Find Your Why: Daisy Fanter's Story

A portrait of a young woman with her hair tied back smiling
Daisy Fanter '24 reflects on her time at Holy Cross before graduating later this month.

Editor's Note: On May 24, more than 800 members of the Holy Cross class of 2024 will walk the commencement stage. Each path to the stage is unique. As we celebrate the class, HCM asked several seniors to share their journeys in their own words. Listen and read their uncut narratives — how they got here and what they’re taking with them — as they reflect on the Holy Cross chapter of their life.

Listen to Daisy Fanter '24 read her reflection
Audio file

Four years ago, when I opened my acceptance letter to Holy Cross, I remember crying tears mixed with joy and nerves. It was the beginning of the pandemic and while most people were quarantined at home adjusting to what we thought would be the “new normal,” I was tasked with making a decision that could potentially change everything: Where am I going to spend the next four years of my life? I chose to take a chance and move almost 3,000 miles away from home to a city that I barely knew how to pronounce, Worcester.

When I started in fall 2020, I was eager to meet new people, learn new things and make meaningful connections. I read numerous articles surrounding the theme: how to “do” college, thinking that if I could learn from other people’s experiences, I could skip the uncomfortable parts of college and get right to the experience you see in the movies.

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A young woman pulls at her Holy Cross sweatshirt with Lake Tahoe behind her
A day after she was accepted to Holy Cross, Daisy Fanter announced her decision to enroll with photos at Lake Tahoe, where she calls home..

Little did I know, I would be spending my first semester not on campus, those articles didn’t prepare me for that. Those articles didn’t prepare me for the transition from “Zoom University” back to the reality of a small-sized classroom. Those articles didn’t prepare me for my first physics exam that really didn’t go well. Those articles didn’t prepare me for hours spent in Dinand and office hours. It can be so easy to glorify the college years because it’s true: It is an incredible four years full of laughter, new relationships and stories that will be repeated through the course of a lifetime. However, it is also a time of rawness, discomfort, anxiety and uncertainty. And while the joys of college are great stories to tell, aren’t the painful stories just as beautiful?

It was my sophomore year, and we were closing in on our last week before fall break when it happened the first time: a panic attack. I didn’t know exactly what it was, I just knew I wasn’t myself; my thoughts could not have been my thoughts. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Was the food at Kimball making me sick? Did I stay up too late on Saturday night? Did I not study enough for that physics exam? These questions started small but became bigger as time went on. Am I a good roommate? Am I a good friend? Daughter? Student? Do I belong at Holy Cross? Who do I want to be? Who am I becoming?

These questions began to consume me, every fiber of my being. Honestly, I didn’t want to know the answers. I had a conversation with a friend that I would later realize was the turning point in my college career. 

She told me, “Daisy, you need to find your why. Why are you here? Why are you studying biology?...” The list went on.

That spring break, I chose to take a risk and go on a spring break immersion trip. It may sound cliché, but this short, one-week experience changed everything for me. For the first time, I was challenged to find joy. I learned the power of being with others, an idea that as Holy Cross students, we are reminded of daily. The power of being with taught me that you don’t have to be perfect, rather, you can sit and listen and that is enough. After I came back to The Hill, the way I approached everything was different. So, no, those articles didn’t prepare me for the heartbreaking side of college, but instead I got so much more. I got to know the joy of what makes Holy Cross so special: to be challenged not only as a student, but also as a human being. Isn’t that what college is really about?