s workout machines in the gym that says “Keep it up—your butt looks almost as good as Beyonce’s.” When it was really cold, we also drove around on golf carts, passing out hot chocolate to random people.


Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2015?

A: The best college application advice I can give is to not be afraid to explain your shortcomings in your college essays. I think a lot of people are afraid to acknowledge that they’re not perfect. But what they forget is that if you’re applying to a school of high caliber, the admission officers know how good you are. They know what good grades you have and what extracurriculars you do. But while it’s nice to talk about those things, it’s also eye-opening for them to see students who reflect on the difficulties that they’ve gone through and, therefore, know more about themselves.

It gives you a personality, and the officers will remember what you wrote. Be more than just a number on paper.

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