Twenty strangers meet on a bus. By week’s end, they will share innumerable experiences and actually become friends.
This sounds like a silly romantic comedy. Not all that different, this is the scene of a typical JET.
A JET is a Jesuit Excellence Tour, which allows a significant number of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities to join together on a week-long trip of group travel. We descend upon a school, taking over its gym or library, unfurl our banners on arranged tables, and carefully adorn the surface with a litany of materials. And then, we wait for the seniors and juniors to take a solid half-hour away from their studies to speak with as many of us as they prefer.
In addition to being a great recruiting tool to interact with more students than usual, the JET is actually a pretty amazing illustration of what it means to be Jesuit. We can toss around fancy Latin phrases — cura personalis, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam – to summarize our philosophy. Or, as the Jesuits usually opt, we can show you.
That sense of community that I continue to emphasize, in which students truly care for one another and professors honestly pay attention to their students’ well-being and happiness, can be seen in the gathering of 20 admissions counselors for a week-long recruiting trip. How about the notion that social life on campus isn’t exclusive or passive-aggressive, and that it’s so easy to meet new people and join tons of new extracurricular activities? There’s no stronger bond than the ones made by Jesuit counselors; trust me, the weird jokes and fun social interaction we get to have in just five days cannot be replicated. And then there’s that commitment to community service and helping your fellow man or woman. Instead of competing for students – who in all likelihood will be applying to more than one Jesuit school – we travel in a pack of 20 on a JET, eager to help students find the right fit and point them in a direction of another school if we don’t offer a program or sport.
The JET creates a wonderful sense of family that is otherwise impossible to find during the lonely travel season. I mean, where else can you get dropped off at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, strike the triumphant pose from Rocky with two dozen others, and then race to the top? The JET also portrays the aspects of a Jesuit institution: community, social interaction, cooperation, and service to others. There’s a reason these traveling bands of admissions counselors don’t much exist outside the Jesuit realm.
So next time a JET is coming to a city near you, don’t be a stranger. Join the Jesuit family.