Joy is everyone’s birthright. We all deserve to find and maintain joy throughout our lives – especially in college when enjoyment and purpose can often slip through the cracks. To me, joy is listening to my mother’s cackle, the first spring flower, a long day on the beach – but what happens at school, when those joyous activities can fade into memory? Where then do college students turn for joy when much of the semester becomes a longing for warm weather and relaxed days?

For inspiration, I read “Unearthing Joy” by Gholdy Muhammad and listened to Farine Paris, who spoke at the Residential College’s Ignatian Seminar about joy. Their insights sparked a desire to find out about the unique ways that college students find joy amidst packed schedules and stressful semesters. As a result, below are two interviews of a Fairfield University sophomore and junior who were willing to share how they seek out and encounter joy in their collegiate lives. Specifically, I chose a sophomore and junior because they’re often the ignored classes — they’re not brand new to Fairfield, but they’re also not about to join the real world just yet. 

In what is often called the “forgotten year of college,” I wondered how sophomores manifest joy. In order to find out, I cornered Marabel Jaime ’26 ‘before she scurried out of the Explorations of Education course we enjoyed together. 

After I explained the premise of this article and before I could even get out my first question, Jaime exclaimed her excitement at the ability to share her joyful practices: “Happiness is my favorite topic, I’m so glad to speak about it!” she radiates. “I feel most joyful when I’m in a relaxed environment with my friends and I’ve completed a lot of the work I have for the week so I’m not stressing,” she offers, referencing the pressure college students feel when homework, exams, and papers pile up. 

But her college courses are not just a source of stress. “Some of my teachers, like Mary Forde, bring joy,” she explains while referencing the teacher of our Education course. Jaime is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education, and her love for the classroom and working with youth isn’t only evident in coursework, but also in the extracurriculars she seeks out throughout the academic year to find joy. 

“I work at the DayCare twice a week on campus and seeing all the littles bring me joy. When the kids are always so excited about the little things, it brings me happiness.” She continues, “When I go, they’re always excited to see me and it makes me feel appreciated.” By honing in on her passions, Jaime is encouraged to continue finding joy through the excitement of the kids and the appreciation she feels from the children she cares for. 

But I wondered. What happens when it’s not all going her way? “When something is weighing me down, I try to make myself feel more put together to get my mind off what’s putting me down,” she responds. “I’ll go to the gym and take a workout class,” referencing the benefits that physical activity has on mental health. But the gym isn’t always a joy and sometimes … she just needs a good movie, “If I’m very down ‘I’ll watch a movie in bed to calm down and take a break from work.”

Joy comes and goes, but to maintain joy, Jaime keeps to a balanced schedule, “so I’m not cramming everything at the last second. Everything is spaced out and I can keep time to relax. Instead of procrastinating, I work gradually.” By staying on top of her work and making time to see others, happiness flows from Jaime, “seeing people happy makes me so happy. Even seeing people going for walks with their dogs on campus, sunny days, bring me joy. Just seeing people in the Quad on a Spring Day!” she sighs, easily speaking about joy as she shares it with others.

Now, we’re onto arguably the toughest year of college … junior year (I may be biased since I’m a junior), but juniors delve into their majors this year, taking on internships and leadership positions among their peers, and it can become stressful. On top of all that, juniors still have one year left after what can feel like an eternity or just a few minutes! So, let’s hear how Kate Enriquez keeps a positive mindset while plowing through this year knowing she’s still got one more. 

“I feel joyful at college when I’m spending time with others while participating in extracurricular activities together! I’m a part of multiple clubs and boards on campus, where I’ve met the most cheerful people.” She then references the friendships that are a result of her engagement with clubs on campus: “I’ve truly been able to create long-lasting friendships while being a part of these clubs and I always find joy in meeting new people!” 

Being a part of many clubs and extracurriculars can become time-consuming; thus, to maintain a positive mindset and care for oneself, Enriquez turns to dance. “Fairfield University Dance Ensemble brings me such joy because I’ve been able to carry on my love of dance with me at college while dancing with the best of friends!” she declares. 

Moreover, Enriquez is a Communication major and Educational Studies Minor, which manifests in the joy she seeks on campus. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the Caroline House Jr. Board where I have been able to have a leadership position! Being able to fundraise and put a smile on the face of children at Caroline House truly warms my heart,” she believes. 

Enriquez believes her main source of joy originates from the positive attitude she diligently cultivates and maintains with the help of others in a reciprocal relationship. “I like to think that my constant joy brings joy to others! I thrive off of other people’s happiness and positivity.” She adds, “Whenever someone is in a joyful mood, it almost always makes me joyful too!” 

Now I recognize that this list of joys is not all-encompassing in any sense. What about those who find joy in partying on the weekends, or those who retreat to a quiet cafe, or those who immerse themselves in a good book? And what about those struggling to find joy? Still, I hope this article can begin a conversation about joy with those who mean a lot to you – and you may just end up learning more about one another.

About The Author

-- Junior | Editor in Chief | English/Spanish and Education --

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.