My LopeLife: How GCU’s warm welcome changed her

November 13, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

Editor’s note: My LopeLife is a feature in which GCU students, staff and alumni share enlightening experiences. To be considered for My LopeLife, please submit a short synopsis of your suggested topic to [email protected] with “My LopeLife” in the subject field.

By Madeline Thielke
Special to GCU Today

Grand Canyon University has created an environment where exploration is encouraged and learning is constant, and it has had a noticeable effect on me.

Thanks to GCU, I have explored new opportunities that would’ve petrified “high school me” — call-in-sick-to-school, refuse-to-show-my-face petrified. But now I seek out those opportunities with my head held high.

Madeline Thielke

It all started with Welcome Week.

You know how good it feels when you walk through the door of your home and are hit with an instant wave of comfort? Now imagine what that would be like with 1,000 family members waiting to greet you with open arms. That’s Welcome Week.

But behind that excitement lies a sense of community that lasts far past one week.

As I think back three years ago to my freshman year, it’s like imagining a character in a book. The scene is set with the sun rising over 35th Avenue, each window shining with a blinding light.

The protagonist is a young, naïve college student who feels as if anything is possible. I was looking forward to many “firsts” – my first college lecture, my first midnight snack run, my first dorm room girls’ night. But before my firsts could begin, I had to tackle the biggest first of all. My first Welcome Week.

It is the all-encompassing, pivotal event in a GCU student’s life, the first defining moment of the journey through Lope Country. For me it was the culmination of all my firsts. It was my first moment stepping onto campus. It was my first moment being in my new home.

As I drove up to campus with my life packed away in the back of my old Ford, my mind raced with uncertainty. I came here not knowing a soul, so it was incredibly heartwarming to see an ocean of smiling faces excited to greet me.

When I chose GCU, I was nervous that I might not find my place. Like any college kid I was going out on my own for the first time completely unaware of who I was or where I was heading.

As we all are, I was completely comfortable just remaining comfortable. However, GCU has always felt like a place where the uncomfortable is embraced and accepted, just as I was when I first came here.   

After my freshman year, I was able to see how easy it was to grow into myself. The welcoming environment acted as a catalyst and launched me forward to my next adventure.

That’s why I felt comfortable changing my major. Becoming both an English and Communications major has allowed me to find aspects of my personal interests that I didn’t even know existed. It has allowed me to refine my skills as both a writer and a communicator in ways that I know will be valuable in whatever fields I choose.

The effect GCU had on me was even more telling when I joined the Speech and Debate team my sophomore year. I had never thought much of my public-speaking skills, so I pushed myself to speak publicly.

My growth continued last summer when I challenged myself to get a job in Grand Canyon Education’s Marketing Department. I knew the opportunity for growth that I could have by merely being in a new field and gaining new chances to learn.

With graduation a few months away, I don’t even want to think what my life would be like if I was still wandering down the path that was familiar and safe to me.

GCU inspired me to be brave and stop at nothing to get a running start on the future I want. College has made me confident, courageous and passionate, and that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t find my true purpose along my path.

From the first moment I was here, GCU claimed me as one of its own. I know that this welcoming spirit is the reason I’ve been able to achieve my goals every single day.

I wanted to pass on this sentiment to those coming to GCU each year, and that’s why I have been involved in Welcome Week the last two years. It has given me a thousand opportunities to know that maybe even just my smile or one conversation helped a new student feel just a little bit at home. I know the look of uncertainty on their faces all too well, and the feeling Welcome Week inspires makes the long days more than worth it.

Growing past the expectations of myself couldn’t have happened if not for Welcome Week. From the uneasy girl I was pulling onto campus for my first Welcome Week to the woman I am today, confident on my path, I know that the feeling of acceptance I felt from the beginning initiated the drive that grew within me. It is the drive that pushed me to see just how much I could grow in my three short years here at Grand Canyon University.


Related content:

GCU Magazine: My LopeLife: She learned the language of God’s love

GCU Magazine: GCU was the right move for this graduate

GCU Magazine: Herrrrrrre’s Caleb! How Duarte became ‘The Host’

GCU Magazine: Student shows how inspiration can hit home



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